Labour in vow over rent reviews
Labour has pledged to scrap upward-only commercial rent reviews to help struggling businesses stay afloat if the party is handed power.
The party said the controversial clauses had trapped firms in boom-time leases and they must be outlawed.
Ciaran Lynch, housing and local government spokesman, said the combination of the collapse of the property market and the rent review system had shut-down businesses with the loss of 37,000 retail jobs.
"To overcome this, Labour will as a priority enact legislation to abolish upward-only rent reviews for all commercial leases," Mr Lynch said.
"As an interim measure we will appoint a Commercial Rents Ombudsman to adjudicate on rents that have the potential to cause a business to fail."
Former justice minister Dermot Ahern banned upward-only reviews in December 2009 for new leases only, and set up a group to examine how disputes in existing leases can be aired.
The group recommended a public database be set-up containing details of letting arrangements and rent reviews, and the adoption by landlords and tenants of a rent review arbitration code to handle disputes.
Other Labour measures to boost small firms include setting up a strategic investment bank, ensuring banks provide capital for firms, establishing a 500 million euro jobs fund to support business plans and exempt employers from paying PRSI for the first 18 months after taking on a person on the dole for six months.
The party also said it would review bankruptcy laws and conduct a reform of the public service to ensure websites, telephone services and public offices are more accessible to the public.
Mr Lynch said half the country's workforce work in small firms, with 250,000 people in the retail sector.
Meanwhile Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), which represents 650 retail companies and over 8,500 stores, called on people to vote for Labour or Fine Gael on February 25, claiming they had the right proposals to sustain the retail industry through the recession.
David Fitzsimons, REI chief executive, said: "Immediate and urgent intervention by a Fine Gael/Labour government to ban upward only rent review clauses, significantly reform the Joint Labour Committee (JLC), reduce local authority rates and retain the retail planning guidelines (RPGs) will allow retailers breathing space to survive and consolidate their businesses.
"The abolition of upward-only rents alone will divert significant retail resources into a people-dependent full-service model."