Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Residential Tenancies Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages


10:30 am

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I acknowledge the genuine and well-meaning nature of the contributions. In response to Senator Craughwell, this is strictly on the advice of the Attorney General. He is the constitutional officer from whom the Government must take its advice. He is trying to balance the property rights in the Constitution with the rights of very vulnerable people who are renting and have experienced a loss in their income as a direct result of Covid-19. The State supports have been ramped up to meet that. I believe over €11 billion has been paid out in supports. I also acknowledge the great work of community welfare offices in dealing with applications for supplementary welfare allowance in less than three days.Considerable work is being done on the ground by various State actors and all of those supports are available.

I genuinely appreciate the frustration with the short timeframe in the Bill. I have the utmost respect for the Seanad. It is unfortunate that, given the emergency we are in, Bills are coming at pace. The period specified is strictly the result of the advice of the Attorney General. I am hopeful we will be in a different place come July. We are all hopeful of that.

On the rights of tenants being tied to the 5 km travel limit, the latter is covered by a different Act. If the 5 km travel limit is lifted tomorrow, it will have nothing to do with this Bill. It is a health regulation attached to the Residential Tenancies Act 2020. That is where the 5 km travel limit eviction ban derives its authority. This Bill is about protecting those who are in rent arrears due to Covid-19 and income loss and that is what Threshold asked for. Members have mentioned Threshold numerous times. When Threshold was asked what the main issue for renters was in a pandemic, it indicated clearly that its main concern was rent arrears. That is why we moved quickly and took a proportionate response in this Bill to stand by renters.


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