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 see. Fair enough. The most important thing in the Bill, and I support this strongly, is the introduction of administrative sanctions and penalties but they must cut both ways. If a landlord is behaving appallingly, there should be sanctions against that landlord. If a tenant is behaving appallingly, there should be some form of fairly quick sanction. I received an email to my office today relating to tenants who were told to go 14 months ago and are still there and asking to be taken to court.

This deals with the kinds of people Senator Murnane O'Connor was talking about. If we want someone anywhere in the county to provide a house or two flats to other people by way of private rental dwelling, they must be provided with decent remedies. They cannot be allowed to be brutalised or to find their place completely messed up and to have virtually no comeback.

It is the fashion of the day to sympathise with tenants and show little sympathy to landlords because a minority of landlords gouge their tenants. I agree with having sympathy for tenants but the great majority of landlords that I ever met would take far less than the market rent if they got a satisfactory tenant who made life easy. The Minister's Department should be very careful about the role of buy-to-let landlords. They are important and will continue to be.

A previous Minister, John Gormley, decided he would get rid of bedsits and threw petrol on the flames of homelessness in Dublin despite his brilliant intentions. One of the most amusing aspects of that was that bedsits were made illegal if they had shared kitchen or bathroom facilities. Of course, there was a simple loophole in that whereby the landlord could let the whole house out to all of the bedsit tenants, making them joint tenants of the whole house, without changing anything. In the meantime, 10,000 people lost their homes.

I saw on the news yesterday evening that it is significantly cheaper in Sandyford in Dublin, if one can get a mortgage, to buy a house and pay the building society or the bank the repayments than it is to rent. We have to be very careful about whether these measures, well-intentioned as many of them are, will not make it increasingly unlikely that private landlords will stay in the market. We are not continental Europe. The Vienna solution is not available for the great majority of Irish people. We have a different problem on our hands if we drive people out of the market, as is happening now. Rents in Dublin have gone to an all-time high but the amount of houses available for rent has plummeted to an all-time low. There are some iron rules of economics which cannot be ignored.

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