Landlords treated by TDs like ‘something they stood on outside in the street’

Michael Healy-Rae tells Dáil of case of harassment being taken by tenants ‘which consists of them being asked to pay the rent’

Michael Healy-Rae, who became a landlord for the first time aged 19, said the way things were going no “sane person” would rent property, when they pay half the rent in tax and are then “demonised” for renting. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Michael Healy-Rae, who became a landlord for the first time aged 19, said the way things were going no “sane person” would rent property, when they pay half the rent in tax and are then “demonised” for renting. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Landlords are being “criminalised” by legislation which will give the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) enhanced powers of investigation and of sanction against those who rent out properties, it was claimed in the Dáil.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said legislation should be balanced and he acknowledged there were “rogue property owners”.

But hitting out at the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No 2) Bill he said the impression was being created that “you’re some sort of criminal if you’re renting out a property”.

Mr Healy-Rae who became a landlord for the first time aged 19, said the way things were going no “sane person” would rent property, when they pay half the rent in tax and are then “demonised” for renting.

On the second night of debate on the Bill on Wednesday he also hit out at other politicians who were speaking of landlords as if they were “something they stood on outside in the street”.

He warned there would be no such thing as a private landlord in the future, but instead there would be “big groups of vulture funds and pension companies who will have hundreds of properties” because it would not be a viable or sensible business for individuals to be involved in.

The legislation to reform the private rental market, allows the RTB to initiate an investigation without a prior complaint. It extends the notice of termination that landlords will have to give tenants to vacate a property and it sets out exceptions to rent caps in rent pressure zones where a property has been substantially altered.

The legislation also creates an offence for landlords who fail to comply with rent pressure zone rules or who fail to notify the RTB of rent increases in these areas and it obliges them to register their property annually with the board.

Harassment

Mr Healy-Rae said a couple who worked in Australia bought a house worth €600,000 in Dublin. The rent was fixed at €2,200 but the couple were paid one month’s rent and deposit but not a penny since.

The renters were taking a case of harassment “which consists of them being asked to pay the rent” but “they will probably stay in that house for two years before they have to eventually leave”.

He said renters were using the system to rob the owners of properties by going from one property to another.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy who introduced the Bill said he wanted to be sure that in making changes to Irish tenancy law “we do not inadvertently cause an unsustainable exit of landlords from the rental sector, which would only make things worse”. He said that over 1,700 landlords had left the market since 2015.

He said too that in the Bill “we have to ensure that we are protecting people who are currently struggling with housing affordability and security issues”.

He said the rental sector in Ireland “still needs to develop and mature in order to provide a viable, sustainable and attractive alternative to home ownership, rather than serving as a temporary refuge or a staging post on the route to home ownership”.

Mr Murphy noted that a professional landlord sector similar to other European countries was “beginning to build in Ireland” but 86 per cent own only one or two properties.

The make-up of Ireland’s landlord sector “with its over-reliance on small and accidental landlords, has to be borne in mind”.

He acknowledged that while renting “has been a negative experience for some and has not meant a secure and safe home, for the vast majority renting works”.

The Minister said “we need it to continue to work, but work better than it has been working, with greater transparency and accountability for tenant and landlord”.

Debate on the Bill continues.