Wednesday 26 October 2016

Renters promised more protection but 'nightmare tenants' face eviction

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Housing Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Stronger protections for renters and workable rules that allow landlords to evict 'nightmare tenants' are at the core of housing plans for the rental sector.

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Housing Minister Simon Coveney has said he wants to take a balanced approach to the sector that will encourage more landlords into the market and provide security for renters.

However, this was the one section of the 'Rebuilding Ireland' plan that came in for the most criticism from Opposition parties.

Mr Coveney said there wasn't enough time available before the publication of his action plan to carry out a full assessment of the rental sector.

However, he promised that a specific study on the market would be completed by the end of the year, which will focus on security of tenure, supply, standards and services.

The strategy notes that renting "is becoming a more permanent home for a growing number of both individuals and families".

"Countries with relatively large private rented sectors, such as Germany and Switzerland, have been better insulated against housing booms than those with small rented sectors like Ireland and Spain," it says.

Read More: 'I am afraid that it's already too late for me to ever own my own property'

One of the key aspects of the plan is to introduce legislation that Mr Coveney said would become known as the 'Tyrrelstown Amendment'.

This is a reference to the dozens of families in Cruise Park in Tyrrelstown who were served with notice to leave their homes after they were bought up by a so-called 'vulture fund'.

The Government is to bring forward legislation in the autumn that will prevent a large number of residents in a single development being evicted simultaneously.

It is proposed that where a landlord wants to sell 20 or more units on one site, the sale would be subject to the existing tenants remaining in situ.

At the same time, Mr Coveney intends to increase the power of the Residential Tenancies Board, which currently has 324,000 tenancies registered.

The plan says there will be "a drive to improve awareness" in order to help keep existing landlords in the market as well as support further investment.

There will be moves to encourage the build-to-rent sector and an Affordable Rental pilot scheme is currently under development.

Further work is to be done in the area of student accommodation, but the plan does note that complexes of 100 units or more will benefit from a new fast-track application process through An Bord Pleanála.

A national student accommodation strategy is to be developed by the Department of Education and other stakeholders by 2017.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) welcomed the plan, saying it reflects "a clear sense of urgency to tackle the issues surrounding homelessness and the accommodation crisis".

However, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on education Thomas Byrne said it does little to deal with the student accommodation crisis.

"Thousands of students are already having enormous difficulty in securing suitable accommodation for the coming academic year. The Higher Education Authority has identified a shortfall of at least 25,000 student beds," he said.

Niamh Randall, spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said that a strategy for the rental sector is critical.

"Many of the people who are becoming homeless are coming from the private rental sector and a strategy is urgently needed," she said.

Irish Independent

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