Thursday, 8 July 2021
Residential Tenancies (No. 2) Bill 2021: From the Seanad
I thank Deputy Buckley for his amendment. I have addressed the Government amendments I have brought forward but I want to deal with a number of the questions that have been asked. The issue of Carrigaline has been brought to my attention by the Deputy, by my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, and by others. We will have an opportunity to deal with this in the autumn. This is the fifth tenancy Bill I have brought forward within a year and in fairness to all Members, most of them agreed to the Bills unanimously and they were supported by all parties and Independents, which is good. We need to strengthen the rights of our tenants and strengthen our tenancy market. Within this Bill are significant changes to deposits, with maximum deposits to the value of two months and that is something we need to do. There will be a maximum of one month's advance one month of a deposit. I mention student rents and the notice period students would have to give. These changes would apply to all tenants. I also mention the extension of the eviction and rent increase ban for those most acutely affected by the Covid pandemic up to January next year.
In response to a number of questions on when this will happen, I emphasise that there is an urgency with this. Should the Bill pass this evening, which we hope it will, it goes to the other pillar of the Oireachtas, which is our Uachtarán.
I would imagine the Bill will be enacted as expeditiously as possible but I cannot speak for the President. We want this Bill in action as soon as is legally possible. Once the Bill passes this House, it will go to the Áras.
Deputies O'Callaghan and Ó Broin have raised an issue with regard to inflation and the harmonised index of consumer prices, HICP. They said we need to watch it, which we do. Over the past three years, we have seen an average of a 0.73% increase in the HICP but, of late, that figure is approximately 1.9%. That has happened for a number of reasons, including Covid-19, Brexit, the blockage in the Suez Canal and other things. I will monitor that. I needed to bring in something relatively quickly that can be independently verified. That is what we have done. The Deputies will see within the Bill and in my response to the amendments that I have left open the option to look at other indices as well. That will provide the basis for me should we need to put in another cap.
These are good steps towards comprehensive change and they build on some of the other changes we have brought forward in previous Bills around flagging rent arrears at the very first stage they happen and other things such as that. We are intent on reducing rents for people. We have just brought in cost rental and it was passed by most here today. That is in place. We want to increase secure rentals.
The issue of tenancies of indefinite duration is still something which I intend to address. I am not sure whether all that work will be ready by the autumn but I hope to be able to advance it. There are many other good things we can do. I was not being facetious when I said the affordable Bill has some solutions for the rental sector that are not immediate but will build a cost renal system. That is important. A number of things are going to work together.
I have addressed Deputy Buckley's amendment. There will be an opportunity in the autumn to look at a potentially better system of doing this. I do not mind saying that I would like to see a rental control system for the private rental market that is fair and operates throughout the country. We can look to continental Europe to derive some of the better examples of how we can do that. I have been conscious to ensure anything I have done up to now has been proportionate, particularly considering we have been through a pandemic. I also recognise the fact we have lost quite a lot of stock in this space. When that happens, we see homeless numbers increase. Those numbers have, thankfully, continued to decrease of late. That is not being complacent about it. I have a particular focus on ensuring we keep driving down homelessness.
I very much appreciate the constructive nature of my colleagues' engagement on this important legislation. We have moved it as a matter of urgency through the Seanad and the Dáil. We had a good debate in the Seanad and another here. These are some of the amendments that have come forward. I hope I have addressed all of the questions that have been asked me of me. We will have to keep the inflation piece under review and look at other indices. We will be coming back in the autumn with a more comprehensive piece to add to the five pieces of rental legislation that I, as Minister, and the Government have brought forward in a short time. That legislation contains significant changes that have strengthened and enhanced tenants' rights. We are now reducing rents. Only a few weeks ago, Members of the Opposition rightly raised the issue of the 8% increases and those increases will not pertain with the passing into law of this legislation. We do not want to see that. Rents are high enough and too high in many areas. That is why linking rents to the HICP, which is effectively linking them to inflation, is the fairest way of doing that.