Thursday, 30 July 2020
Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Darragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
I thank the Deputies for their amendment and I understand the reason for which it was tabled. However, I cannot accept the Labour Party amendment to provide the Government with power to extend the new emergency period. I am of the view, as I stated on Second Stage, that all parties should have an input into any further legislation required in this area. I commit to facilitating that.
Strong primary legislation is my preference and that of the Government. Continuing extension of the legislation under emergency powers is not a robust way in which to provide the security and additional support that we need for our tenants, particularly the targeted group I am looking to assist by way of this primary legislation. The position of tenants on 1 August is different to their position on 27 March. I expect that, come 10 January next year, which is the date to which these protections are being extended, their position will again be changed. I hope this will be for the better and that this country will be changed for the better. I hope there will be no further need for the emergency protections contained in the Bill come next January. I refer only to the emergency provisions, not the permanent ones that I have also brought forward in this Bill. Covid has brought much uncertainty, as we all know, and we will need to work together between now and then to ensure the best outcome for a tenant. I look forward to the establishment of the Oireachtas joint committee on housing.
I expect there will be input from that committee in a very structured way in terms of how we move forward on these issues.
To be clear, the Bill I have brought forward extends the current protections through to 10 January next year for the most vulnerable people but it also introduces permanent changes, particularly in respect of rent arrears, getting the Residential Tenancies Board involved at a much earlier stage and getting the Money Advice & Budgeting Service involved to help tenants and ensure they do not go into arrears. I take this opportunity to say, once again, that if anybody is struggling with paying his or her rent due to his or her salary, wage or income being reduced or because he or she has lost his or her job, he or she should access the emergency rent supplement payment. It is there to assist such people and they should avail of it. We should all be of the view that any protections that are brought forward should be for the minority of cases. In some of the debate that has taken place heretofore, there has been a sense that the cases we are discussing are the majority position and that everyone is under threat. That is not the case and everybody is not under threat. We must try to target the measures we put in place at those who need them most. We will need to review the situation at the end of the year. I hope to bring forward further targeted protections, should they be needed.