Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018: Second Stage

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Independent)

I welcome the Minister to the House. As the previous speaker said and as the Minister has acknowledged, this Bill is dealing with a crisis. There is a shortage of living accommodation in Ireland and the result of this has been monstrous increases in rent in some parts of the country. That is a fairly obvious consequence of the lack of housebuilding, homebuilding, and apartment building we have seen in recent years, coupled with an increasing population in urban areas and transport difficulties. All of those things are entirely predictable. It is our response to them that has to be measured and careful.

I have a slightly different perspective from that of some other Members of this House. I have been in the position of being a landlord of an entire house, which was furnished to a very high standard. It was furnished even down to cutlery and teaspoons and all of the furniture was of high quality. I will make one point. That is an entirely different situation from the so-called Vienna policy about which we have been hearing recently. Under this policy, people will build apartments and let them to another for 20 or 30 years. Some people want to build high-quality executive houses to let out to others on a short-term basis and to have remedies. Others want to build an apartment block such as those we formerly had in the Mespil flats and to accept less than the ultimate market rent to have a steady income from an investment in an apartment block. Real estate investment trusts, REITs, are doing that. I strongly believe that we need a system that differentiates between the two. If people are given long-term leases on apartments by real estate investment trusts, those people have different expectations from those of somebody who lets a house for a year as an executive. They will have different expectations in respect of the standard, the fitting out, and who is going to repair the washing machine and so on. They are totally different worlds and we have to have different sets of landlord and tenant law to deal with them. One of the problems is that the RTB has been asked to deal with everything on the basis of more or less the same rules applying to everything. That is a mistake.

In making my second point I again speak from personal experience. I was brought up in a rent-controlled house. My father voluntarily increased the rent on a house on a third of an acre on Leeson Street from £120 to £240 per annum. I know what controlling rents can do in the end - such measures were declared unconstitutional - but one has to look at the underlying economic forces in a society when one is dealing with this issue. One cannot be like King Canute and try to freeze or hold things down unnaturally when there is, for instance, increasing demand for property in Dublin from an increasingly prosperous population, which is growing.That is going to be difficult and things cannot just be frozen as they were. On the other hand, it is wrong to allow landlords to gouge people. There were photographs in today's edition of the Irish Independent of houses with six bunks in a bedroom and the fact that people are letting premises like that is wrong and shocking. I am not saying that it can be dealt with by a single-size-suits-all arrangement.

What Senator Murnane O'Connor has just said is true. Landlords are leaving the pitch. Small landlords are saying this is too much. Every tenancy must be registered every year from now on, even if it is just rattling along. How much will that cost? Will it be €75 or €100 or €120?

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