Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has admitted that he failed to register a rental property in Dublin for the past three years with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), and only did so late last week after it emerged Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy had also registered a property late.
Mr Donnelly is renting out a property in Sandyford which he declared on the Dáil register of Members’ Interests. The Irish Times can reveal that a tenancy registry was not renewed in 2019 as was required under law. Mr Donnelly has blamed an “oversight”. It was registered early last week, days after a story emerged that Mr Troy had also not registered a property on time.
In a statement, a spokesman for Mr Donnelly said: “The Minister has a property with a long-standing tenancy. That tenancy was registered and renewed with the RTB on a number of occasions (2011 and 2015) and is currently registered. Due to an oversight, the tenancy registration was not renewed in 2019 when it should have been. The RTB indicated that this should be backdated online, which was done last week.
“The Minister’s interests have been fully declared every year on the Dáil register of members interests.”
While the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader backed Mr Donnelly on Wednesday night, Opposition parties have now called on the Minister to make a statement to the Dáil in light of the controversy.
A Labour spokesman described it as “a significant oversight from the Minister” and said “it is very concerning that there is such a cavalier attitude about the rights of renters at the heart of Government. Minister Donnelly should make a statement in the Dáil when it returns outlining how such a major oversight happened.”
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy also called on Mr Donnelly to make a statement before the Dáil.
“Now we know there is another rogue landlord in the Government,” he said. “Minister Donnelly should come before the Dáil when it returns to explain how this happened.”
Soc Dems co-leader Catherine Murphy described the revelation as “alarming.”
“The RTB has the option to sanction those who fail to register tenancies, but this controversy has highlighted that this rarely happens. In fact, the RTB has levied just two fines for failures to register a tenancy in the past three years. The question must now be asked of the RTB: What is the point in sanctions that are never applied?”
A spokesman for Mr Donnelly said the property was registered last Wednesday, August 25th.
The Opposition pressure comes as the Government declared confidence in the Wicklow TD. A spokesman for Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The Minister has explained his oversight in renewing a long term tenancy with the RTB in 2019, and that his Member’s Interests have been declared in full every year.”
A spokeswoman for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he also has confidence in Mr Donnelly.
“This is a long-term tenancy which was previously registered and has been fully declared every year on his Register of Interests. Yes, the Tánaiste has confidence in Minister Donnelly.” Meanwhile a spokesman for Green Party leader Eamon Ryan confirmed he also has confidence in Mr Donnelly.
The RTB said it takes noncompliance “very seriously”. Failure to register is an offence that could result in a criminal conviction, a fine of up to €4,000 and up to six months’ imprisonment.
Last week, The Irish Times conducted a survey of politicians who had rental properties, examining whether they were registered on the RTB’s database. A spokeswoman for Mr Donnelly had been contacted last week to make enquiries after the property did not appear on the database.
Following last week’s survey, a number of other politicians then moved to explain why properties they declared as rentals are not currently registered with RTB.
Some 24 TDs have listed rental properties on the Dáil’s register of members’ interests and the vast majority of those tenancies are registered with the RTB as is legally required.
Former Fine Gael minister for agriculture Michael Creed listed a rental at Railway View in Macroom, but the property did not appear on the register. He said this was not due to an error but is because the property is currently vacant.
Fianna Fáil TD Seán Haughey listed a rental property in Kinsealy, which also did not appear on the register. He said the property had been registered with the RTB when it was rented but that it was not renewed earlier this year because it is no longer rented.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue also listed a rental in Dublin but it is understood he is staying in the property himself.
Sinn Féin said a property listed by Meath West TD Johnny Guirke was registered with the RTB after initial searches did not show it but Mr Guirke then admitted that the register on one of his properties had not been renewed, which he blamed on an agent.
“I own four rental properties, which I have always declared in full with SIPO. I manage three of these properties directly; all of which are registered with the Residential Tenancies Board. The other property is managed by a letting agency, who had taken on responsibility for registration with the Residential Tenancies Board. This property was initially registered, however it has come to my attention that this registration lapsed due to an error on behalf of the letting agent. As soon as I became aware of this, I immediately rectified this and the property is registered again with the RTB,” he said in a statement.
“I take my responsibilities very seriously and regret that this error occurred.”
It came after the resignation of Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, who came under intense scrutiny over his property interests and who also admitted that he had failed to register a rental with the RTB on time.
The RTB said it “makes every effort to inform landlords of their obligations to register, and legal action is taken as a last resort. The RTB takes noncompliance very seriously and is committed to discharging its role and actively regulating the residential rental sector.”
The board has a range of enforcement powers to pursue landlords who have not complied with their obligation to register their tenancies. Failure to register is an offence that could result in a criminal conviction, a fine of up to €4,000 and up to six months’ imprisonment.
The RTB also has sanction powers. Under these powers, where it is found that improper conduct has occurred the result can be a civil sanction or a caution and/or a fine of up to €15,000.