Thursday, 6 April 2017
Private Rented Accommodation
11. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his views on the level of enforcement of residential tenancies legislation on landlords; if additional regulations and penalties for landlords are needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17105/17]
Is the Minister satisfied with the level of regulation and enforcement in the private rented sector or is further regulation necessary? I ask this question on foot of a claim made by the Minister of State at a housing policy forum the other week that more people are choosing to rent because of a more flexible - in other words, insecure - working environment. Official Government policy, as set out in Rebuilding Ireland, is that a strong rental sector is needed to support a mobile labour market. Put another way, housing, like jobs, should be insecure. I am particularly concerned about the kind of life young people face given that the private rented sector is experiencing dramatic growth.
The Deputy has put an unfortunate spin on a highly progressive approach to the role and functioning of the much more predictable rental market we would like to create. For as long as I remember, the problem with the rental market is that rents rapidly increase in boom times and collapse at times of recession. This is no way to manage a rental market in which we want to create security of tenure and much more predictability and certainty for tenants and landlords. We recognise that many people do not want to live in one location or in a house with a significant amount of debt attached to it for the rest of their lives. Some people want temporary accommodation because of where they want to work and live. Some will choose to rent for a lifetime because they want to avoid significant debt. Those who want to do this should have the option. We are not trying to encourage this option.
Home ownership is a core part of the Irish mentality and approach to property.
There is nothing wrong with that but we want people to have options and, in the past, the rental market was only an option for people who were looking for temporary accommodation, students or those who could not afford their own home. That has changed a great deal over the past ten years, particularly in Dublin. It is the norm in many other European capitals. We are trying in the new rental strategy to provide a much more balanced, predictable rental market that has higher quality and that has good regulation for both tenants and landlords. We are making that change but it will not happen overnight, mainly because many landlords only have one property and they are not used to the regulation that comes with being a landlord.
The role of the RTB, particularly in the rental strategy, is being significantly enhanced. Unlike many other countries, we essentially have a rent regulator. We are significantly strengthening the RTB by increasing its staff numbers and the resources that go with that. Since the number of RPZs increased before Christmas, there has been a 135% increase in the number of people contacting the board, often just for information to understand new rules, laws and so on. We have an evolving but improving rental market, which is moving in the right direction in respect of security of tenure, predictability and certainty in order that people have the option of staying in that market for a long period if that is what they want and if that suits their lifestyle.
A Red C survey conducted on behalf of the Department in 2014 found that only 17% of respondents were happy renting. The Minister has painted a picture of people choosing to rent. People may choose to rent for a period of their lives but the problem is now that period is extending. The surest way to get into debt is to be in the private rental sector because it eats up most of people's income. He must be aware of this, yet he peddles the myth that people do not want to get into debt by taking out a mortgage.
According to census figures, there are 119,000 fewer people in their 20s and 30s in the State now than five years ago. Thank God they all emigrated. Can Members imagine the crisis we would have in the private rental sector if they had chosen to stay? The young people who are here are in overcrowded-----
Approximately 400 Irish people a week are coming home to work because they want to live here. Many will find accommodation in the private rental market and some will, hopefully, be able to afford a home. There are more people coming home than leaving because they can see the country is moving in the right direction, despite the fact that there are many who try to put a negative spin on this. If we were not trying to create an improved rental market, the Deputy would give out about that. Now that we are looking to improve the market in respect of core issues such as security of tenure, predictability and managing unsustainable rent increases, she is giving out about that as well and accusing me of trying to force people into this market by trying to improve it. Can the Deputy see anything positive in this?
We have a significant rental sector, which is expanding. That is a fact, whether or not we like it. My job is to try to make sure the rental market is better structured and protected by better laws to ensure tenants are protected and landlords have certainty. Of course, if people want to purchase their own homes or if they want to access social housing, we need to facilitate that transition as well. We are doing that but the rental market has a core function for many people and my job is to try to make sure we achieve the best balance we can in that market.