The general position regarding ground rents was considered by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in its 2004 Report 'Private Property'. The Committee took the view that ground rent is a form of property right which is constitutionally protected and that abolition of such rents would be unconstitutional in the absence of adequate monetary compensation for the landlord. The Committee also noted that where leases were approaching their expiry date, any legislation providing for the abolition of ground rents would have to provide for the payment of enhanced compensation in such cases.
As regards a referendum, the position is that while I have no plans to introduce legislation providing for a referendum to abolish ground rents, operation of existing ground rents legislation is kept under review by my Department.
In this context, I should add that section 2 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978 introduced a prohibition on the creation of new ground rents on dwellings. Moreover, as regards existing ground rents, Part III of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No.2) Act 1978 provides for a statutory scheme whereby a person may, at reasonable cost, acquire the fee simple in their dwelling. To date, over 80,000 applicants have acquired freehold title to their property under this scheme. In the case of property other than dwellings, such as commercial premises, the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967 contains provisions which facilitate acquisition of the fee simple subject to agreed terms or on terms set out in an arbitration carried out by the County Registrar.