Friday 24 November 2017

Evictions of tenants to be blocked in cases where homes sold

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney. Photo: Frank McGrath
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney. Photo: Frank McGrath

Kevin Doyle and Paul Melia

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has indicated he is prepared to stop landlords selling 10 or more units and evicting tenants.

The move is being suggested as a compromise after Opposition TDs and senators tried to set the figure at five houses or apartments.

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 had proposed that a landlord who wants to sell 20 or more units in a development had to allow tenants to remain in their homes.

However, following an amendment proposed by senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Colette Kelleher and Lynn Ruane, the number was reduced to five.

The 'Tyrrelstown amendment' arose after a large number of tenants living in a development in west Dublin were served notices of eviction after their homes were purchased by a so-called "vulture fund".

However, at report stage in the Seanad on Tuesday night, the Bill was changed and the number reduced from 20 to five.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin. Photo: Tom Burke

The Bill returned to the Dáil yesterday where Mr Coveney described the section of legislation as "significant".

"This amendment was the subject of much debate in the Seanad and the original figure of 20 dwellings was reduced to five on foot of a report stage amendment tabled by the Opposition.

"I am in the process of taking advice on this change and may need to come back to the House on it if it makes sense to do so," Mr Coveney said.

"I do not believe we should try to bring small landlords into this category because we will disincentivise people staying in the landlord market if we do that.

"That is why we had suggested, in the changes proposed, that the figure should be 10 rather than five, but we can discuss that on committee and report stages."

Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin said the threshold of 20 was too high because "it means the vast majority of people who are currently at risk of homelessness, or who are in emergency accommodation because they were made homeless as a result of a property being repossessed by a bank and the landlord giving notice to quit, will get no additional protections".

"The minister knows that landlords who have 20 properties or more represent about 0.56pc of landlords and 15pc of tenancies. It would be great for those people but the other 85pc are left out," he said.

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen did not address the issue of the 'Tyrrelstown amendment' during his Dáil speech yesterday but his party allowed the reduced figure pass through the Seanad.

Ruth Coppinger of AAA-PBP said the minister should respect the Seanad decision as his original figure of 20 would only cater "for a tiny number".

She said 70pc of tenants live in properties owned by a landlord with four properties or fewer.

Irish Independent

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