Thursday, 29 March 2018
Residential Tenancies (Greater Security of Tenure and Rent Certainty) Bill 2018: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2016 so as to provide for greater security of tenure and rent certainty for tenants, and to provide for connected matters.
I introduce the Bill in the context of really dreadful homeless figures yesterday, with nearly 10,000 people homeless in the country. The most shocking figure is that this includes 3,755 children, which is up 48% in the past year. There are 222 more families homeless.
Our information is that the majority of those who are becoming homeless are from the private rented sector. Earlier, the Minister and indeed the Tánaiste, talked about giving people certainty in their homes and intervening to keep them in their homes but the most effective way to keep people in their homes is to address the issues of security of tenure and rent certainty, and that is why we are introducing this Bill.
Most people who are being made homeless end up that way because their rents have been hiked or they have been put out of their private rented accommodation because their landlords have said that it is needed fora family member, that the place has to be done up or that it is being sold. The main purpose of this Bill is to address that issue. It is a really urgent and serious situation and this is something that we can do in the shorter term. Earlier, the Minister spoke of the plans to build a certain number of houses and my colleague, Deputy Howlin, referred to the slow progress regarding rapid-build homes. While we are waiting for those houses to be supplied, we must intervene to stop people from losing their homes.
Earlier today, the journal.ie published the story of a woman called Sandra who was living in private rented accommodation with her two children for ten years. She lost her home and the story focuses on the conditions in which she is living in a hotel, where the rooms are filthy and bed bugs have been found. She lost her home because her landlord said that he needed it for a family member. That is one issue which is specifically addressed in this legislation.
I urge the Government to act on this because there is not security of tenure. The Constitution contains property rights but they are supposed to be balanced with social rights and the needs of the common good. I strongly urge that in the crisis we have with homelessness, the common good needs to be served by giving people the kind of certainty and security that their counterparts in the rental sectors in most neighbouring European states have but which they do not have. The simple legislation we are proposing would address that.
I will now briefly outline the provisions of the Bill. First there is the Title and then a reference to the principal Act. The definition of "landlord" includes a definition of "receivers" because for some time there has been concern about the role of receivers and how people in private rented accommodation in the hands of receivers are treated.
Section 4 stipulates that a deposit would not exceed one month's rent. There are stories of people being asked for deposits of two and three months' rent. Section 5 links rent increases to the consumer price index, which we and others in this House have previously proposed. That is urgently needed. Section 6 deems the State to be a rent pressure zone, so that it would not be confined to the areas that are currently within rent pressure zones but that renters across the country would be included. We know that people outside the Dublin area, including in my city, Limerick, are paying very high rents although they do not live in rent pressure zones. This is designed to protect all renters throughout the country.
Sections 7 and 8 are the ones to which I wish to refer specifically regarding reasons for the termination of tenancies. Section 7 deals with the grounds for termination by a landlord. At present, people are being put out of their homes for renovation purposes. We are saying that this should be replaced by a stipulation that no reasonable measures can be taken to maintain the dwelling fit for human habitation during refurbishment or renovation. There should be a high bar in the context of tenants being put out of their accommodation on foot of renovation being carried out, particularly as people frequently lose their homes in that context. Section 8 defines "family". Where a landlord can currently say that a tenant must leave because the property is needed for a member of that landlord's family, we are saying that a landlord's family should only refer to a spouse, civil partner, dependant child, stepchild, foster-child or adopted child of the landlord.
Section 9 proposes the publication of a residential tenancies register so that information on the previous rent would be available to somebody coming into a new tenancy in order that he or she would not have his or her rent hiked without knowing what the previous rent was. These are practical measures to protect people from losing their homes in the context of the soaring figures relating to homelessness.