Thursday, 30 July 2020
Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Darragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
I thank the Members for their contributions and the amendments that have been put forward. I will deal individually with the items that have been raised. Perhaps I will deal with the section first and then try to respond to the queries. We have to look at the provisions that are in place now and the basis of those provisions, which is emergency legislation. What I and the Government will do is put the provisions on a stronger footing by way of primary legislation that will extend protections for those who need them most to 10 January next year. That is what the Bill does.
I ask Members to be responsible in some of their contributions and comments. While I respect them and the position they are coming from, we also have a responsibility not to stoke fear among the population in this regard. The measures in the Bill will be very effective. Section 4 provides that Part 2 shall not apply unless the tenant makes a written declaration that he or she is a relevant person as defined clearly in the subsection. I will deal with the literacy issue raised by Deputy Buckley in a moment. A relevant person means a person unable to comply with his or her obligations to pay rent because he or she is or was - it is important that there is a retrospective nature to this legislation - out of work due to having contracted Covid-19 without entitlement to be paid by the employer or in receipt or entitled to receive in the future the temporary wage subsidy or any other payment out of public moneys provided for by or under statute and paid for the purpose of alleviating financial hardship resulting from the loss of employment occasioned by Covid-19, including rent supplement or a supplementary welfare allowance, and as a consequence is at a significant risk that his or her tenancy will be terminated by the landlord.
The definition of "relevant person" in the Bill does not make reference to a person's age or general health, as some are suggesting by way of the amendments. They are inserting further conditions by proposing those amendments. The definition does not require the tenant to be at risk of homelessness. Sinn Féin's amendment No. 11 seeks to put a further condition in the protections. I am at a loss to understand why it would do that. The definition does not require the tenant to be at risk of homelessness but does require that he or she be at risk of his or her tenancy being terminated on foot of rent arrears. I am asking people to comply with a lower threshold. Sinn Féin is asking that the tenant effectively make a declaration that he or she will be homeless. We are not asking for that.