Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

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

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)

I might go on the road to San José with Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell but she spoke a lot of truth. I welcome the Minister to the House. We have a housing need and a housing crisis. Hyperbole is spoken and rhetoric is uttered but the Minister deserves credit for his perseverance, his forbearance and his proactivity. I am not a landlord and only own my family home and I do not speak for landlords or tenants but for everybody. Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell is correct - it must be about balance and about ensuring the security of the tenant. The rights of the tenants have to be upheld, and strengthened in some cases, but the same goes for the landlord. The Minister said 1,700 landlords have left the property market since 2015 and that is a huge number. It is incumbent on us, as the Upper House, to ensure we conclude the legislation and regulations in order that we can regulate Airbnb in the future. I appeal to Members of the House to ensure we do this.

I have accompanied and supported tenants in taking cases against rogue landlords at the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, and the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, as it now is. My view of the world has changed a bit as I mature, reflect and listen to contributions. I once had the view that all landlords were bad and all tenants good, to echo Animal Farm. One's world view changes as one becomes more knowledgeable and one understands that there is no silver bullet. I am certain of one thing, however, which is that we need to ensure the affordable housing scheme is opened up and made available to people. We need to continue to ensure that people have the option to buy and live in their own home. As I did on the Order of Business this morning, I challenge Members to come down to Cork city to look at the quality of the social housing being constructed there under Rebuilding Ireland and to look at the transformation for people who are now exiting homelessness. I commend the Minister of State, Deputy English, on coming with me to Cork Penny Dinners two weeks ago and on engaging with Fiona Chambers in University College Cork, UCC, as well as listening and participating to find solutions.

We need to increase supply but why are landlords texting and emailing us in their droves? I have received a number of emails from landlords in Cork who are not the owners of multiple properties, though there may be one or two such landlords. One of them talks about the nonsense of the Residential Tenancies Bill and others talk about the amendments being too draconian. We can have that debate on Committee Stage tomorrow. Why are landlords leaving and why has there been an upsurge in the construction of student accommodation across the country? In many respects, we are playing catch-up because we should have created student accommodation before we embarked upon quantum change.

I welcome the debate and, in particular, the last two paragraphs of the Minister's speech about not deterring investment and protecting tenants. As Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell said, it is about getting the balance right.

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