Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018: Second Stage
I thank the Minister for being here to bring forward this important Bill. As many of us have learned in school, it is interesting that we are still debating fair rent and fixity of tenure for people which is at the heart of this Bill, even more so as we still do not appear to have resolved some of the ideals of Michael Davitt from many decades ago.
I am disappointed that rent deposit protection schemes to not feature in the Bill. I know that the Minister has some proposals but it would be useful to have a statement of intent in the Bill and the amendments that we will be tabling will reflect that.
Deposit retention is one of the primary issues brought to the RTB for dispute resolution. In 2017, it received 1,234 applications, a rise since 2013, when there were 900 disputes of that type. While as a percentage the deposit disputes are reducing, they are not doing so in quantum terms. That is an important area. When one thinks of deposits, the average national rent is €1,122. Very often landlords are now looking for deposits of two months' rent, which would be €2,244. Given the average industrial wage is €38,000, that is a huge proportion of an ordinary person's capital. I ask the Minister to consider the amendment on that issue which we will table tomorrow. It is a significant source of dispute for Threshold, where there were 786 queries in 2018. In each of these scenarios, tenants are highly likely to lose out on the possibility of securing a new home in the private rented sector for the want of a deposit. The failure to return a deposit can place them at risk of homelessness. It is a huge amount of money for an ordinary person to put together because usually one has a deposit to make. If it is two months and a month's rent in advance, that could amount to €3,500. I do not have that kind of money in my bank account although I am in a good well-paying job and I do not know many people who do. This should be at the heart of the intent of this Bill.
The deposit scheme ensures that a tenant has greater purchasing power and can be more mobile in choosing more suitable accommodation and for work purposes. This also helps the landlord because while most of the deposit disputes are ruled in favour of the tenant, some are ruled in favour of the landlord. My niece in-law's father is a landlord in Scotland where such a scheme is in place and he is delighted, as a landlord, for such a scheme to be in place. One is talking about large amounts of money accumulating. If one thinks of 339 tenancies, where each of those tenancies were paying a monthly deposit, that amounts to €380,000, and were one to double that to two months' deposit that would amount to €760,000 of an accumulated figure. As for the potential size of this figure, it was reported in 2012 that €32 million, which had been paid by the Department of Employment and Social Protection in the form of deposits on behalf of rent supplement tenants from 2006, had not been returned to the Department. It was not known what proportion was kept by tenants and what proportion by landlords. I ask the Minister to consider our amendment tomorrow to introduce a national deposit scheme. It is a fundamental piece of security of tenure for tenants. There are abuses and they are well documented.