Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019: Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Before we begin, the broadcasting and recording service has requested of members and visitors in the Public Gallery that for the duration of the meeting, they ensure their mobile telephones are turned off completely or switched to airplane, safe or flight mode, depending on their device. It is not sufficient to put telephones on silent mode as they will maintain a level of interference with the broadcasting system.

I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

We will now deal with No. 6 on the agenda, the draft Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019, which were referred to the joint committee for consideration. I welcome the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and his departmental officials. I invite him to make his opening statement.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Vice Chairman and members of the committee for affording me the opportunity to present the proposed Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019. As I outlined at previous meetings of the committee, the regulations will provide planning exemptions for limited short-term lettings further to the primary legislative amendments introduced in section 38 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, which was recently passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law by the President last Friday. Under the procedural requirements of the Planning and Development Act, both Houses of the Oireachtas are required to approve draft planning regulations relating to exempted development by way of positive resolution before they can be signed into law by the Minister. The consideration of the draft regulations by the committee today is part of that statutory procedural approval process, although we have already discussed the proposals at length.

These regulations supplement the provisions introduced regarding short-term letting in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. The regulations provide for the definition of "short-term letting" as the letting of a house or apartment, or part of a house or apartment, for periods not exceeding 14 days, and that the use of a house or apartment for any short-term letting, as defined, in a rent pressure zone will be classified as a material change of use of the structure for planning permission purposes. Supplementary to the primary legislative provisions in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act, the draft regulations provide for certain specific exemptions from planning permission. Home-sharing, that is, the letting of a room or rooms in a person's principal private residence, will continue to be allowed on an unrestricted basis and without the need for planning permission. Home-sharers will also be allowed to sublet their entire principal private residence, be it a house or apartment, for short-term letting for a cumulative period of up to 90 days annually where they are temporarily absent from their home, again without being required to obtain planning permission. Where the 90-day threshold is exceeded, the planning exemption provided for in the regulations will no longer apply and change of use planning permission will be required.

However, the main change in the new arrangements provided for the Act and the draft regulations, is where a person owns a property in a rent pressure zone which is not his or her principal private residence and intends to let it for short term-letting purposes, he or she will be required to apply for change of use planning permission unless the property has a specific permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting purposes. It will be up to the local planning authority to make a determination on such planning applications and, as I have outlined to the committee, it would be highly unlikely that planning permission would be granted for such short-term lettings in rent pressure zones except in limited and specified circumstances which will be outlined in advisory guidelines to be issued to planning authorities.

The regulations also provide for specific reporting obligations on persons engaged in home-sharing and short-term letting. In the first instance, a person engaging in home-sharing in his or her principal private residence will need to register it with his or her planning authority. Furthermore, persons engaged in home-sharing of their entire home, that is, their principal private residence, be it a house or apartment, will need to notify their planning authority of the period or periods for which they intend to use their home for home-sharing, when they have reached the 90-day threshold for home-sharing in a principal private residence, and confirm all the details of home-sharing undertaken at the end of each year.

While the draft regulations presented here differ slightly from previous drafts discussed by the committee, there has been no major change to the substance of the proposed provisions. The changes made are primarily structural or presentational in nature from a legal drafting perspective. Two additional changes have been made since the previous draft was presented to the committee with a view to strengthening and tightening up the enforceability of the provisions. First, a statutory declaration provision was inserted requiring persons engaging in home-sharing in their principal private residence to make a statutory declaration that the reporting and notification information being submitted to their planning authority is true and correct. Second, a fairly broad provision has been inserted empowering planning authorities to request such other information as they may reasonably require for the purposes of establishing that the information submitted in the reporting forms specified in the regulations is true and correct.

These provisions are aimed at ensuring that persons engaging in short-term letting of a second property, that is, a property which is not their principal private residence, do not make a false declaration that the property in question is their principal private residence for the purpose of trying to avail of the planning exemptions in respect of such second property. Where a person makes a false declaration for the purposes of the reporting obligations and to circumvent the short-term letting provisions in these regulations, it will be an offence prosecutable under both the Statutory Declarations Act in addition to an offence under the Planning and Development Act. The regulations do not place any reporting requirements on persons letting out a room or rooms in a house or apartment that is not their principal private residence on the basis that such persons are not entitled to avail of the planning exemptions provided for in these regulations. Instead, in a rent pressure zone, it will be a clear requirement that such persons are obliged to apply for change of use planning permission and, as indicated, it will be up to planning authorities to determine such planning applications.

As outlined at previous briefings with the committee, the new legislative changes will not affect homes, apartments or larger housing developments which have a specific grant of planning permission for use as holiday accommodation and short-term letting. The new provisions will also not affect normal house or apartment letting for periods in excess of 14 days, such as executive lettings or lettings under the rent-a-room scheme. In addition, the new legislative arrangements will only apply to short-term lettings in rent pressure zones as designated under section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended, which are the areas of the highest housing demand, and will not impact in any way on short-term lettings outside of rent pressure zones where housing pressures and demand are less acute.

I commend the regulations to the committee. They are essential to support and underpin the recently enacted primary legislative amendments aimed at regulating short-term lettings as incorporated in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. As I outlined previously, the primary objective of these new legislative reforms is to encourage the bringing back of houses and apartments in rent pressure zones which are being used for short-term letting purposes to the traditional long-term rental market, thereby helping to ease the accommodation shortage pressures currently being experienced in this area. I thank members for their positive engagement in the consideration and development of these short-term letting legislative proposals, which I am hopeful will have the desired effect. We have circulated copies of additional documentation, as I committed to do at the previous meeting, including a draft of the advertisement that will go into all the national and local newspapers, a draft web page for inclusion on the website, and a draft frequently asked questions document that will likewise be published on the website and which may be helpful to Oireachtas Members in contacting and liaising with constituents. In addition, there is an outline of the initial guidance that will go to planning authorities on the change of use provisions and those limited specific circumstances that will be taken into account where permissions are sought in rent pressure zones. That guidance will issue to planning authorities on Tuesday of next week. If, subsequent to this meeting, the regulations are approved by positive resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, they will come into force on 1 July 2019, which is concurrent with the commencement of the primary legislative amendments in section 38 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. As such, it is my intention to sign the regulations into law at the earliest possible date.

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister. I will now take comments from members, starting with Deputy Ó Broin.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Minister for his statement and apologise for having to step out of the room shortly for approximately 45 minutes. He should not be lulled into a false sense of security as I will be back for the second part of the meeting.

I acknowledge the work of the Minister and his officials on this. Despite our disagreements in other areas, these are important regulations which I fully support. The Minister confirmed the statement he made yesterday on the floor of the Dáil that, subject to the approval of the Oireachtas this week, the regulations will be enforceable from 1 July. That is very welcome.

I have a couple of minor technical questions by way of clarification so that members of the committee and the public are clear about this involves. My understanding of the definitions in the regulations is that A1 refers to a room or rooms in a person's property, whereas A2 is when someone is letting out the full property. Will the Minister confirm in plain English that that is the case? Will he also explain, again in plain English, the difference between forms 15, 16 and 17 and the different functions they have? I am thinking about the people who will have to fill out these forms.

I only have one reservation which I raised on Committee Stage. If I am reading this right, there could be a requirement for hosts to correspond with the local authority four times in one year. They would need to notify the local authority of their intention to seek the exemption at the start of the year, correspond with the local authority 45 days later and again 90 days later and correspond with it again at the end of the year. The Minister might clarify if I have that wrong but that is the way I read it.

Subject to the approval of the Oireachtas, the regulations will come into effect on 1 July. This means that people who will not be eligible for this exemption will have to apply for planning permission. Many of these people are asking about the period between 1 July and the time a decision on planning permission is granted. What is the status of any lettings those people have booked in at the moment? I presume a certain level of common sense will prevail and it will only be at the end of the planning process, when a decision has been taken, that this will be enforceable. Will the Minister shed some light on that to give clarity for all concerned?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I very much appreciate the support we have had through this process. This is very much a working committee and we get work done through heavy lifting around legislation and other changes we need to make. That is very much in evidence here when we look at what we are trying to do on short-term letting.

For clarity, A1 relates to home sharing and A2 relates to short-term lettings. To clarify for members of the public, home sharing refers to the sharing of one's own home or principal private residence, be it a room or the entire home, for a period not exceeding the cap of 90 days. Short-term letting is when the relevant property is not a person's private residence and home and it is being rented out on the short-term letting market.

There will be no cost for interacting with the local authority, which is an important point. We are not putting any cost burden on people. Most people will only need to communicate with the local authority twice a year, namely, at the beginning and end of the year when they inform the authority of what happened during the year. Form 16 is filled out when the 90-day cap is reached in one year but most people will not reach that level. Most people who do home sharing of their entire property will do so for the two weeks they are on holidays in the summer or a series of weekends at times they are away. Most people will only interact with the local authority twice in a year. They might have a third interaction if they reach the 90-day cap. We have removed, on the advice of the committee, the 45-day interaction.

These regulations will be the law on 1 July. I thank the Deputy for raising this matter in the Chamber yesterday so that people could be clear, early in the week, that this must happen this week. I particularly thank the Seanad for moving so quickly with the primary legislative changes so that we could proceed this week and have the regulations in place for 1 July. This will be the law. People who have a second property that they have been using for short-term letting can apply for planning permission through the normal planning permission procedures.

We will communicate with the local authorities in rent pressure zones the need to use common sense while an application for permission or retention is live. That said, certain local authorities, such as Dublin City Council which has been to the forefront on this, may already be involved in applying this in certain respects. That is a separate matter and we will not interfere in that because the council is the planning authority and makes its decisions independent of the Department. However, we have asked for common sense to apply. It is worth stating that we have been very clear about what we have been planning to do since October last year. The only real change has been that the date moved from 1 June to 1 July. There was uncertainty as to whether these changes would only apply in rent pressure zones and that was clarified earlier this year. People have known that these changes are coming. We have made clear our intent as to the separation between home sharing and short-term letting so there should be no surprises here for any of the platforms or anyone doing this as a business.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for attending and covering the issues in detail. The draft questions and answers document is excellent, which highlights the issue of communication. People have a great deal of information to take in and we will have to bear with them, as the Minister pointed out. It is an extensive question and answer section.

The local authorities and the Department will need to initiate an information campaign before the regulations take effect. The Minister might share with us his plans regarding information because people want to be compliant with the law. The legislation addresses a substantial number of issues. Will the Minister outline his public relations plans to promote the concept of the legislation and the requirements it imposes on people? Will he explain how these arrangements will be enforced? This is important because people need to be clear that there are repercussions for failure to comply with the regulations. I would like to hear more about the Minister's intentions for enforcement and the lead enforcement agencies.

What resources will be made available to local authorities? The Minister spoke in some detail about compliance with the forms and touching base with local authorities, which are ultimately the planning and housing authorities. The regulations will place additional demands on local authorities. Does the Minister plan to give additional resources to them to manage those demands?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator for complimenting the frequently asked questions section. This is a change so we need to be as clear as possible with people. We are designing advertisements at the moment and have provided some draft text for those advertisements. We need to tell people that changes are coming and they may need to register and also point them to where they can find more information. We need to push people to the information available online. We will try to be as clear as we can. We are also developing infographics to share online. We will take out advertisements in each of the main newspapers and in local newspapers next week making the point that changes are coming and they may affect people and that people may have to register. We will show them where to find more information. We will then repeat that advertising campaign two weeks later. There will, therefore, be two public media interventions, through newspapers, over the course of the month of June.

In addition, we will take web space in relevant locations through banner advertising or whatever else might be the case. There will be a social media campaign to push this using different channels in the Department. We will also ask local authorities to push it over their social media channels. Some local authorities have excellent social media as a result of events such as Storms Emma and Ophelia. People pay attention to them because they provide information on road closures and other matters. We will ask local authorities to push the campaign through their social media channels. The campaign will be to try to get the facts to as many people as possible who will be affected in the rent pressure zones.

One of the positive aspects of this, when it comes to other types of planning, is that this activity must happen in public for it to work. If someone needs to find a property to rent or if wants to let a property as a short-term letting, he or she must advertise it and that is done online. While there are a number of platforms which provide this service, it helps that the activity is public because 90% of the heavy lifting is identifying these properties, be they short-term lets of second properties or principal private residences.

The declaration in the regulations strengthens the ability to enforce under different laws. Mr. John Downey of Dublin City Council has been taking the lead on this and he will communicate with other local authorities next Tuesday about guidance as to how to pursue enforcement. The Department has been in discussion about providing additional resources, which means money. It will not be a significant amount of money in the overall scheme of things but it is necessary so that new resources can be hired to do this.

Other steps will be taken on enforcement but I will not go into those in detail because I do not want to advertise them to people who might try to evade them. We have looked closely at this issue. A certain ease is lent to quick and steady enforcement because the marketplace is online. We are finalising reporting arrangements as to how enforcement is proceeding as these new changes bed down over the coming months and into next year.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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What resources will be available for local authorities?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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We have had a number of meetings on this and a request has been made for additional money to facilitate additional hires. We will meet that request. We are negotiating the amount.

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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I welcome the fact that the short-term letting market is to be regulated. The lack of regulation has exacerbated the housing crisis and is in contrast to the norm in other countries. This is a step forward. However, I have issues with the proposals. On balance, it would be best if the proposals were to apply across the board nationally and not just in the rent pressure zones. Having said that, let us focus on what will happen in those zones. It has been common practice recently to look at the Airbnb website in respect of a given town and at daft.iein respect of the same place in order to show that the number of properties advertised for short-term let outnumber those being offered for long-term rental lease. Sometimes, it is not even close and the ratio is 2:1 or even 3:1. The stated purpose of the Bill is to tackle that situation. According to the associated frequently asked questions list, the current situation has resulted in some professional landlords withdrawing houses or apartments that would normally be rented on a long-term basis to instead rent them out as short-term lets. It is indicated that the purpose of the Bill is to tackle that and reverse it to get that situation sorted out. If the legislation is designed to do a particular job, it would make sense to provide for a review after the lapse of a certain period of time to determine whether that particular job has been done. Is there a proposal to come back to this after a set period, be it six, 12 months or 18 months, to see if the legislation has worked and, if it has not, to determine what steps we need take to strengthen these measures and take them further?

A matter which has been raised already but on which I would like more information is the resources that will be allocated to local authorities to ensure the new rules and regulations are, in large measure at least, being followed. Will we have a situation in which changes are implemented which it is difficult to oversee or police or will the resources be allocated to local authorities? What specific steps are being taken in that regard?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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The reason the legislation applies only to rent pressure zones is that our legal advice is that we had to tie the provisions to areas in which there is known and quantified demand and pressure on the rental market, be it related to a lack of stock or an increase in price. That is what rent pressure zones, in effect, identify. The legal advice was to tie the legislation to rent pressure zones which is why we have done so. The objective here is to get properties that would otherwise have been long-term rentals but have gone into the short-term rental market back into the former. That would be a good thing and would mean more landlords operating. It is good to know Deputy Barry welcomes more landlords operating in this space.

We will carry out a review. The legislation will take a few months to bed down and it would be wise to look at it after six months of this being properly in effect. Some local authorities will be quicker off the mark than others and we will be able to conduct peer reviews between local authority areas. For the joint committee itself, six months into next year would absolutely be a good time to carry out a review to see what exactly we have achieved. Currently, my Department is discussing with local authorities the reporting requirements they will have around enforcement.

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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Is it to be six months from 1 July or six months into next year?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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It will be six months into next year. I think by then we will have a good amount of information. What will happen after we bring in the guidelines on 1 July is that home sharers will have an obligation to interact with their local authorities and register. That obligation will apply annually. We will then have information from 1 January 2020 as to whether there has been a change from 1 July to 31 December 2019. We will have the first picture there as to what is happening but six months on from that, we will have a better idea about whether anyone is hitting the 90-day cap early in the year and what is happening around enforcement with regard to non-principal private residences. That would be a good time. We are discussing with local authorities now the obligations they will have to report on enforcement and issues like that to me. That could be helpful.

Deputy Barry asked about resources. We have been speaking to local authorities about that. They have made a request regarding the type of resources they think they will need and we are locking down the allocation of additional money to certain authorities such as Dublin City Council which will be doing a great deal of the heavy lifting given that it is in Dublin that the problem is most acute. We are locking down the amount of money the authorities will need to hire staff and we are considering perhaps having a shared function. Every local authority has a planning authority which is the expert body when it comes to planning laws and exemptions and so on. We are asking if there is a way to help each planning authority in doing 90% of the heavy lifting in identifying what properties need to be targeted. We are looking at that as a potential model but we have already engaged at length with Dublin City Council on what it needs to do the job and will finalise it if not this week then next week.

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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The Minister may have just answered the question I was going to ask. Will financial allocations to the local authorities involved be clarified this week or next week publicly and for the joint committee?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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We will finalise the amount of resources for Dublin City Council because we have had the most engagement with that authority which is the expert on short-term letting and enforcement. Dublin City Council will be taking a lead and communicating to other local authorities on Tuesday of next week on guidelines as to how to this. Our first port of call is to agree with Dublin City Council the amount of money it will require for the coming 12 month period. It will be finalised, if not this week, next week with Dublin City Council and we will continue to negotiate the idea of a shared function which would have an impact on the amount of money other local authorities would require. These conversations are ongoing. The next engagement with Dublin City Council will take place later this week. The money is required but it is not so significant in the context of budget lines that we would not be able to meet what will be required. There is no real issue around that. It is about the best way to manage our resources.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I apologise for being late. I was delayed in Dublin traffic for over an hour. I am sure everyone else has had the same problem. I welcome the regulations and the increased vigilance around attempting to ensure those houses in rent pressure zones are let on longer terms. Does it apply to every single home from 1 July which may be let for a period of up to 14 days? If I am letting a house now, will I have to apply for planning permission from 1 July? I presume that if that planning permission is turned down, I would have a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Before one will have an effective decision, it will probably be September or October at the earliest. I refer to someone who might want to frustrate the regulation. If a short-term letting is defined as 14 days, how can we ensure people do not frustrate the regulation by signing people up to a 15-day period? It seems they are exempt if the period is greater than 14 days.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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To clarify the previous point, the guidance that will issue next Tuesday is issuing from the Department but it is being developed with the help of the experts in Dublin City Council. It is not going from Dublin City Council to the other local authorities. If one is in one's own home and letting a room in one's home or intends to let the whole home for a couple of weeks-----

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I am referring to a non-principal private residence.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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----it is exempt from planning permission. I will just talk through the tiers, if I can. If one intends to let the home in those circumstances, it is exempt from the need to obtain planning permission but one will have to register with one's local authority.

If it is a second property, planning permission will be required after 1 July. One might think one has an established use, one might be looking for retention or one might be looking at a fresh planning application. It will depend. It will be a judgment call for the person who has the property. Then one will go into the planning system. The application process for permission allows for an appeal to the board as well. That will happen in some instances. Most people will understand that, as a result of this change in the law, they will not get planning permission in respect of a property in a rent pressure zone. They will then move to regularise their affairs if they have not already done so. Other people who seek to make a case or make an appeal will have the right to do so. We have asked local authorities to approach such cases with common sense. We are clear that if a local authority is already engaged in a planning enforcement issue, that is separate to this. It is important to be clear on that as well. There will be a process that will allow people to get clarity if they think they have a legitimate case. The planning authorities know what is going on here. If someone tries to extend the period of use of his or her second property for short-term letting even though he or she does not have a strong case, the planning authorities will be able to take measures. As the law relating to applications and appeals is not changing, such a person will be able to avail of it.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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If I understand this correctly, a person who owns a property in a rent pressure zone that is registered for letting and is not his or her principal private residence who intends to engage in short-term letting will have to apply for planning permission, but that will be restricted to a defined period of 14 days. I am trying to see how people might try to frustrate the new system. If someone is letting his or her non-principal private residence for periods longer than 14 days - he or she could be doing it for 15 days - will that frustrate the new legislation?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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That will be okay. If one has a second property, one does not need to register. It is just not allowed. If one applies for planning permission in respect of a property that is in a rent pressure zone, it is more than likely that the application will be denied. We have defined "short-term letting" as periods of 14 days or less to capture the short-term periods in which people go for city stays. Someone might have a longer two-week vacation in Dublin city. We do not want to rule out the possibility of using a second property for longer stays. If one is doing substantial refurbishments on one's own home, one might need to rent another property for three months. We do not want to stop that from happening. We have received feedback on this. If someone has to travel to Dublin because his or her relative is ill, he or she might need to stay near the hospital for a period.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Of course.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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We not want to stop that happening either. A person who is arriving into the country to work here for two, three or four years might need to take out an executive letting for a couple of months while he or she is finding a place for long-term rental. We not want to stop that happening either. We have made a carve-out for those types of situations while still capturing what we are seeing in cities like Cork and Dublin.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I agree with what the Minister is doing. I am trying to test it for any weakness.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy knows - we have been through this in the committee on many occasions - we have considered all the potential scenarios in which someone might try to evade the clear intention of the law. We believe they have all been captured adequately in the definitions we have included in primary legislation, in the regulations that are coming and in the guidance that will issue to local authorities.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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None of these regulations will apply if and when the rent pressure zones are removed. I think the key to the proposal is that it is based on a shortage of accommodation for families and people who need long-term accommodation. That is the key point. There are no penalties being imposed. I was contacted by someone who lives outside the rent pressure zones. This initiative will not apply to that person, so there is no problem here.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy has posed an important and good question. The recent rent pressure zone legislation, which was passed last week, extends all rent pressure zones out to 2021 and changes the qualifying criteria so that new areas will be designated as rent pressure zones. This legislation is tied to the operation of rent pressure zones. As long as there are rent pressure zones in existence, this legislation will apply. We want to get to a point at which we are regulating the sector. This change in the planning law allows planning authorities to stamp out certain practices. When the housing sector is no longer facing these pressures, the ultimate long-term objective is to have a regulatory system whereby at some point in the future - I cannot say when, but certainly not before 2021 - someone might be able to use a second property for short-term letting in Dublin city.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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That is fine. I thank the Minister.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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Many of my concerns have been answered. I think I am more confused now. The Minister has responded to questions about enforcement, timescales and resources by saying he will come back to us. When he said he will start an awareness campaign, he said he thinks Dublin City Council will be the lead base in that regard. I appreciate that short-term lettings are more common in Dublin and the other cities. The Minister needs to come in here more positively. We all welcome it and it will be good in the long term. The Minister has responded to every question that has been asked by saying he will check it out. It is going from 1 July-----

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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That is not a fair representation. I have answered every question this morning.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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The Senator came in late and now she is saying I have not answered questions fairly.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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No, I have been listening. Who is going to enforce this? Is there an issue with regard to the timescale? A question was asked about awareness and the Minister responded to that. I am not being unfair. I think this is welcome. As a member of the housing committee, I have expressed concern to the Minister about many matters. I know this issue is particularly relevant in our cities. I am asking about regulation. This is absolutely welcome. I am delighted. Well done. The Minister is saying that the local authorities will have the discretion to consider cases. They will have to work within that. I do not know whether Dublin will be the lead base. What will happen? When the Minister comes to our next meeting, could he provide us with a plan with regard to enforcement? Will the timescale after 1 July be a year, six months or eight months? The Minister spoke about awareness. I think we need to know for definite what the awareness campaign for this will involve. Perhaps the Minister can give us more details in that regard. It is good. Like everything, it is about knowing the information. That is what is important here.

I know we have gone to 2021 with the rent pressure zones now. That is important. I have had issues on that before. The Minister has said that the criteria have changed. When will that change come? When are we expecting that particular change? I have been waiting for seven years for the local authority reviews to be done. It is now eight years since a review was done. I was promised two years ago that this would be delivered. I am not being negative here. I understand the issues. The Minister gave a commitment when he said that the rent pressure zones would continue until 2021. That is fine. The criteria have changed. Will the Minister come back to us next week, or within a few weeks, to set out when those criteria will change? When will other counties, including my own county, qualify for the rent pressure zones? I say again that this is welcome. I feel that many questions are being asked without being answered. I am not saying that in a bad way. I ask the Minister to come back in a few weeks to give me the answers I am looking for. Is money going to be provided in certain areas, particularly Dublin and Cork, that need extra staff? What body is going to be the lead body? What role will local authorities play in this? What is going to happen with regard to enforcement? What is the timescale? Can we have more information on the awareness campaign?

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I have answered with clarity every question that has been put to me so far this morning. This is our fourth engagement on the short-term letting regulations. We have already made the planning changes. The committee has had the draft regulations for a couple of months. Additional supporting documentation has been provided to the committee this morning. I will not be coming back with additional information at a future meeting because I have given all the information I have. The only thing I have not set out is the amount of money I will give to Dublin City Council and other local authorities. I am unable to provide that figure because it is currently under negotiation. I will be able to provide that information at a future meeting because the allocation will have been decided by then. As I said to one of the Senator's colleagues, enforcement and resources are not about amounts of money. There are sufficient moneys in the budget line to provide for such matters. Funding will not be an issue as we seek to allow enforcement to happen.

The planning authorities will do enforcement. As I said earlier, they will get guidance from the Department next week on how to enforce this. I said that we may have a shared resource or function behind the individual planning authorities to help to do 90% of the lifting. As we enforce these new planning laws, that will be worked out depending on what exactly we think might need to change to help planning authorities to do this better. We recognise that in certain areas, planning authorities have more work to do because they have more issues. That is why I keep mentioning that Dublin City Council has been working on this or a long time. I have given the committee draft documentation for the information campaign. I have also provided the timelines for that campaign. I have set out what will be happening in June. I have said that the first advertisements will be published in every national newspaper and in local newspapers next week. A follow-up advertisement will be published two weeks after that. I have mentioned that banner advertisement campaigns, as well as a social media campaign, will happen over the month of June. I have referred to the frequently asked questions document that has been provided to the members of this committee. It will be provided to everyone in the House to share with their constituents who may get in touch with them.

The RPZ qualifying criteria have changed in law as a result of the legislation that was passed in the Seanad last week. I thank Senators for their help with that. That will come into effect as we get updated data from the RTB. These data goes to the Housing Agency, which makes a recommendation to me that new areas have qualified to be designated RPZs because they have met the new qualifying criteria. That process will begin from next month.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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I would have concerns. I am still not happy with some of the answers. There are still issues that need to be sorted out. The most significant issue, and the Minister knows it, is the fact that everything boils down to money and resources. It does not matter which regulation the Minister introduces or which local authority someone works for, if there is no money and enforcement, it does not work. The Minister mentioned the awareness campaign. It would be good to promote it. I will promote this. This regulation is very good and I welcome it, but I always feel that things fall down when there is no money to support them and there is a lack of communication. All I am saying to the Minister is that he needs to promote it more. There are still unanswered questions that I feel the Minister has not come across.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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If the Senator asks them again, I will answer them.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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Will the Minister come back to us in the next few weeks with all the different things?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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As opposed to fake news.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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I am just saying there is-----

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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The Senator is hearing things that were not said.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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What questions are involved?

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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If the Minister comes back to us with timescales on enforcement, what will happen with planning-----

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I have already answered these questions.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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I know the Minister did but I am not happy with them.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I answered them clearly.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister did not.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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This is our fourth session on this.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister did not answer the question about money.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I told the Senator that I am negotiating that with Dublin City Council. That is not a negotiation for the Senator to have with Dublin City Council through me. I said that money is not an issue. We have enough money. It is a question of what we are going to allocate for those resources. That is happening at the moment. I will come back to the Senator with the actual figure once it is agreed. I said that clearly twice.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister should not have to-----

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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What should I not have to do? Let us be fair. What should I not have to do?

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I will be brief. I will give credit where credit is due. These are very good regulations that will make a difference. What the Minister has done is quite radical so I say "fair play" to him and his officials. The one question I have concerns proof that somebody is actually living in the principal private residence. This concerns the potential for abuse. The Minister mentioned bills as documentary evidence that the person is living there. That would not prove that somebody was living there. The person could easily not be living there but the bills would still be in his or her name. The Minister has to think a bit more about how we establish whether somebody is living in his or her principal private residence and is not abusing the new regulations. Will the Minister comment on that? Other than that, fair play to him. He needs to do far more on all the other aspects of the housing crisis but in this area-----

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The next session.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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Maybe I should be a bit worried if Deputy Boyd Barrett thinks it is radical. We may need to take a step back. I appreciate the Deputy's comments. He is correct in saying that some people will try to get around this. People will always try to break or evade the law. The vast majority of people in this country are law abiding so they will move to regularise their position now they know these changes are coming into effect.

Regarding people who must give documentation to the planning authorities, we have provided very wide powers to them in terms of documentation they can request. The planning authorities have a history of dealing with people around where they live, their principal private residence, requesting documentation and looking at fake documentation. Local authorities will not be coming to a person blind and will not be coming without a deep suspicion. When they move to enforce, it will be because a lot of heavy lifting will have been done in the background to identify a property they think is being used for continuous short-term letting and is not somebody's home. They will move from a point of suspicion until they can ask for one document, two documents or a lot more documentation. We have enforced it in the regulations by saying that if someone knowingly gives a false documentation, this is an even greater breach separate to the planning laws, which provides for more enforceability powers as well. We have strengthened those aspects of things because we know that when it comes to that end of things, they will be dealing with people who probably are in breach and knowingly in breach so they will need those extra powers to be able to get that from them.

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I have a few questions. I know the Minister said it had to be on a legal basis regarding why we had not rolled this out nationally. I can kind of accept it but the regulation we are introducing is quite good and I do not see why we cannot bring it in nationwide. What happens if an area that was an RPZ is no longer one, which is a possibility?

I am sure the Minister has had engagement with the short-term letting platforms, which have been part of this process. Regulation of short-term letting platforms is an issue about which I have spoken previously. While the Minister has told me that it is not within his remit but is within the remit of another Minister, it is a critical piece that is required . Regulation of short-term letting platforms could make things a lot easier and make what the Minister is introducing a lot simpler for the local authorities. From my engagement with the Minister today, it looks like he will be providing a shared service for all the local authorities, although I could be wrong. This shared service will probably be the one that collates all the data that can feed information to local authorities to identify those properties breaching the regulation. If we had regulation of short-term letting platforms today, that information would automatically be provided by those platforms to each local authority so that it could act on it. As a person involved in tourism and from a customer perspective, I can say that this industry needs to be regulated. There is no regulation to protect a tourist coming to Ireland today who is staying in a place booked through a short-term letting platform. Not alone would regulation assist each local authority, it would also provide a better experience for the visitor to Ireland. This is why I think the regulation of short-term letting platforms is critical for the success of this legislation. The Minister has told us that it is not within his remit, which I understand, but I ask him to impress on the relevant Minister the importance of regulating short-term letting platforms from the tourism perspective and in respect of providing valid and accurate information to each local authority to allow it to act under the regulation the Minister is introducing.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I wish to make a point on the back of that. It is directly related to that. I do not know if it is within the Minister's remit but some very good suggestions prompted me on this. I received a few calls recently from people who had Airbnb-----

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Deputy just refer to short-term lettings?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I have heard of tourists who thought they had booked a place for a short-term letting here arriving at the houses of people who were not letting the property at all. It involved fraudsters identifying particular houses. One person had about three in about two months. It was in my area, although I cannot remember which part. People, including families with children, were arriving in the middle of the night telling the resident that they had rented his or her house when the resident did not have a clue. It was quite extraordinary so somebody needs to pass it up the line and something needs to be done about that.

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I have done short-term letting myself. As I approached the property, I often wondered whether the person would be there and whether my weekend would be about to fall through, so I understand tourists' concerns. Unfortunately, tourism does not come under my brief. We all recognise that this new type of activity, which is still relatively new, although it has been happening for a few years and is becoming increasingly popular, does need a different type of regulation compared with what we are trying to do because our focus is on housing and long-term letting. There have been discussions between my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport about the next stage that needs to happen, namely, regulation of the platforms.

It also cuts across - the Vice Chairman was right to identify this - to the regulation of other platforms that advertise letting properties - although similar, it is not the same space - where there should be an obligation on a publisher or a website not to allow the advertisement of illegal practices, as it were, such as the advertisement of substandard accommodation and so forth. These are pieces of work that must be done and that fall to be done by the Department of Justice and Equality. We are engaged with it on that issue. There is a Bill before the House that has been brought forward by a Deputy from one of the parties to do something in that regard and on which we will engage. Yes, I would like to move to a point where we are also regulating the platforms. That will be necessary in the coming years for the reasons identified by the Vice Chairman and Deputy Boyd Barrett. It will also help in enforcement. If we want to loosen things a little in the future because there is not the same pressure as there is today, that might be warranted also.

To respond to the Vice Chairman's questions, initially we were examining applying the changes to planning laws nationally, but the advice of the Attorney General was that, on the balance of rights, we had to tie them to areas where there was a quantified and established demand and pressure. They were the rent pressure zones. Using the existing law was the easiest way to do it, which is why we went through the RPZ legislation.

We engaged with the short-term letting platforms, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Fáilte Ireland, the Corporate Housing Alliance and the Irish Self Catering Federation because obviously we wanted to ensure there was a carve-out for holiday homes and there is. There has been engagement with all of the people who might be interested in this sector.

Shared services is the model I would like to apply as it is probably the most efficient. A potential shared service would do much of the groundwork and then submit reasons for concern to planning authorities. The planning authorities, being the experts and having the competence and responsibility, would then move forward with them. We are examining that matter, but from 1 July the planning authorities will have both the legal understanding and clarity on how to enforce regulations. They will then proceed to deal with planning applications as they are submitted and the building of registers in their areas. This refers to the planning authorities in the relevant local authorities.

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I acknowledge the work the committee has done on short-term letting platforms. I raised the issue with the then Minister, Deputy Coveney, at my first housing committee meeting. We have since completed a detailed report. It is welcome that the Minister is taking it into consideration in dealing with the legislation. It has taken a little longer than we had hoped, but today we have what we all agree is an important legislative measure. I ask the Minister to stress to the corresponding Minister the need to try to regulate the platforms now because that would be of significant help to each local authority in regulating. I thank him for his engagement.