The Minister for Housing is to bring in legislation to deal with a legal loophole that allows landlords to impose double rent hikes of 8 per cent when the Covid-19 rent freeze ends, the Taoiseach said.
Micheál Martin said the legislation will deal with those “that are most vulnerable and most at risk” of the rent hike.
It emerged landlords are seeking to hit tenants with two years’ rent increase when the Covid-measures come to an end in July.
The emergency measures were introduced last year which provided for a temporary ban on evictions and a rent freeze for those who faced financial difficulty because of the pandemic.
Gov't needs to get the finger out and act on behalf of struggling renters!
They look after the Cuckoo funds & property developers while a whole generation live with the fear of not making their rents
It's time for change – @MaryLouMcDonald #HousingCrisis pic.twitter.com/JpkqButL5tAdvertisement
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) June 2, 2021
While landlords in Rent Pressure Zones are subject to annual rent increase of no more than 4 per cent, the legal loophole allows property owners to apply two years’ of rent hikes.
Mr Martin said that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will bring in legislation to deal with the issue.
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the legislation needs to be fast-tracked through the Dáil.
“You can’t allow 8 per cent percent increases in rent. In fact, you can’t allow any increases in rent and there are solutions, there are things you could do today to protect renters,” Ms McDonald said.
“Minister O’Brien says that he plans to bring a Bill to the Dáil in the autumn to replace the 4 per cent increases permitted under the European legislation – this will be far too late for renters.
“This legislation needs to be fast tracked now.
“The Minister needs to bring the Bill before the Dáil before the summer recess.
“A ban on rent increases for three years must be part of this legislation.
“You also need to reinstate the full ban on evictions until the end of this year, at least.
“These are the kinds of things that need to be done, and done now, to give generation rent a chance of recovery and just a shot at making it.”
Mr Martin said: “The Minister is planning to change rental legislation, and he is planning for legislation to provide long term security of tenure for tenants at affordable rents.
“The annual 4 per cent [increase] was introduced some years ago in the context of the Rent Pressure Zones, I am conscious of the issue that the Deputy has raised, and I discussed this with the minister.”
Ms McDonald said that a “whole generation is effectively locked out of any real prospect of homeownership”.
“You should get the finger out and act on behalf of these struggling renters, because while you support institutional investors and big private investment funds, you make sure that they’re OK, you have left renters in the lurch,” Ms McDonald added.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the cost of renting has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
He told the Dáil that Dublin has the fifth highest rents in all of Europe, more expensive than Paris, Berlin or Rome.
“Irish renters pay an average of 40 per cent of their income in rent, the highest in the world,” Mr Murphy added.
“There is a crisis facing renters in this country and the Government always said they couldn’t introduce an eviction ban, they couldn’t introduce a rent freeze, they couldn’t introduce proper rent controls that would bring rents down to affordable levels.
“Why? Constitution says no.
“When Covid hit, and they were under massive pressure, they found a way.
“But now Covid is receding, it’s back to normal business for the Government and the landlords that they represent.”
He said that from July 13th, hundreds of thousands of renters are facing rent increases of up to 8 per cent.
Mr Murphy called on the Taoiseach to support the party’s Right to Housing Bill.
Mr Murphy said the Bill would introduce a right to housing into the Constitution.
Mr Martin said that the Government plans to introduce a similar Bill which would also see a right to housing inserted into the Constitution.