Dáil debates

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Short-term Lettings Enforcement Bill 2022: First Stage

 

4:00 pm

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend section 38 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) to require estate agents and online platforms to only advertise properties that are compliant with the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019.

As Deputies know, the crisis in the private rental sector continues to spiral out of control. Month on month, the number of properties available to rent shrinks as large numbers of accidental and semi-professional landlords exit the market. Meanwhile, the cost of renting a home, particularly a new rental, is increasing. We now have the highest level of rents in the private rental sector in the history of the State. Unfortunately, in many instances, there is strong evidence to show that, for some existing and some new tenants, landlords are breaching the rent pressure zone regulations by imposing rents of above 2% on existing and new tenants.

One of the most serious consequences of this contraction of the private rental sector is the increasing number of single people and families with children presenting as homeless. Vacant possession notices to quit from landlords selling their properties account for more than 50% of all notices to quit and, according to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, are driving the nine month month-on-month increase in single and family homelessness. At the same time, the long-promised investment in large-scale affordable cost rental has failed to materialise. Just 65 such units were delivered by the Government last year. We may get 500 plus of such units delivered this year by approved housing bodies and as yet an unquantifiable number of units may be delivered by the Land Development Agency, but what new rental stock is coming into the market is, by and large, high-end, high price and low-design standard build to rent. Why the Government thinks renters should have inferior design standards for their apartments, including less natural light, less space, less car parking and higher densities, is beyond me.

One of the additional strains on the private rental sector is the failure of the last Government's regulations for the short-term letting sector to be fully implemented. There was very considerable debate in this House in 2016, 2017 and 2018 around the issue of short-term letting and its impact on long-term rental supply, especially in our large urban areas. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage published a report in 2017 containing unanimous recommendations for the then Government to regulate the short-term letting sector. The then Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, was slow to respond but his successor, Eoghan Murphy, to give him some credit, did eventually regulate the short-term letting market in 2019.

The regulations were in line with the joint committee's recommendations but they had one weakness: enforcement was to rely on the planning system and standard planning enforcement through the courts. Figures released to me by a variety of local authorities in Dublin, Sligo, Cork and Galway show that the level of enforcement of and compliance with the regulations is exceptionally low. According to media outlets this week, in every county in the State the number of available short-term lets far exceeds the number of available long-term lets. Yesterday in Dublin, for example, there were 2,704 short term lets advertised on Airbnb but only 436 long-term rentals. It is the same right across the State.

The Bill is very simple but would be a very useful tool in ensuring full compliance with the law. The law currently states that if a person is letting out his or her property for less than 90 days a year, he or she requires a letter of exemption from the local authority. Anyone letting out their property for 90 days of the year or letting out a second property needs planning permission or a change-of-use planning permission retention. The overwhelming majority of properties currently listed on Airbnb are not compliant with either of these rules. My Short-Term Letting Enforcement Bill 2022 would first make it an offence under the Planning and Development Acts for any estate agent or short-term letting platform to advertise a property which is not compliant with the planning regulations. More importantly, it would give the local authority or planning authority to power to impose spot fines by way of regulation by the Minister on such estate agents or platforms that allow their sites to be used to advertise non-compliant properties.

This Bill will ensure that anyone engaged in short-term letting will abide by the law. It would be a very reasonable proposition in ordinary times. Given the growing strain on our private rental sector, however, it is absolutely urgent now. It is unacceptable, whether it is Airbnb or any other platform, to profit from the advertisement and letting of properties that are not compliant with planning law. It is Sinn Féin's intention to introduce the Bill by way of Private Members' time in the coming weeks. I commend the Bill to the House.

4:10 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the Bill being opposed?

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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No.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.