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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 Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien] I am interested in solutions. I read the Bill and I agree wholeheartedly, as we did previously, with how receivers and lenders who have taken possession of properties should be dealt with. They should be included in the definition of a landlord. Fianna Fáil tabled an amendment to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 to allow that to happen. We discussed it with Government at the time and we are still committed to doing it. I hope we will see this happen in the Government's proposed residential tenancies (amendment) Bill.

I want to pass legislation that makes a difference. We can be very simplistic about it if we wish and I believe Deputy Barry knows he is being simplistic with elements of the Bill. Every day unfortunately I deal with people who are homeless or under threat of homelessness. If I thought for one minute that passing this Bill and particularly the element of completely disallowing the reason of sale for the issuing of an eviction notice would be of benefit, I would vote for it. However, Deputy Barry and his colleagues need to convince us that it is constitutional and would stand up to challenge. Unfortunately, having looked at it we do not believe it would. There may be an unintended consequence. If this is something they really wanted to do and they did not to just want to grab headlines and try to sell a simplistic solution that they know will not work, they should point out how this could actually be done in law. I do not believe that could be done. Do they not accept that bringing in this blunt measure would result in a flight of many other individual landlords, many of whom are good people and have had tenants for years? I want to see increase in supply and stable housing. As the Minister knows, I have been highly critical of the overdependence on housing assistance payments. We need to work towards the implementation of cost-rental models.

I say this with all due respect to Deputy Boyd Barrett because many of us are dealing with cases such as that of Elaine, Seamus and Michael all over the country. If we pass this Bill now it will not stop future evictions or solve this crisis. Even on a temporary basis I do not see how it would. While elements of it are well meaning, it is simplistic in the extreme.

I absolutely agree with the receivership amendment. Where homes are handed over and sold, tenants should not be affected. I do not see the reason for it. When the Minister responds he should outline the status of that. We have said Fianna Fáil will introduce legislation in this regard if that is not done.

My party and I have been very disappointed with the delay in publishing the residential tenancies (amendment) Bill. I hope that when it is finally published that we can move on with the elements of it that we agree on. I have worked with Deputy Ó Broin and Sinn Féin, and have worked with the Minister in trying to strengthen tenants' rights, and look at purpose-built student accommodation and other elements. The legality around tenancies, licence to reside and this whole market is not simple. It is incumbent on the elected Members of this House to ensure that anything we pass is constitutional, stands up to legal challenge and can actually be done, as opposed to just publishing an anti-evictions Bill and claiming it is the panacea for all our ills. It is not and everyone knows it. The proposers of the Bill know it contains elements that are deeply flawed.

With all due respect to Deputy Coppinger I do not see much difference between this Bill and the one presented previously. I absolutely agree with the inclusion of receivers and lenders. The blanket prohibition of sale of property as grounds for terminating a tenancy may lead to more people leaving the market and actually exacerbating the problem and driving up rents. That is not what my party wants to do and we could not support legislation that does that. However, we would absolutely support the receivership element of the Bill.

Deputy Pat Casey: Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey We in Fianna Fáil will support every sensible, realistic and affordable proposal that will provide secure homes-----

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy Excellent.

Deputy Pat Casey: Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey -----for all our citizens.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy Fianna Fáil could have-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputies, please-----

Deputy Pat Casey: Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey I did not interrupt any of the Deputy's colleagues.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher It is unlike Deputy Paul Murphy. He does not normally interrupt.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy He does it all the time.

Deputy Pat Casey: Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey As we are in the Christmas season it is appropriate that we once again seek solutions that are practical and worthy of implementation. Bills put before this House should not just be ideological statements of principle. Our housing crisis is far too serious for that. Our national housing crisis deserves solutions that have a chance of being implemented and would provide help to those experiencing homelessness due to unaffordable rents and the sale of rental properties.

Unfortunately, this Bill does not do that. While it is titled as an anti-eviction Bill and I accept the genuine intentions of those behind it, the reality is that the Bill if enacted would certainly be contested in the courts. Between now and the judgment on the constitutionality of the Bill, there would be a massive market reaction. Owners of rental properties would immediately leave the market in large numbers. An anti-eviction Bill would in the real world outside this Chamber become an eviction Bill. Thousands of families would find themselves being issued notice to quit because of this Bill.

However, I have great sympathy for the intentions behind this Bill. There is abuse of the sale-of-property reason to get rid of tenants. This is contributing to homelessness and we need to be resolute in ensuring that rental properties are affordable and available for those who need them.

The introduction of six months’ rent in compensation is an unprecedented burden on all landlords, 86% of whom have two properties or less and many of whom are working their way out of negative equity. This proposal, therefore, would in many cases be unjustified and unaffordable. In reality it would substantially reduce the number of rental homes available just when we need every single rental home we can get.

We in Fianna Fáil are working on a solution to reduce the use of the sale-of-property reason to end viable tenancies. We need to be smart in our solutions. We need to introduce radical measures, but they need to be capable of working in the real world where property owners have rights enshrined in law.

Earlier my party leader outlined his responsible role in these crisis-ridden times to ensure the stability of Government for the coming year because of Brexit. Earlier the politics-as-usual brigade began its negative spinning about this principled decision that puts our nation before short-term political gain. The people are rightly angered at the Government's tardy response to the housing crisis. Everyone in this Chamber is committed to ensuring that we act as opposed to just commenting on the housing crisis. Having an election and the reality of coalition or minority Government talks would only serve to delay the introduction of solutions to our housing and rental crisis.

All the Members of this House were elected in the full knowledge that we have a national housing crisis. I ask them to act accordingly and in the spirit of our times to act collectively in the national interest with practical and radical measures to address our housing crisis. That would be public service worthy of the name. Unfortunately, this Bill, while worthy, is simply not a public service that will work.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin On behalf of Sinn Féin, I welcome the Bill and the opportunity to discuss these very important topics. A number of the measures are similar to measures Sinn Féin and others have proposed, but unfortunately have not been passed over the past two and a half years.

I disagree with the Minister and Taoiseach, who have described the Bill as too radical. While this is no criticism of the authors of the Bill, in fact it contains nothing radical at all. These are eminently sensible and reasonable proposals in the main, many of which would have a very significant benefit, not just for the individual families they would protect, but also for the stability of our rental market.

I listened to the Minister talk about the risks of introducing the Bill. Those same arguments will be used against the Minister's Bill by sections of the landlord representative organisation, which in my view often very poorly represents landlords in arguing why we should not support Government legislation when it is published and we come to debate it early next year.

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