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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 Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry] However, a ban on the sale of property as grounds for eviction is not uncommon in continental Europe. It is legal in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. I do not see landlords doing a runner out of Sweden or the Netherlands because a ban on evictions on the grounds of sale of property is the law of the land. There is a great deal of scaremongering on that issue. It is not these governments that are extreme on this issue but the Government of which the Minister is a part and which is presided over by the Taoiseach. It is extreme in allowing evictions to continue at this rate at a time of record homelessness.

Last night, I visited tenants at 539 North Circular Road. As explained by my colleague, Deputy Paul Murphy, on Leaders' Questions earlier, tenants in this 16-apartment building were issued with notices to quit at the end of October and face eviction at the beginning of January. The landlord, a Mr. James Anderson, has been a director or shareholder of no less than seven current or former companies with share capital of up to €1 million in one case.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is inappropriate to name somebody who is not in the House or in a position to defend himself. I am not aware if this person has been named in the media. If he has, that is one matter.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It is just a factual matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is not naming him to praise him.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry I visited the property last night in order to see it for myself. This landlord is trying to evict families with children at Christmas on the grounds of renovation. Who is extreme? Is it the parties in the Dáil that would ban this practice or the parties that allow it to happen under the law?

  I will list some of the key changes provided for in the Bill and comment briefly on some of them, aside from the two changes I have already outlined. The Bill would, first, ban the sale of property as a ground for eviction and, second, ban renovation as a ground for eviction. Third, in the case of a landlord wishing to evict to move a family member into the property, the Bill requires the landlord to compensate the tenant by way of six months back rent. Fourth, the Bill unambiguously extends tenant rights to students and affords them full tenant rights under the law. Fifth, in the event of a bank or receiver taking over a property with a tenant in situ the bank or receiver shall have full landlord responsibilities and the tenant will retain full tenant rights. Sixth, the Bill affords tenants full tenant rights after two months, as opposed to the current requirement of six months. Seventh, the Bill would remove the danger zone for tenants which allows evictions when a tenancy expires by rolling over Part 4 tenancies into a new tenancy arrangement.

  With regard to the family member issue, 52% of such cases appealed to the RTB last year were found to be invalid. The provision in the Bill is an attempt to weed out bogus and illegal evictions of this type. The provision relating to banks and receivers will be of particular interest to tenants in the 12,732 buy-to-let properties identified by the Central Bank as being in long-term mortgage arrears of two years or more. As regards students being accorded tenant rights, this will apply to both privately-owned and publicly-owned student accommodation and will end the situation where public authorities such as State funded universities have been excluded under the legislation.

  Earlier, the Taoiseach took issue with Solidarity's call for landlords to recuse themselves from voting on this issue. Some 15 Fianna Fáil Deputies, 14 Fine Gael Deputies, four members of the Cabinet and five Ministers of State are declared landlords. In society in general, 5% of the population are landlords. The proportion of landlords in the Dáil is far greater, particularly among the ranks of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties. The Taoiseach stated that those Deputies would not be guided by their vested interests in how they vote. I will not comment on that. The commitment of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to the capitalist market is probably a greater factor than the individual property interests of their Deputies. However, two years ago, in January 2017, the Dáil voted on Solidarity's anti-eviction Bill of 2016. The vote was tied - I believe it was 51 for and 51 against - and the Bill was defeated with the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle. It is a fact that if Deputies who are landlords had recused themselves from that division the Bill would have passed Second Stage. It is also a fact that if the Bill had passed all five Stages in 2017 a large number of the evictions carried out in the interim would have been illegal, most of them would have been prevented and the number of homeless people would be far lower than it is today. We make no apology for repeating our call for Deputies who are landlords not to vote on this Bill on Thursday.

  The Taoiseach stated on "The Late Late Show" that the housing crisis keeps him awake at night, and the Government tells us it plans to bring forward legislation on these issues. It will introduce a rent register, extend eviction notice periods, provide a legal definition of substantial refurbishment and give increased powers to the RTB. I welcome any change the Government makes that improves the lot of tenants by one iota, whether it is under pressure from the emerging housing protest movement or from public opinion. However, these changes do not ban evictions or strike at the root of evictions. They will not stop many of them either. If Members wish to stop evictions, they will vote to ban them. As a result, they must vote for this Bill.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I will start by referring to what the Taoiseach stated earlier and the use of the term "extreme". This has become a familiar trope of the Taoiseach when referring to the socialist left and our policies. It is part of a wider, quite worrying, narrative that is taking hold in the mainstream political establishment across Europe, which says there are extremists on the right and extremists on the left and then the nice, sensible, pragmatic centre. An issue such as this tests that narrative in a concrete way and refutes it in the strongest terms.

For Elaine, who I have mentioned here previously but whose case is still on my desk, the situation is extreme. It is now past the date when she must leave her house. The landlord is evicting her and her four children on the ground of sale. She is now overholding. Although she did not have legal grounds to appeal she appealed just to delay the process because she had nowhere to go. Now, days before Christmas, she is faced with having to overhold or put herself and her four children into homelessness. It is worth pointing out what homelessness will mean for Elaine. She has been pleading with the local authority and the various agencies and bodies to try to find a solution. She does not want to overhold or to be in a confrontation with her landlord, who has told her he is going to the District Court to take out a summons to evict her.

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