Sanctions against rogue landlords and tougher property inspection powers are set to be approved in the weeks ahead so new rental protections take effect in the New Year. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy admitted that rent pressure zones were not working as best as had been hoped.
He said further measures will be published by him in the coming weeks to punish landlords abusing the system as well as strengthening the Residential Tenancies Board.
The Irish Examiner understands that new punitive measures being considered by the Attorney General include making it an offence for landlords to break rent rules, including new fines.
This will form part of the Residential Tenancies Bill, which will be published in the coming weeks and which the Government hopes can be passed by the Dáil before Christmas.
Speaking at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Mr Murphy said rent pressure zones, which restrict rate increases to 4%, were working but not as best hoped by the Government.
A recent report from Dafti.ie showed that in Waterford City rents have risen by 19.7% in the last year and the average rent is now €955.
In County Waterford, rents were on average 13.5% higher in the third quarter of 2018 than a year previously.
Nationally, rent figures released by DAFT show rates continue to hit an all time high with increases of 11.3% over the last year. Dublin rates are 36% higher than they were in the last boom 10 years ago. South Co Dublin is the most expensive area to rent at €2,156 a week while the average rate nationwide now has reached €1,334.
Under the new legislation, the inspection powers of the tenancies board will be beefed up. The board and its staff will be allowed to examine properties independent of a complaint or a third-party notice.
Landlords abusing the terms by which tenants can be moved out will also face fresh sanctions. There have been concerns that some owners are abusing a special clause which allows them to ask tenants to move out if they are renovating.
This has been abused with landlords often doing minor works and then taking in new tenants on higher rents.
State funding for the tenancies board has also been increased by 67% in the budget, a move that is expected to see more staff monitoring the standards of rental properties as well as conditions, such as overcrowding.
Mr Murphy pledged that 18,000 to 20,000 houses will be built by the end of this year. This does not include vacant properties coming back into use or new student accommodation, he said. He also said the Government wouldn’t operate a hands-off approach to housing and “leave it to the market”. A single bit of legislation would not end the crisis of homelessness, he told party members.
Elsewhere, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told a Fine Gael conference the Government cared about the reduction in the number of children in hotels as much as it did in reducing the national debt.
By Juno McEnroe Political Correspondent – Irish Examiner