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 raising their various points. I will shortly deal with the specific queries Deputy Boyd Barrett had. Swearing a declaration is not a new provision. It is illegal to make a false declaration. That is not new and refers to a previous Act. In instances where somebody unintentionally does so, the RTB will obviously have discretion and will be asked to exercise its judgment for any unintentional or genuine mistakes that are made. That absolutely will not be an issue.
I cannot accept any Opposition amendments to section 4 of the Bill. Every line and every word in section 4 has been carefully considered from a legal and policy perspective. The law needs to be strong. The declaration is key to activate the significant protections under the Bill. Making any false or misleading declaration is a serious matter. It is a serious matter if somebody falsely makes a declaration. The associated offence provision is required to counter any temptation to do so. As I have said, if a genuine mistake is made, the RTB will exercise its judgment in that regard. We need to be fair. The provisions that are coming in will endure until 10 January 2021 for a very significant number of tenants.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin asked about the retrospective nature. I refer him to section 5(4) which deals with the retrospective application of the declarations. I am satisfied that is covered. I cannot accept those amendments.
Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke to me about St. Helen's Court and we spoke again just a couple of days ago. I understand part of that is still under investigation by the RTB. Incidentally, it is an offence for landlords. I say this very strongly and I intend to follow it up. Where grounds of sale or refurbishment are being used spuriously or erroneously, landlords need to be prosecuted. That should not be allowed to happen. I will specifically look at the development the Deputy raised with me. I know there may have been an issue with getting correspondence from his office. I give that commitment.
As Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, I have put out a call for housing, specifically focused on those who may be at risk of homelessness or those who are homeless now. I have asked our local authorities, through the Housing Agency to purchase properties particularly focusing on one-bedroom units because 70% of adults who are homeless are single people and there is not enough accommodation to satisfy that demand. We are pushing that very hard this year. Even though we lost nearly eight weeks in the public sector construction of homes due to the Covid crisis, I am also pushing the local authorities to do everything we possibly and physically can to meet the exacting targets set out by them on delivery of new builds and properties through the approved housing bodies, AHBs and through turnkeys.
I have set up two specific units which I chair every Monday morning. The first meeting is on homelessness at 8 a.m. and the second meeting is on housing delivery immediately afterwards with partners in this sector, such as Threshold, Simon and De Paul. All those people do a lot of really good work and support the work of Government and this Dáil in assisting people who need help and those who have fallen into homelessness. It is an absolute priority for me.
Another priority for me and for the Government is to ensure we have robust focused measures to protect tenants and this Bill does that.
In that context and as I said, I will not accept amendments Nos. 4 and 5.