Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

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

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)

I am fascinated that the House is so empty regarding such an extraordinary Bill , one which is terribly needed. This is the most prominent aspect of what is going on in the country and there are four of us present. Some Members did not even bother to wait for the Minister's answers. I feel it is a privilege that I can say what I need to, to the Minister, personally, outside of a Senate audience. I am sure that everybody on the doorstep is hearing this, the people who are not here. I am not a landlord and find it fascinating that 70% of the people sitting in the Senate are landlords. I was with Bank of Scotland, Ireland, and it ran out of the country and when it ran out of the country it took my deeds with it and now I am with a vulture fund. I am speaking therefore, from a tenant's point of view more than anything else.

Does the Minister believe the Bill is equitable and is balanced between landlords and tenants? It is as though the landlords are standing at the gates of hell ready to do everybody and the tenants are all wonderful and terrific. I wonder about the balance of the Bill and why 3,000 and not 1,700 landlords are leaving the system, if it is so good to be in it?They cannot all be wrong. I am not pro-landlord because I have spent my life renting, from bedsits to houses to townhouses, and I am still under a vulture fund but I have spoken to landlords and I wonder why they are all leaving if the Bill is so balanced. Are they all bad, appalling and terrible and all tenants wonderful? Everything is about getting them. Is the Bill just based on the rogue landlords and the slum landlords? I ask the Minister to talk to me about the balance of it. It seems there is no way to question the Bill in this House because it is to be signed off tomorrow. Will the fact that landlords are leaving help the overall problem? I spoke to landlords today who have 20 or 30 properties. They are good and genuine landlords but they have got out and their properties are now vacant because they do not want to rent them out. The properties are in rent pressure zones and subject to the 4% limit so it is too problematic to rent them out again, while the fellow next door is renting at twice the amount.

We should go back to the county council house. People keep talking about the wonderful Mulvey Park in lower Dundrum, which is wonderful county council housing with big greenery in front and in which half the country was reared. Why can we not have these houses back? We are legislating ourselves out of business. Landlords keep on speaking about the substantial renovation definition, which they think is too restrictive. Property owners' income is also restricted, with no account taken of their indebtedness, ability to pay their outgoings, subsequent devaluation of their property or being forced from the market. On their introduction, the Government promised the rent pressure zones would be for a maximum of three years but it has now given up on the promise and added two extra years.

I know my area but not as internally as the Minister knows his. Can he talk to me about landlords who, because of this Bill, will have to rent their property out at a lower rate if tenants leave? This is what is coming in from them. One told me if someone owned a petrol station and others charged €1.35 for diesel, if they were obliged to ask only 81 cent they would go out of business very quickly but this is what happens in rent pressure zones. It is a case of balance. It is as if there are no laws for the tenant and it is all about the rogue landlord. Maybe there are hundreds, thousands or millions of them - I do not know because I do not live in that world.

There will be a mixed reaction to this and many landlords will leave because of it. If somebody rents for a living, as Senator Colm Burke said, they have to make a small profit though I take on board what Senators have said about roguery. There has to be balance but I do not see that. It is all about roguery and landlords standing at the gate of hell, ready to get everybody. This is not true. Moreover, tenants can be equally roguish, if not more so, so there needs to be some balance. I am talking about the generalities, rather than the specifics, which many of my colleagues will know about from canvassing on the doors. It happened in the Lower House and the Lower House knows the way to the future.

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