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Anti-Evictions Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan] We need meaningful responses that will deal with the issues people are facing. The most realistic opportunity to address these issues is in the Bill that the Minister will bring forward because he has the power to drive it forward whereas, unfortunately, Opposition Bills tend to sit and not to be enacted. That said, we welcome this Bill and will support it.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I have listened to the debate and do not accept many of the arguments put forward by the two Government parties. I welcome the Bill from Solidarity_PBP and agree with enhancing the rights of tenants. Currently, if a tenant is in situ in a property for six months or longer, they automatically receive security of tenure for six years in what is known as a Part 4 tenancy. This Bill seeks to automatically create a Part 4 tenancy after a tenant has been in the property for two months or more, the idea being that this will ensure more renters receive security of tenure more quickly. The problem with this, however, is that there is no minimum limit set in law for how long a lease or tenancy agreement can last and there has been an increase in landlords creating leases of five months and 29 days to ensure that tenants do not automatically receive Part 4 rights. The two best friends of Chris, the guy in my office, have been caught by that lately. They could only get leases of five months and 29 days. I am concerned that allowing a tenant to receive Part 4 rights after two months might lead to even shorter leases. That would need to be blocked or landlords would draw up leases for one month and 29 days, which would not be illegal at the moment but should be made so.

  One would not need to be a rocket scientist to know that it is a landlord's market at the moment and they will get their way unless we legislate for it. An overhaul of tenancy agreements and leases is not needed. A better way to resolve this problem would be to follow the German model, which ensures that a lease is always for an indefinite period and if landlords want to deviate from this and create a fixed period lease, they must fulfil one of the following three conditions for the tenancy: the landlord wishes to use the premises as a dwelling for himself, members of his family or his household; the landlord wishes to eliminate the premises or change or repair them so substantially that the measures would be significantly more difficult as a result of a continuation of the lease; or the landlord wishes to rent the premises to a person obliged to perform services, for an example, an employee of the landlord. The proof of indefinite leases is in the pudding as evidenced by the most recent German census in 2011, which showed that of the 41.3 million dwellings in Germany, 52% are used for rental purposes. The EU average is 29% and the Irish figure is 19%.

  I heard the Minister complaining earlier about the fact that we are losing landlords. If we are losing them, we know why. I was glad to hear Deputy Ó Broin make the point that many people had no choice but to sell because they bought when property was too dear and had to sell. If the Government wanted to keep them as landlords, it could have helped them in some way keep their houses. The main reason the number of landlords has gone down is that the Government brought in the real estate investment trusts, REITS, which is nuts, allowing people to buy so many of these properties en bloc. I agree with increasing the extension of notice periods and with removing the sale or renovation of property as a ground for terminating a Part 4 tenancy. A new problem that has emerged in the past two years and that has contributed to rent increases is the fact that large-scale apartment blocks are being sold in bulk by developers or NAMA to institutional landlords such as REITs. It was presented to us a great idea because it was going to bring in professional landlords but it is a pity people cannot afford to pay them.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I am delighted to briefly support Solidarity-PBP's Bill. On 18 January last year, a similar Bill was almost passed by the House, when sadly and unfortunately, the Fianna Fáil Party abstained from the vote which was tied 51:51. I warmly commend Solidarity-PBP for updating and reintroducing this vitally important Bill. I note that student-specific accommodation is mentioned along with several other changes.

This Bill will provide much greater security of tenure. It will significantly extend notice periods and force landlords to pay compensation to tenants who have been evicted because family members have moved back into the accommodation and other improvements. The out of control property and rental sector has been the major contributory factor in our homelessness crisis, along with the total inaction of Government. It is laughable to hear people talking about introducing Bills when they were in government for many long years and had opportunity after opportunity to bring in this type of Bill and failed to do so.

All the important agencies in the housing area working on the ground with individuals and families confirm that a stream of people, week in week out, are entering homelessness because of eviction notices, increased and unaffordable rents, and excuses about selling or refurbishing property just for it to be re-advertised at a higher rent leading to renovictions. That is the nub of the situation in my experience every week meeting families and individuals in homelessness or facing homelessness.

I welcome many sections of the Bill, particularly section 5, which provides for the abolition of the sale of property as grounds for terminating rental of a property by amending sections 34 and 35 of the 2004 Act. Section 6 is also important regarding the termination of a tenancy on the grounds of needing the dwelling for occupation by the landlord or a member of the family and section 7 abolishes refurbishment or renovation as grounds for terminating a tenancy. The extension of the notice periods to a year for people with a tenancy of five years or more is crucial and valuable and should be approved by the House

We are a few days from Christmas and almost 4,000 of our children are still in desperate, homeless accommodation, in family hubs or hotels or they are the hidden homeless in grossly overcrowded households. The Minister of State, Deputy English and the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Taoiseach are totally responsible for that.

I note that the excellent Mick Caul and the #mynameis campaign will bring their hashtag-Twitter tree to the Dáil on 19 December. We will be able to read the tweets regarding what the public thinks of child homelessness this Christmas. They are infuriated by it. That is why they would have liked a general election in the next couple of weeks. Today Fianna Fáil has decided again to prop up this Government which has been so incompetent in the housing and health areas, and which has failed to achieve anything. Under the curtain of Brexit fears, Fianna Fáil is prepared to prop up the Government-----

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Is Brexit not real?

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan -----to carry on with the failures in which it is deeply involved with Fine Gael on housing.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Deputy is afraid of an election.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The party is going on with it and not serving this country. We need to give people a chance to make a decision about the housing and rental policies of this Government, a large component of which is comprised of landlords. We need to give people a chance to vote on that as soon as possible but I commend this Bill to the House.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am pleased to contribute to the debate. Many Private Member's Bills have been brought in and this is an effort to try to deal with the savage fact that there are more than 10,000 people homeless, including 4,000 children, which is shocking. While I might not agree with aspects of the Bill because I do not believe that all landlords are bad, I acknowledge it is an effort to get the Government to move some way. There has been a lot of piecemeal work and there have been almost more Ministers in the past five or six years than houses built.

Deputy Kelly promised the world and all when he was the Minister. Ed Honohan brought forward a Bill and, while I do not want to take away from this Bill, he has the expertise as a Master of the High Court. This Bill was sponsored by Deputy McGuinness, Senator Norris and me. It had the backing of Fr. Peter McVerry and the Right2Homes organisation.

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