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Monday 5 December 2016

Kelly to rush through plan to avoid flurry of rent hikes

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Published 07/11/2015 | 02:30

There have been tensions between Labour's Alan Kelly and his Fine Gael coalition partners
There have been tensions between Labour's Alan Kelly and his Fine Gael coalition partners

The Coalition will be forced to rush through its long-awaited rent package amid fears large numbers of landlords are preparing to jack up rent prices before the new restrictions kick-in.

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Senior figures in both Fine Gael and Labour are confident that the plan, which was agreed following weeks of bitter infighting, will cool the rental market and prevent spiralling accommodation costs.

Under the proposals, landlords will be limited to introducing a single rent hike between now and 2019.

This means that any tenant who saw their rent bills increased this year will enjoy a "rent freeze" in 2016.

However, it emerged last night that exceptions will be made in cases where landlords carry out "substantial" changes within the property such as renovations.

If a landlord significantly improves a property next year, he or she will be able to justify a rent hike as a result. However, no further rent increase will be permitted until 2018.

There was relief expressed within political circles after it emerged agreement was struck between Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Such was the level of tensions in recent weeks, Mr Kelly resorted to accusing Fine Gael "cowards" of briefing against him.

Ministers last night said they believed Mr Noonan went far beyond what they expected in order to strike a deal.

"Clearly Noonan realised he had the ability to defuse the row by giving Kelly what he wanted," said a Fine Gael Cabinet source.

Sources in both parties claim the two-year review is substantially better for tenants than Mr Kelly's original plan to link rent prices to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

However, landlord groups have voiced serious opposition to the plan and are understood to be considering legal action.

Questions have also been raised over the capacity of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to effectively police the market following the new measures.

Coalition sources said significant additional resources will be given to the PRTB so that it becomes an effective market watchdog.

The rent package - which will be signed off by Cabinet on Tuesday - must now be rushed through by the end of the month if order to prevent a flurry of rent hikes.

The PRTB itself admitted that it received a number of queries yesterday from tenants who fear their rents will be increased before the measures kick in. The body stated that landlords must give 28 days' notice before introducing a rent hike.

Mr Noonan said the two-year review period is a "November measure" and said tenants would be protected from the prospect of sudden rent hikes.

Irish Independent

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