Friday, 27 March 2020
An Bille um Bearta Éigeandála ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail (Covid-19) 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I will respond to the different points that have been put to me. On Senator Ruane's point, if we discover any loopholes in the drafting of this legislation which need to be addressed, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Government will act on them, notwithstanding the limitations we will face for some time with regard the future of this House. The objective driving this part of the legislation is to give as much security as possible to renters at a time of great change and great risk. If we become aware of any unintended consequences or loopholes, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will do all he can to address them.
I am not in a position to give Senator Gavan a definitive answer to his question. It is our view and the view of the Minister of State, Deputy English, that the amendment which Deputy Bríd Smith gained the assent of the Dáil for last night does not do all that was intended. We will have to study it now to determine what unintended consequences might arise, particularly in the area of the rent a room scheme. We will have to look at the possible impact of the implementation of that section on that part of our housing market. Senator Higgins asked a question about the obligations of landlords. The obligations of landlords are unchanged across this period. My understanding is that if they are giving notice of arrears, they must give a 28-day response period across that time and if they are seeking to give notice of termination, they must give 28 days of that as well. It is 56 days overall.
As regards the point Senator Clifford-Lee raised in respect of her amendment, rent supplement and the ability to provide rent supplement will be given a higher level of flexibility than is currently the case. We know that the income of many people who are renting at present will decrease very sharply. However, I should point out, and this refers back to a question Senator Ruane raised on this section, that landlords need to think carefully about what the rental market will look like post Covid-19 as well. Perhaps this point applies with particular force to the commercial sector as opposed to the residential sector. When we emerge from Covid-19 it might well be the case that those who are renting different forms of accommodation, particularly in the commercial sector, may have more choice available to them than was the case in January. All landlords should think about the value of keeping a good tenant and having a long-term relationship with that tenant as they make choices during this period.
I am not in a position to give a definitive answer to the question Senator Higgins put regarding student accommodation and the different forms of accommodation that are covered by Deputy Bríd Smith's amendment. The amendment was only accepted last night and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will take some time to understand the forms of accommodation to which it could apply.