Thursday, 29 November 2018
Anti-Evictions Bill 2018: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to provide for greater security of tenure by extending tenancy rights for those with a licence to reside in student specific accommodation; by the inclusion of receivers and lenders that have taken possession of properties in the definition of a landlord; by the extension of notice periods for termination of new tenancies; by making all tenancies over two months Part 4 tenancies; by making Part 4 tenancies of indefinite duration; by removing sale of property as a ground for terminating a tenancy; by providing for compensation where a tenancy is terminated on the ground that the dwelling is required by the landlord or a relative of the landlord for their own occupation; by removing renovation and refurbishment as a ground for termination of a tenancy; and by the extension of notice periods for new rents and for the termination of tenancies.
Solidarity-PBP is taking the unusual step of reintroducing, with some new measures, a Bill that was previously rejected by the Dáil in January 2017. We are hoping the Government, Fianna Fáil and others will have seen that the housing and homelessness crisis has become such an epidemic that it is now necessary to undertake these measures. The Bill is urgently required to prevent many of the cases of homelessness that we are now seeing. Homelessness has increased by 57.4% since this Government came into office. The shameful figures of 10,000 homeless in emergency accommodation is widely known. However, the much larger effects of hidden homelessness and the ongoing ripple of homelessness for everybody is also very important.
The solution to the housing and homelessness crisis is of course the building on public land of thousands of new public homes that are affordable for people to buy or rent. Doing so would take people off the waiting lists and make homes available to the thousands of families struggling with rent and unable to get mortgage approval. This Bill aims to put a bandage on the haemorrhage to stop the ongoing evictions that are taking place. On 26 May, the Irish Independent outlined the main reasons for terminations of tenancies. Some 36% are because a landlord is selling; 16% because a family member is moving in; and 10% due to renovation. If passed, the Bill will give tenants the right to remain in a property if it is being sold. It would allow a tenancy continue in the case of renovation and would require compensation to be paid to a tenant where a property is required for family use, hopefully to act as a deterrent for abuse of that aspect of the law. The chief executive of Threshold has said many landlords are abusing the legislation to hike up rent yields by using "fake sale", or by falsely saying there is a family member moving in or that there is a need for renovations. They are called dubious terminations. These are not just loopholes; the Dáil has been made well aware of them and has refused to close them. They need to be closed.
Commercial tenants can remain in a property but human tenants are evicted when a property is being sold. That is Leo Varadkar's and Fine Gael's Ireland.
The Bill makes a range of other changes to improve the position of tenants. Clarity will be given to the landlord-tenant relationship where a receiver takes possession. Tenancies of more than two months will be given much more security and there is also an extension of notice periods.
Another important aspect of the Bill that was not covered in the 2016 Bill is giving tenant rights to students in specific student accommodation. Solidarity has been in contact with USI about this and we are very anxious to advance it in the Bill.
The homelessness crisis is getting more depraved. This morning I was contacted by a young couple. The young man works nights. He effectively has no access to emergency accommodation because he works nights. Those faced with homelessness and housing crises are working people who often get up very early in the morning. In this man's case they are trying to have a home to which to return when he finishes work early in the morning. What does it say about capitalism that working people are not even able to secure accommodation? It is back to Dickensian times.
Given this Dáil's ideological commitment to profit for private landlords and investors, rents are skyrocketing. A one-bedroom apartment in Berlin or Vienna would cost €8,500 less than Dublin. In Paris it would cost €4,500 less. In Copenhagen it would cost €3,000 less. Given the commitment to capitalism and private profit, the law gives more weight to landlords and private property rights than to the right of people to a home. Thousands of young people are suffering. Many who are living with parents may want to move on in life, but are unable to do so. The National Housing and Homelessness Coalition has called for a demonstration on Saturday, starting at the Garden of Remembrance at 2 p.m. I hope this is the start of a massive movement against the housing crisis and for real action to build public homes. This Bill is a contribution to that movement.