Saturday 1 October 2016

Rent to be tied to inflation for four-year period

Published 28/09/2015 | 02:30

Environment Minister Alan Kelly
Environment Minister Alan Kelly

The cost of rent is set to be tied to the rate of inflation for a period of four years as the Government moves to tackle spiralling costs.

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The four-year cycle has been agreed in principle by the Departments of Finance and Environment ahead of the publication of the Coalition's rent strategy in the coming weeks.

Government sources say the introduction of such a limit will provide "certainty" to tenants, particularly those in urban areas who are currently facing the prospect of further rent hikes in the coming months.

As previously revealed by the Irish Independent, the issue of tying rent to inflation has already been given the green light by Attorney General Máire Whelan.

But wrangling between finance and environment officials over the exact detail of the rent strategy has caused delays in the publication of the strategy.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly is desperate to sign off on the strategy ahead of the Budget, amid concern that high rents will become a live election issue, particularly among urban and younger voters.

The Labour Party deputy leader wants to amend legislation currently before the Seanad so as to introduce the four-year rent certainty regime. Such a move would ensure the regime can be brought into law quickly and prevent a wave of rent hikes by landlords. However, landlord groups are likely to oppose the plan. A Government source last night said further negotiation is required in the coming days before the overall rent package can be finalised.

This newspaper revealed last week that Mr Kelly is seeking to provide tax relief for landlords who agree to take families off the social housing waiting lists.

The Department of Environment has drafted proposals that would see tax relief being offered to landlords who sign up to the Rental Accommodation Scheme and Housing Assistance Payment housing schemes, which are targeted at social welfare recipients and the long-term unemployed. Issues such as transforming Nama into a housing agency, the roll-out of modular housing and the homelessness crisis are all expected to be discussed as part of the housing strategy in the Budget.

The rent package is also likely to include incentives for landlords who agree to enter into long-term 'continental-style' leases with their tenants.

The plan will also see the beefing up of the powers of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to resolve disputes quickly.

Figures released by the PRTB last week showed the average national rent now stands at €878 per month, up €58 per month on the same period in 2014 - a rise of more than 7pc.

And prices in Dublin are now just slightly under the level experienced at the peak of the housing boom. On Thursday, Tánaiste Joan Burton hit out at "excessively greedy" landlords who she says are consistently looking to increase rents.

Ms Burton also claimed that tenants have been asked to leave properties by landlords whose children are returning from abroad.

"They are excessively greedy and they are looking for more and more money every couple of months to a scale that is not justified on economic grounds," Ms Burton told the Dáil.

Irish Independent

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