Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Residential Tenancies Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages


10:30 am

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I have tabled a number of amendments to this section. I am happy to yield my amendments, which seek an extension to October, in favour of the amendments put forward by Senator Warfield, which seek an extension to December.

There are three key points on this. One key concern I have in terms of timing is that this is the fourth Bill in this regard, again rushed through the House in an hour and a half followed by a guillotine. This shows no actual respect for this House in terms of any potential to amend or improve the legislation. While it may have been justified in the early stages of the pandemic, by rushing legislation through in this way a year in it looks like the preference for Government is not to have our legislation subjected to scrutiny in respect of the very important area of rental protection. We know that is the case in terms of the vote that happened during pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill. It is not acceptable, however. It is an erosion of democracy and there is no excuse.

When this rolls around again, whether it is in July, as the Minister has suggested, in October, as I propose, or in December, as Senator Warfield has proposed, will the Minister of State guarantee that he will come to us a month and advance and give time for the House to debate this on both Committee and Report Stages? Will he give it due and proper scrutiny? It is, I hate to say, an arrogance and a misuse of this House if it is treated like a rubber stamp where measures are pushed through at the last moment, designed so as to avoid us fulfilling our constitutional function.

Another key aspect is the issue of who is considered a "relevant person", in respect of which I have tabled amendments. We discussed in this House the fact that it would not work. A point was again made in this House that was not taken on board.This aspect is not working because people are not self-declaring.

The other issue we highlighted the last time this legislation came through the Houses was the potentially catastrophic implications of tying ourselves to a 5 km limit. If, as may well be the case, the 5 km limit is lifted tomorrow, it will remove protections for almost every private renter in the State. It is extraordinary, when we have an opportunity with this legislation to extend the emergency period, that we are not also extending its scope by not limiting and tying ourselves to the 5 km limit. It is extraordinary that the opportunity to do that has not been taken.

We will have the chance to address the distance and the issue of relevant person in later discussions but I am signalling those matters now. I do so in the context of the time extension. I hope the Minister of State will indicate that he intends to make a change in that respect. A good start would be if we extended the time limit to October, as I have proposed, or to December, as Senator Warfield has suggested. I will support the Senator's amendments as well as mine.


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