Monday, 29 March 2021
Residential Tenancies Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages
I have two things to say. First, I support Senator Cummins. The specific word used was "catastrophic". One cannot but respond to that. While I would rather have extended debate - the Senator was absolutely right on that point - in light of the circumstances and the advice from officials, we felt there was no choice but to move quickly and immediately.
In the next 24 hours, decisions will be made which will, I hope, remove the 5 km restriction. It is really important that a stand-alone right which has nothing to do with that restriction is created, and that is what this legislation does. There will be a stand-alone right to protections for people who have been affected by Covid. This has existed in legislation up to now, although in a different way which inextricably links it to the 5 km restrictions, but we are now creating a stand-alone right for people who are in arrears and who have been affected by Covid. That is what this legislation does. There is a little bit of a misunderstanding around it but, to be fair, the Minister of State and his officials could not have been more emphatic the last day we debated the Bill and in their advice to us in saying that this stands alone and is separate. As a consequence, given that this impact is so linked to Covid, it is reasonable that it is set within a proportionate time frame. The extension to 12 July is a proportionate response in legislation.
It is also correct that this will come back before us, as legislators, for review if the date needs to be extended or if the situation in respect of Covid were to get worse, which we hope it will not. It would be wrong to have set out a long or open-ended timeframe and to have left any extensions to a statutory instrument. It is better that the matter come before us again so that all of us in this House can have a say on it. Consequently, I do not support the amendment to extend the expiry date beyond 12 July as this date represents a proportionate restriction on what is, at the end of a day, a constitutional right to private property.