Wednesday 21 August 2019

Deal struck between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on rent caps

Renters and inset, Simon Coveney (left) and Barry Cowen
Renters and inset, Simon Coveney (left) and Barry Cowen
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A deal on rent caps has been reached by the Government and Fianna Fáil.

The Dáil will sit until 10pm tonight and again tomorrow to debate the plan which will see Dublin and Cork city designated as Rent Pressure Zones.

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

Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the cities of Galway, Limerick and Waterford will be designated as RPZs by the end of February if they meet the criteria set down in the new legislation.

In the Dáil Mr Coveney said he has “given a commitment that we will prioritise the areas that are likely to see new Rent Pressure Zones”.

He said the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) would move quickly to look at the cities as well as towns in Meath, Louth, Kildare and Wicklow.

The RTB will have to provide evidence for which areas will be designated as RPZ as this is the “only credible and legally sound way of doing it”.

It followed two days of tense discussion which threatened the stability of the minority Government.

Shortly before 4.30pm Mr Coveney opened the debate in the Dáil saying that rents hikes in the pressure zones will be limited to 4pc annually for the next three years.

Opposition parties have claimed that this means tenants will be subject to a 12pc rent hike over the next three years but Mr Coveney claimed “people are trying to exaggerate for effect”.

“It is not accurate to argue that everybody will be asked to pay a 12pc increase,” he said.

Fianna Fáil had objected to the 4pc annual figurebut ultimately they decided to back down, rather than allow the Dáil break for Christmas with some measures being adopted.

Mr Coveney said he wants to “prevent instability and uncertainty” in the market.

In a statement Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman Barry Cowen said: “We have not achieved everything we sought, but as a result of Fianna Fáil intervention, there will now be an immediate examination of the market conditions in Limerick city, Galway city, Waterford city, areas contiguous to Cork city and the commuter belt surrounding Dublin in counties Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow.

“It is expected that most, if not all, of these areas will be included within the scheme.”

He said Fianna Fáil had secured extra resources for the Private Residential Tenancies Board to deal with this new timeframe.

“We have also secured changes to the scheme which will ensure that any landlord seeking exemptions from the rent cap will have to demonstrate that significant improvements have been made to the property, closing a significant loophole in the original scheme.”

He said convincing Fine Gael to accept rent control is “a major achievement”.

“Our research suggests that this will benefit 150,000 households in the first instance and a further 100,000 from next month,” he said.

However, Mr Cowen added that it was a “source of some regret” that Mr Coveney “failed to consult in any meaningful way with my party or I in advance of his announcement of the details of this scheme”.

“It has caused unnecessary and counter-productive friction,” he said.

Read more: We got a €300 monthly rent hike because we were ‘good tenants’, says Amy Molloy

Read more: Landlords will attempt to dodge new rules to cap rent increases

Read more: Stakes high in a game of chicken where isolated Coveney simply couldn't flinch before Fianna Fáil

Read more: Once again, politics has let itself down – but who’s going to take responsibility?

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