On foot of today’s Daft.ie report showing record high rents in Dublin and other cities, the Social Democrats have called on the government to expedite the party’s Bill to give incoming tenants access to the amount of rent paid by their predecessors.

The party’s co-leader Catherine Murphy TD said the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018 would help tenants to challenge illegal rent hikes which breach the 4 per cent caps in place in designated Rent Pressure Zones.

Today’s Daft.ie report states that rents across the country rose by an average of 10.4 per cent last year. The increases were 10.9 per cent in Dublin, 9.7 per cent in Kildare, 7.7 per cent in Cork, 12.4 per cent in Galway, and 14.8 per cent in Limerick.

Deputy Murphy said:

“The Government set rent caps of 4 per cent but failed to establish any enforcement mechanism to ensure that the caps are observed by all landlords in the Rent Pressure Zones.

“There is no specific offence for a landlord who breaches the 4 per cent cap. There is also no evidence that the Residential Tenancies Board is doing any checking to ensure that the caps are observed.

“At the moment, there is no way in which a new tenant can test whether or not the 4 per cent cap is being applied correctly by the landlord. This has put some tenants in a very precarious position – particularly those who are in short-term tenancies.

“Our Bill gives incoming tenants a right to find out from the Residential Tenancies Board exactly how much rent was paid under the previous tenancy before theirs began. This puts tenants in a position to know that they are not being overcharged.”

The Social Democrats’ private members Bill was introduced in the Dáil last month. It has the support of opposition parties Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and the Green Party, as well as national housing charities Focus Ireland, Threshold and the Simon Communities. The Bill has passed second stage in the Dáil and is awaiting committee hearing.

The Bill also extends the minimum notice periods that landlords must give tenants if they wish them to vacate a property.

Deputy Murphy added: “This Bill is a genuine attempt to help reduce homelessness and strengthen tenants’ rights. We urge the government to expedite the Bill’s passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

ENDS

13 February 2018

Note for Editors:

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018 has three specific measures to prevent homelessness and strengthen tenants’ rights when it comes to how existing rent certainty measures are applied.

  1. Extending minimum notice periods for landlords terminating tenancies

The Bill extends notice periods for termination of tenancies by landlords.

How the Bill will improve notice periods for tenants:

All tenancies of under one year duration would require a 90 day notice period – this is about three times the current minimum notice period of 28 days.

Tenancies of between one year and 5 years would require 120 days’ notice under the Bill.

Many other countries operate a minimum notice period of around 3 months. In France, it’s 3-6 months. In the Netherlands, it’s 3-6 months. In Germany and Sweden it’s 3 months.

The proposed change would amend section 66 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and provide an important extra protection for tenants to prevent homelessness.

Notice periods were improved under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act, 2015 but only for those who were resident for 5 years or more.

  1. Curbing unfair and illegal rent hikes in designated Rent Pressure Zones

Under the Bill, new tenants would have access to details of the amount of rent paid under the previous tenancy before theirs began. This would ensure that the maximum rent increases charged in designated Rent Pressure Zones is applied correctly.

Currently, landlords in the country’s 21 Rent Pressure Zones may not increase rents by more than 4% a year. This cap (broadly) applies whether or not there is a change of tenants during those 12 months.

But rents are continuing to rise far in excess of 4%. For instance, despite the supposed 4% cap, Cork rents rose by 11% in the past year and Dublin rents rose by 10%.

At the moment, there is no way in which a new tenant can test whether or not the 4% cap is being applied correctly by the landlord. This is because tenants do not have a legal right to find out how much rent the previous tenants were paying.

There is very little evidence that the 4% cap is being policed adequately. The Bill seeks to address this anomaly by amending section 151 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

  1. Increasing fines for breaches of the 2004 Act in relation to minimum notice periods

The Bill raises the maximum fine that may be applied under Section 9 of the 2004 Act from €4,000 to €15,000. The fines relate to offences that come under the Act including rules around the termination of tenancies. With rising rents, the penalty set down in the Act needs to be raised in order to maintain an adequate deterrent.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018