Wednesday, 6 June 1923
Dáil Éireann Debate
MINISTER for HOME AFFAIRS (Mr. O'Higgins): The Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions)  Bill, which I am introducing for the consideration of the Oireachtas, is designed to amend and continue certain existing restrictions with respect to the increase of rent and recovery of possession of premises in certain cases, and the increase of the rate of interest on, and the calling in of, securities on such premises and for purposes in connection therewith. The first Act of this kind limiting freedom of contract between landlord and tenant was passed in 1915. There were two amending Acts passed in the year 1919, and a further Act passed in 1920, which was limited in duration until the 24th of the present month. These various Acts were passed because the Legislature deemed it necessary, owing to the great shortage of housing accommodation, to control the rents which landlords might demand from tenants, and to determine the conditions under which tenancies might be terminated. At an early stage of the late European War the problem of housing shortage presented itself. The shortage was, of course, due to diminished building operations and a fluctuation of population from the rural districts to the cities and towns. As demand gradually out-distanced supply the rent of houses (i.e. the letting value) tended, in accordance with the ordinary law of prices, to increase, and if there had been free play of economic forces the rents charged for houses might, particularly in view of the inflation of currency, have soared very high indeed.
The resulting hardship on ordinary tenants would have been very great, and, as there was no prospect of building houses to meet the demand, it was felt that some degree of control was necessary. Of course, control from a landlord's point of view meant hardship. It meant that he could not make his hay whilst the sun shone, as investors in industrial shares did; but, on the other hand, investors in Consols and similar public shares lost considerably as the result of the European War not merely in income, but in capital, and the owners of house property, whilst their profit may have reduced in purchasing power, had their capital value increased rather than diminished. At any rate, there were insufficient houses, there was no prospect of producing them, failure to control would have meant extremely high rents, which most tenants would have found it impossible to pay, hardship on somebody  was inevitable, and the Legislature of the time decided that of the two classes, landlords and tenants, the former were the better able to bear the hardship and were the less numerous. Thus control of rents and possession and consequent delimitation of landlords' powers came to pass culminating in the Act of 1920. As the Act of 1920 will expire this month it became necessary to consider whether conditions had sufficiently changed to admit of decontrol, which is, of course, intrinsically an end to be desired, or, if control is still necessary, whether the Act of 1920 required amendment and improvement.
With a view to ascertaining this, a Departmental Committee was set up early last January consisting of Judge Meredith, Mr. Joseph E. MacDermott, President of the Incorporated Law Society; Mr. Raymond V. Judd, of the well-known firm of Battersby and Company; Mr. Nagle, Deputy for North, Mid, West, South and South-East Cork, and Mr. James Vincent Brady, Solicitor. Judge Meredith had written a book on the 1920 Act. Mr. MacDermott was a well-known practitioner and President of the Incorporated Law Society. As I have said, Mr. Judd was a member of a well-known firm of House Agents and Auctioneers. Mr. Nagle was nominated by Deputy Johnson to represent more particularly the claims of working classes, and Mr. Brady, in practice with his father, a well-known Solicitor, had considerable experience of the working of the Rent Restrictions Act, his father being Solicitor for the tenants in the well-known dispute with the Dublin Artizans' Dwellings Company.
The Committee presented an unanimous report, with certain reservations by Messrs. Judd and Brady. Copies of this report have been published and have been in the hands of Deputies for some time past. The recommendations of the Committee have been carefully considered by the Executive Council, and the Bill which I am introducing has been based on these recommendations.
There were certain notions in the 1920 Act, such as standard rent, permitted increases, statutory tenancies, etc., which must necessarily form the basis of any measure designed to protect tenants whilst imposing the minimum of hardship on owners of house property  which the circumstances render possible. All these features appear in the present Bill, but there are important modifications and, it is hoped, many improvements of definition and substance.
I come now to the actual text of the Bill. Section 1 is a definition clause. Section 2 deals with the determination of the standard rent. The standard rent is under the Bill, roughly speaking, the rent which an immediate landlord might reasonably have expected to receive in pre-war days from an occupying tenant under a given contract of tenancy not being for more than a term of five years, less any rates paid by the landlord under the terms of such contract of tenancy. In the 1920 Act there were two distinct terms, “standard rent” and “net rent,” being, however the same figure, where the tenant paid the rates under the contract of tenancy. Thus sometimes “standard rent” differed from “net rent,” and sometimes it was identical with it. This was very confusing, and in the present Bill the term “net rent” is abandoned and “standard rent” is identical as regards magnitude with the full gross rent less rent. Section 2 of the Bill lays down detailed rules for the determination of the standard rent, and when the dwelling house was let on 3rd August, 1914, or prior thereto, to an occupying tenant under a contract of tenancy not being for more than a term of five years the standard rent is based on the actual rent, but otherwise the standard rent is left to the determination of the Court. Under the 1920 Act it was possible for a rent under a comparatively long lease, for 10 years say, to be the standard rent even though a fine might have been paid when the lease was obtained. This was obviously absurd, as it gave too low a figure for standard rent, and the present Bill proposes to remedy that by leaving the matter to the Court when the lease exceeds five years. It is hoped to ensure that standard rent will in all cases mean the pre-war full letting rent less rates.
Section 3 shows the classes of dwelling house to which the Bill applies. In the 1920 Act all houses or part of houses let as a separate dwelling were controlled where either the standard rent or the rateable value does not exceed £78. The figure was, of course, a general figure, applying to the greater part of England and Scotland as well as Ireland. The  present Bill substitutes £60 for £78 in the County Borough of Dublin, and the Urban Districts in the Dublin Metropolitan Police Area (i.e. Rathmines, Pembroke, Blackrock, Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey and Killiney), and elsewhere £40. These are the precise figures recommended by the Departmental Committee after careful consideration. The Bill does not extend to houses erected after or in course of erection on the 2nd April, 1919, or houses reconstructed by way of conversion into flats. Such houses were not controlled by the 1920 Act, and furthermore the Committee in their report said: “We entirely approve of the continuance of exemptions in favour of newly-built or reconstructed houses. It is only just that for houses built under abnormal conditions, and at abnormal expense, the owners should be allowed to secure the full market price.” I should perhaps remind the Dáil here that what it is, under stress of circumstances, proposed to control is houses built under normal conditions.
Dwelling-houses provided by a local authority under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts or under the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Acts are also excluded, as tenants of these houses have already been very favourably treated, and there is not the least danger of any harsh treatment. In fact, it has been complained that the tendency is the other way.
The rate of interest on mortgages secured on houses to which the Bill applies is also considered. If the owner has his profit rent controlled, it is only just that the mortgagee above him should have his rate of interest restricted.
Section 4 deals with restrictions on the landlord's right to possession. This follows the broad lines of the 1920 Act, and it may be said to form the basis of the Act. Briefly, it means that as long as the tenant pays the increased rent permitted by the Bill he cannot be ejected even though his contractual term has expired. Thus a statutory tenancy is created which lasts as long as control lasts. There is one important change in the Bill. In the 1920 Act the onus was cast on the landlord of providing alternative accommodation for the tenant where he required the house for himself. This seems unduly harsh in the case of a landlord who bona fide requires  the house which he owns for himself. The Bill leaves it to the Court to say on whom the greater hardship lies, and thus the matter of alternative accommodation, instead of being of the first importance, is in suitable cases relegated to the position of being merely an element in the case, though, of course, an element to be given due weight.
Section 7 deals with the determination of the rent to be paid by the tenant. The wording of the Act of 1920 was peculiar, as, instead of stating affirmatively what rent was to be paid by a tenant who, by virtue of the provisions of the Act, retained possession after his contractual term expired, it adopted what the Departmental Committee has described as the extraordinary course of proceeding by a succession of negatives, which only stated what the rent was not to be. The right of the landlords to increase the rent apart from any agreement was left to inference. A presumably unintended result of the peculiar language adopted has been the decision that a landlord cannot agree with an incoming tenant as to the rent without formally serving him with the prescribed notice, the wording of which notice was logically inapplicable to the case in question. The Departmental Committee recommended that in a new Act it should be made clear that the parties are entitled to agree as to the rent payable subject to the restrictions in the Act. Section 7 carries out this recommendation, and there is express power given to the landlord to increase the rent within the proper limits by service of the prescribed notice, and likewise there is power given to the tenant to claim a reduction of rent to the amount prescribed by the Act where the circumstances justify such a course. This is a novel feature in the Bill.
Section 8 is an important section, as it deals with permitted increases of rent. I may remind the Dáil that the standard rent, as defined by the Bill, is the basis for determining the rent payable from time to time. The rent payable from time to time is the standard rent plus the permitted increases. Now, what are these permitted increases—Firstly, the Bill, following the Act of 1920, allows six per cent., or, in the case of expenditure incúrred after 2nd July, 1920, eight per cent. of the expenditure in the improvement  or structural alteration of a dwelling house. That provision does not call for special comment. Secondly, an amount not exceeding the amount for the time being payable by the landlord in respect of rates chargeable on the occupier. This, in effect, follows the 1920 Act, but owing to the improved definition of “standard rent” as normal rent, less rates, it is to be observed that the provisions of the 1920 Act have been simplified, as in the 1920 Act you were required to determine and add the increase in rates. Thirdly, there is allowance for increased cost of repairs. The provisions of the 1920 Act have been departed from in this particular matter, as the Departmental Committee recommended that this question of repairs presented the greatest difficulty. The 1920 Act allowed 25 per cent. of the “net rent” where the landlord was responsible for the whole of the repairs. Tenants complained that this increase was levied in many cases in respect of a mere liability often not discharged.
It was necessary, therefore, to devise some means of inducing landlords to undertake the work of putting their houses into a reasonable state of repair, particularly as the doing of repairs is one way of alleviating the distress caused by housing shortage. It is proposed, therefore, in cases where the landlord is responsible for the whole of the repairs, to restrict the increase based on a percentage of the standard rent to 10 per cent., but to allow a further increase in respect of repairs which exceed one-third of the standard rent in the year 1922, or two-thirds in the years 1923 and 1924, such further increase to be limited to 15 per cent. of the excess expenditure over one-third the standard rent, or two-thirds, as the case may be. This proposal is based on the assumption that normal repairs at present represent about one-third of the standard rent, such being the evidence given to the Committee. It will be understood, therefore, that excess over one-third or two-thirds the standard rent, as the case may be, is regarded as abnormal repairs and, therefore, capital outlay and the landlord, to induce him to carry out such abnormal repairs believed to be necessary and desirable, is given 15 per cent. of the excess. The figure 15 per cent. has been chosen as the life  of such work is comparatively short, and a sufficient contribution towards a sinking fund has to be contributed.
To facilitate the landlord to raise the necessary capital for such repairs, which are, of course, very much in the interest of tenants, as the lack of repairs is one of the latter's main expressed grievances, provision is made in Section 14.
Section 14 introduces a novel feature— namely, money raised exceeding two-thirds of the standard rent for the purpose of carrying out extraordinary repairs may be made a first charge on the property in priority to all charges and encumbrances, provided there is a deed of charge comprising repayment within six years. As the money is spent in improving the state of repair of the property this is a reasonable provision. There are apportionate safeguards to ensure that the intention of the Bill in this respect is carried out. It is to be assumed that the Banks will readily advance money on these terms, and the general result should be distinctly beneficial. When the landlord is responsible for part of the repairs only, the permitted increase is left to agreement, or, in default, to the Court, to be determined according to what is fair and reasonable. Now, this disposes of the third permitted increase.
We now come to the fourth and last increase. This is simply an amount in addition to the other increases not exceeding 10 per cent. of the standard rent, and is intended to be a sort of bonus to the landlord in recognition of the decreased purchasing power of money. The percentage in the 1920 Act was 15 per cent., but 10 per cent. is the amount recommended by the Committee. It will be understood that all the other increases are provided to cover increased outlay, and this 10 per cent. merely means that it is thought that the landlord's pre-war profit rent should be increased 10 per cent. nominally. Of course, as the cost of living is about double pre-war it will be clear that the landlord suffers heavily, as he would require 100 per cent. increase to have his position in terms of goods unaltered. But, as I have already said, somebody has to bear the hardships of war. The hardship is the inevitable result of control, and control is unavoidable There are provisions which leave it open to the tenant or the sanitary authority to apply to the Court for the suspension  of the increase permitted for repairs on the ground that the repairs have not been carried out. This should be sufficient safeguard for tenants. Repairs are defined as repairs required for the purpose of keeping premises in good and tenantable repair, and the landlord is to be deemed to be responsible for any repairs for which the tenant is under no express or implied liability.
The 1920 Act is followed in Section 9 and 10 as to the restrictions in calling in mortgages and on increases in interest, except, of course, that the classes of houses involved are determined by the new scale provided by the Bill. The 1920 Act is followed in the provision in Section 11, that no increases are permitted in rent except in respect of a period during which, but for the control established by the Bill, the landlord would be entitled to possession, and there is an analogous provision as regards mortgages. Section 13 prohibits the requisition of fines on premiums in addition to the rent. This, with some change, follows the 1920 Act. The object of the provision is clear enough. The whole purpose of the Act could be evaded if it were permissible to levy large premiums in addition to rent, as such premiums would be tantamount to surreptitious increases. There are provisions of a somewhat technical character carrying out the spirit of this restriction in greater detail than was adopted in the 1920 Act.
The Act of 1920 applied to premises used for business, trade or professional purposes, or for the public service as it applied to a dwelling-house, but only for one year—namely, to the 24th June, 1921. Such premises thus became decontrolled in June, 1921. The Departmental Committee were, however, satisfied that business premises should, with suitable modifications, be controlled, and provision has been made for the purpose in Section 16, 25 per cent. bonus being substituted for 10 per cent. The percentage in the 1920 Act was 35 per cent.
As regards the Court having jurisdiction under the Bill, an innovation over the 1920 Act appears in Section 17, as the District Courts are given jurisdiction where the standard rent does not exceed £26. Having regard to the success of the District Courts, I think that this departure should justify itself. Of course, there will be an appeal to the County Court unless the parties otherwise agree  beforehand. Section 18 provides for a rule-making authority to prescribe all necessary rules for carrying the Bill into effect. Following the recommendations of the Committee the Bill is limited to three years.
These forms, it is believed, will be found much simpler than those prescribed by the 1920 Act, and I am sure that tenants will welcome the innovation which enables them to serve the landlord with a notice claiming reduced rent. The form of Combined Notice by Landlord of Increase of Rent should go a long way towards removing the deplorable confusion in the question of Notice to Quit which marred the 1920 Act. As the basis of the Act is that the landlord can only claim increased rent in respect of a period during which, but for the Bill, he could claim possession, it is logical that he should serve a Notice to Quit, to ensure that the tenant wishes to remain in possession, and as a definite indication of his right to claim an increased rent. Confusion on this point should disappear henceforward.
This, then, is the Bill which I recommend to the consideration of the Oireachtas. It deals with a subject bristling with difficulties, but I claim that having regard to all the circumstances, and to the grim necessity for continued control in present conditions, it is a fair Bill. As far as the Bill itself goes, and apart from the conditions which have called it and its predecessors forth, it undoubtedly presses on the landlord rather than the tenant, but, as I have said several times, this is inevitable from the nature of the problem. I think, however, that it will be admitted that the Bill is an improvement on the 1920 Act, and its provisions remove the severities and confusions of that Act, and smoothen out its inequalities. It is based pretty faithfully on the report of the Departmental Committee, and I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the Committee for their painstaking work, which was, of course, purely honorary, and for their able and impartial report on a very  thorny and controversial subject. I move the Second Reading of the Bill.
Mr. JOHNSON: The Minister has said that this deals with a very thorny subject. I have no doubt that is true. But for the fact that it, or some Bill, must pass before the 24th June, I think that the present measure would probably receive very keen and adverse criticism from many points. I am going to support the Second Reading because of the principle involved. I take it that is the usual intention. When submitting a Bill for Second Reading, approval or disapproval of the principles should be given, and there are principles in this Bill which I would ask the Dáil to bear closely in mind when voting on the proposition of the Minister. I support the Second Reading because of the principles involved and those principles are implied rather than stated. The report of the Committee pointed out that housing accommodation is a necessity of life, and if the supply is not equal to the demand exorbitant charges can be made. It seems to me that the principle involved in this Bill first is, that houses are built for shelter, and that it is as shelters and not as means of drawing rent and making profit that houses are built. Consequently, it is desirable that houses as profit-making instruments should be removed from the category when the profit-maker and rent-receiver are using these instruments as a means of inflicting hardship on the public. The Dáil or the Oireachtas that passes this Bill approves of the principle of interfering with the rate of profit that can be extracted through the ownership of such an instrument as a house, because it is a necessity, may be reasonably asked to adopt the same principle in dealing with other necessaries. It is because this Bill involves these principles that I ask the Dáil to support the Second Reading. If they are not in favour of the adoption of these principles when dealing with necessaries then it is the duty of the Dáil to refuse a Second Reading and leave the whole question of house tenancy to the free play, as it is called, of competition, and supply and demand. To me the Dáil is going to be tested on this vote as to whether it is in favour of interfering with the rights of owners of necessities to use them as a means  of extracting profits or rents from the public when they are in an advantageous position. The Minister has pointed out that investors in industrial shares were advantaged by the fact that they did not invest in houses, but he also pointed out that investors in Con sols, pre-war, were disadvantaged by that fact.
I ask the Dáil again to remember, in voting for this Second Reading, that they are saying to investors: “You have to consider the purpose for which your investments are made.” The purpose has a social function, something that is adding to the common well-being, and the profit-making capacity should be, if it is not, quite an incidental factor. In its essence, to the investing public, this Bill is revolutionary. It is telling the investor that he has not the right simply to look out for the most profitable means of investment. He has the right to consider how his wealth shall be applied for the common good. That is the principle involved in this Bill, and I ask the Dáil to bear it in mind when voting upon the Second Reading. If that is so, one might well ask many questions as to the details of the Bill. It is true that it follows closely, as the Minister has claimed, the report of the Committee. Every member of that Committee is free to defend the details of the report in every respect. I would like to ask if it has been considered that prior to 1914 the tendency of house rents right through the country was to advance for several years. More money was made out of house-owning in 1913 than in 1903. Houses that were built 20 years before were more profitable in 1913 than in 1903. If one is considering this Bill, apart from the emergency which led to the Bill being passed in the British Parliament, one might well ask why choose 1914, whereas I say in many parts of the country at any rate there had been a steady advance in house rents for some years before that. We may well ask that the standard rent should not be August 1914, but August 1904, for houses that had been 10, 15 or 20 years built. It is worth noting, too, and I ask Deputies on my right to note this, if there is one instinctive feeling amongst tenants right through the country, town tenants, that seems to express itself everywhere, in the case of tenants of  houses equally with tenants of land, it is that a house having been tenanted for a considerable number of years, and where the annual rent has been paid a considerable number of years, is no nearer the property of the tenant than at the beginning.
And without examining into the arithmetics of the case, whether it would be profitable or otherwise to make a change in that respect, there is an instinctive feeling among tenants that it is unreasonable that they should go on paying rents, year after year, for houses to a landlord who, shall we say, invested savings 10, 20 or 30 years before, and who is living out of those savings, and when the house or the premises are no nearer the possession of the tenant than they were at the beginning. There is a revulsion against that system, and I think it is a healthy revulsion. It shows that there is an instinctive feeling against mere renting, mere property owning, as a means of livelihood, and the practice that is growing up of buying houses for speculation, buying houses for the purpose of selling again, at a profit, and leaving the second or third owner to extract sufficient rent from the tenant to recoup him for the new price that he has made.
The Report states, quite truly, that houses do not grow as fast as the population, at least they do not grow as fast as the ability of the people to pay increased rent. Pressure of population always gives the opportunity to the house owner to advance his rents quite irrespective of what it costs him for the building of that house originally. I say the revulsion against that system is a healthy one, and it ought to be encouraged. I support the view that has been very widely expressed that under this Bill there might well have been established a court to which tenants and landlords might appeal for the establishment of fair rents. One might ask why this 10 per cent. has been fixed as the universal rate of increase, which is to be allowed. The Minister says it is merely a gesture, merely a bonus, that it has no relation to anything. It is a compromise between what the landlord might claim to meet the increased cost of living and nothing, which the tenant would prefer, but apparently there is no principle guiding the Minister when fixing 10 per cent. or guiding the Committee in reporting in favour of 10 per cent. It  is smaller than the similar figure in the Old Act. It is suggested that it is something towards meeting the decline in purchasing power, but one would ask why not take the analogy of the investor in Consols, that the Minister referred to. Because of the decline in the purchasing power of the pound sterling, and of the interest on those Consols, no advance was given to the holder of Consols. I do not think that any justification has been adduced for an increase of 10 per cent. on the standard rent, irrespective of any question of repairs, irrespective of anything at all except that the landlord owns the property.
It seems to me that the judgment of the late Dáil, while it has been criticised as not being scientific, was very much nearer accuracy and justice when it fixed 15 per cent. as a maximum on the standard rent. The proposal is to allow a 10 per cent. increase on the standard rent, simply for the liability upon the landlord for repairs. Unless that liability is converted into practical necessity it is no use at all, and the onus of going to the Court to prove that the house is not in a reasonable state of repair, in all respects, is not sufficient to justify the Bill allowing the landlord to clap on 10 per cent. simply because under the tenancy he is liable to keep the house in repair. We know, as a matter of fact, landlords have not kept houses in repair; they have tried to throw the whole responsibility upon the tenants, or they have allowed houses to get into a general state of unfitness, and, while in that state, they may not be so bad as to justify a court in saying they are insanitary or they are in disrepair.
It seems to be that the report on which the Bill is founded is faulty in that respect, and if there is to be an increase allowed on the standard rent, in virtue of repairs, it ought to be in virtue of actual expenditure on repairs over a number of years. I think the change in the law respecting the necessity for providing alternative accommodation is a grave fault. It is giving the landlords an opportunity to evict tenants on many pretexts. Alternative accommodation ought to be provided before any landlord is allowed, on any pretext, to evict a tenant. There is a clause which speaks of the court being asked to decide whether there is more hardship entailed by the tenant remaining in or by  the landlord having power to evict. I wonder what kind of a judgment one can expect—whether there can be any consistency in judgments in different parts of the country—where such a clause as that is relied upon as the sole protection for the tenant.
The owner of a house who says he wants to make way for an employee, or because it suits his business to make a change in the tenancy, is to be empowered to evict the present tenant whether there is alternative accommodation or not. If there is appeal to the Court, the Court has to judge whether there is greater hardship by the eviction or greater hardship by the retention. In one case, the owner of the house is going to suffer hardship because of inconvenience or obstruction in his business. In the other case the tenant is going to suffer hardship because he is deprived of his house. The two things are not on the same plane. You cannot compare one with the other. If the Judge in the Court is going to look at the matter from the point of view of the industries in the district, or the prosperity of business, and, on the other hand, from the point of view of the personal suffering of the tenant or his family, the two things are not comparable, and you cannot distinguish the greater hardship with anything like regularity or according to a universal standard. It seems to me that it is necessary for the Dáil to reinsert the Clause making it obligatory on the landlord to provide alternative accommodation.
I have received two or three letters which throw some light upon the necessity for the provision of alternative accommodation. As far back as October last, I received a letter from a constituent of Deputy Milroy. She is the wife of a labourer. A small farmer, who had business, wanted the cottage in which this labourer lived. The father, mother, and four children were living in a cabin of two rooms. The landlord wanted to evict. She and her husband and friends had been pressing on the local authority to build houses. Labourers' cottages are urgently needed in this locality, but no labourers' cottages are being built, and no eviction took place until a week ago. Even in the cottage in which they lived—this cabin of two rooms, one being a kitchen—there  were only a few panes of glass in the windows, and they cannot use one of the apartments, because it is too cold. The other room is 14 feet by 8 feet, with a small fireplace, and it is in this small hole that this family of six cook and live. “Bad as the house is, we are,” she says, “ordered to leave it. It is expected that the owner wants to make a byre of it and use it for his cattle. We may be evicted at any time, and there is no house to be got. The farmers have vacant cottages, but bad houses though they are they will not let them to any labourer.”
The matter was held up for some time, but on June 1st I received a letter saying the eviction referred to was carried out on the 30th. The letter says: “The children, my husband and myself are in a shed. I told the Sergeant of the Civic Guard who was present at the eviction that the children would be on the roadside that night, and he replied, `I have nothing to do with that; the man must get his house.' We have no prospect of a house, and the children have been exposed three nights already. The situation is desperate.” The decree had been obtained, because the landlord required the house for a purpose which the Court considered requisite, and, in accordance with the powers under the Act. No alternative accommodation had been provided, and that is the point of my contention. The landlord required the house for his business, presumably. I have not all the facts, but a decree was obtained, the Judge no doubt acting on the evidence that was presented to him. The family was evicted and turned out. I submit that we ought not to allow that, and that we ought to insist in this Bill that no eviction shall take place at the behest of a landlord who may require the house for a new tenant, or may require it for the servant of his tenant until and unless alternative accommodation is provided.
Then, I think, there is need for an amendment to the Bill to provide against a house owner retaining a house unlet after its becoming vacant. I do not know whether the same case applies to the country generally, but in some of the towns and cities we see for months together houses lying vacant to be sold. I suggest that if a house is not sold within a month after becoming vacant it ought to be subject to the rent provisions of any Act we may pass, so that house accommodation  will be available to the extent, at least, that the present vacant houses would supply. I wonder whether in deciding that this Bill, after it becomes an Act, shall only extend up to 1926, there is any expectation that the present shortage of houses will be met within the three years. I wonder what hopes the Minister has that such a shortage will have been met.
It is quite out of the question, and it is no use suggesting that there should be decontrol within any such period as three years; and it is no use for An Dáil to be filling the minds of house owners with the thought that by that time these restrictions shall be removed. I suggest that at least we ought to extend the provisions of the Act until, say, 1930, before any question can arise as to decontrol. There are forty to fifty thousand houses required in An Saorstát, and building experts tell us that you cannot, with present appliances, present material, present ability to produce, turn out more than three or four thousand houses per year, even at the best. So that you have got to face a probable shortage of houses for twenty years. That is, without counting any prospective increases in population. In view of that it is senseless. I suggest, to put into the Bill any clause which would give hopes of decontrol within three years. There is a clause in the Bill which will apply to a very great number of tenants, and that clause, I think, ought to be radically altered. It is intended, no doubt, to be very fair because it suggests that where a reduction is due under the provisions of the Bill, the tenant shall appear before the Courts to make a claim, explaining the reasons. Now, a very great number indeed of the house tenants in the country are paying rents and rates to the landlord and calling it rent. If rates be reduced, the tenant is, to very great extent, indeed, quite unaware of the fact. He does not know that the rates are being reduced, and he, therefore, does not know that he may be entitled to a reduction in the rent. The Bill imposes obligations upon the tenant to make that claim to the Court for a reduction when he has any grounds for making the claim. I submit that there ought to be a penalty imposed upon the rent drawer, who calls upon a tenant to pay a sum which is in excess of the legal requirements. Poor tenants would only be protected if they got some kind of organisation  which is able to follow the ramifications of the Act, and the general course of events in the locality. I do not think it is fair to impose upon tenants the necessity for doing any such thing, and I would urge that the Bill should be altered in such a way as to impose an obligation, rather a penalty, upon the house owner, for trying to impose upon the tenants, a rent over and above that which he is legally entitled to extract. If we did think of houses as merchandise, I have no doubt the Bill can be justified. I have no doubt the necessity for an increase in rents on the lines of the Bill can be justified, but I do not think that we ought to consider houses as merchanlise. I think that we ought to take it, that houses are built as a means of providing shelter for people, and if, in the doing of that, the capital that is invested is secured to the owner, and that is repaid within a reasonable period, then the obligations to the capital investor are fulfilled; and we ought to register our opinion that this necessary social function of providing houses is not one that ought to be the sport of investors or speculators, or to be used as simply the means of providing income for the owner of accumulated wealth. As I said at the beginning, I support the Second Reading because of the fact that the Bill does recognise the necessity for safeguarding the life of the people, and safeguarding the people against the sacred laws of supply and demand—the so-called sacred laws of supply and demand—those immutable economic laws. I think it is well that we should remember that they are not immutable, and that they can be interfered with, and that they must be interfered with, if society is to progress on a moral plane, and with anything like social decency. Therefore, I support the Second Reading of the Bill in the hope that in the course of the Committee Stage we shall be able to improve it in the direction I have indicated.
Professor MAGENNIS: I rise to support the Second Reading of the Increase of Rent Restriction Bill. Deputy Johnson thinks, or appears to me to think, that he has made support of the Second Reading of the Bill somewhat difficult. Unless we accept certain fantastic theories of property, and certain definitions which he, by implication, gives us, that somehow we are inconsistent,  and that we ought to reject the Bill, if we reject his doctrines. This is rather a subtle habit of procedure with Deputy Johnson. Instead of dealing with the details of a practical measure, he proceeds, like a professor of philosophy, to go back to first principles, and he discusses first principles without referring to the qualification of their application to actual circumstances. In other words, he becomes fanatical for theory and regardless of fact.
Professor MAGENNIS: The Bill opens, I may remind Deputy Johnson, with a definition clause, and I hope, when we come to the Committee Stage, that he will add a definition to the many set out there. “Landlord,” for instance; “a citizen of the Saorstát who has no rights.” That is a summary of a great many of his conclusions. The difficulty in understanding this very complex, not to say elaborate Bill, arises from the fact that it attempts to do simultaneously at least two, if not three, very different things. It is a jest, in the book world, that the ordinary reviewer, when he has nothing to say on the substance of the work, or is unable to say something on the substance of the book, finds fault with the title, or complains that the author did not write about something else for which he is better fitted. Now, the title of this Bill, I suggest, is likely in some measure. to mislead the public from a proper appreciation of the merits of the measure. It is, in the first place, and in reality, a Bill in restraint of eviction. It is officially titled “The Increase of Rent Restriction Bill.” It is that also, but it appeals to me primarily as a Bill to restrain eviction. I think that aspect of it is overlooked. Some people think—the view has been expressed more than once in the newspapers—that it would have been better to have made a clean sweep of the English Act from 1915 to 1920 and begin afresh. I daresay the reason for retaining the title of the English Bill in the present measure is part of the reason for making the Bill on the lines on which it has been built. The theorist would think it is better to clear away the debris of the old and unsatisfactory Acts and build anew. But the lawyer,  or a man who has been at any time a lawyer—I am speaking for myself now— is well aware that no matter what the shortcomings of a measure, the fact that it has been on the Statute Book for a number of years, has given rise to litigation, and has afforded opportunities for judicial decisions, gives it an enormous value as a basis for an amending Act. Language which might otherwise be deemed dubious or ambiguous may be used in the amending Act freely, because the expressed specific legal meaning of the words employed in the amending Act are already a matter of judicial decision. Therefore, though theoretically it might be better and would make a more popular appeal to set up this Bill as a measure for the restriction of evictions, for the purpose of use in the Law Courts as a legal instrument of direction for the citizen, it is better as it is.
However, as I have said, it is its character in regard to restraint of eviction that appeals to me primarily. When I read the report of the Departmental Committee, which is an exceptionally able, clear, and in many respects convincing document, Section 17 and 18 struck me most. Section 18 is embodied largely in the present Bill. It is the centre and the clue of the whole measure. “We are of opinion,” say the Committee, “that it is only the interests of the occupying tenants, including tenants who merely have made short lettings for temporary convenience, that require protection. There seems to be no reason why the tenancy of a lessee who has sub-let should be prolonged so as to enable him to make an investment profit at the expense of his landlord after the expiration of his lease.” Now, Deputy Johnson in his criticism of the Bill, lost sight of this meritorious feature. He ought to have been delighted to find middlemen swept away. That he did not know they were swept away, I fear, is due to the fact that so many people do not realise that this measure applies only to occupying tenants by way of protection. It applies to their protection, works to their protection, I should say, because in the absence of such an Act, by ordinary process of law the tenants term of tenancy would be determined, would have expired, and under the ordinary common rights of the owner the tenant should be evicted. Of course to those who believe there is no common  law right in the owner of a property, this thing appears objectionable. A subtle effort was made just now to assume, without contradiction, without fear of contradiction, that houses are built exclusively for humanitarian purposes; that the man who invests the savings of thrift or inherited capital, capital in any form, for the provision of houses to be let, is engaged, not in investing his money, but in a humanitarian enterprise. Those two objects are not incompatible.
There is no reason why a man should not deem a certain community to be benefited by the provision of better housing, and also as a good business man see the possibility of a sound investment for himself. It is all the better for the State when those two capacities of mind work together—the desire of the benefit of the public and the keen sense of how it can be done without loss. The owner would have been entitled to resume possession if it were not for those Acts, but on account of the scarcity of housing and a variety of reasons, the Restriction Acts from 1915 onwards come to the tenants' relief. One defect was that unlike the present measure the relief was not confined to the occupying tenant. The great merit of the present Act is that the relief is confined to the occupying tenant and technicalities and difficulties are removed in the present measure which safeguard those who have made temporary lettings from being brought within the meshes of legal definitions. That is the first thing which I desire to say with regard to the Act, that in so far as it goes straight to the heart of the situation and provides protection for the occupying tenant from eviction, and does so without leaving an opening for difficulties of interpretation and for costly litigation, the Bill is eminently acceptable.
Now, there is the other side to this. If a measure takes from the owner of a property his right on the determination of a tenancy to resume possession, to take it over, and to do so in circumstances where the scarcity of housing and the demand would give him an increase of rent, until all those revolutionary doctrines about property that Deputy Johnson insists upon have found general acceptance, I think that until that fatal hour has arrived we must proceed upon the basis of law and equity and realise that the owner of the property  has some title to be compensated for the loss. There is a mediaeval doctrine of usury which seems to be working in the mind of Deputy Johnson in this matter, while he forgets its qualifications.
The Christian view, you remember, was that money could not be charged for the loan of money to a necessitous person, because it was taking advantage of the awkward and difficult situation of a neighbour. Now, this Bill applies the same fundamental principle of Christianity. The owner of property is not allowed by it to exact from the occupying tenant any rent he may choose to demand, because he can demand it and get it. There is an application in the twentieth century of what some people may regard as an obsolete doctrine, but even in the middle ages when the possession of a surplus of money, over and above what was requisite to supply the immediate needs of the hour, became a power, when commerce was extended and when to have money was to have the means of enlarging one's resources, and the commanding of political power and social standing, the Church allowed the man who loaned money to take money for the loan not by virtue of its being a loan but because of three things. One of these is most pertinent in the present case—lucrum cessans. In fact, I may say that the two others also apply—damnum emergens and periculum sortis. All these things are here, and so it is, to my mind, a Christian Bill in these respects: The fact that it is a Christian Bill will not, I hope, raise opposition to it in the minds of some Deputies. The real difficulty that the framers of this measure had to contend with was the definition of standard rent and the determination of it. Now, in dealing with that, Deputy Johnson, as I understood or misunderstood him, pleaded for something new, something in the nature of the old land courts as applied to town tenancy. Now, nature provided the land, but human manufacture provided the house, and the two kinds of property are not at all in the same plane and sphere, and you cannot apply the same proposition to them. The Town Tenants' Association has put forward a claim for that, and would prefer that the Dáil should substitute a Bill on those lines consisting of Courts, instead of proceeding as it has done. Now, there is some confusion of thought to be cleared up here. There  is provision in the present measure for having recourse to the Courts in regard to rents, because I may direct your attention to Section 2, Sub-sections (a) and (b). Sub-section (a) says: “If the dwelling house was, on the 3rd day of August, 1914, let to an occupying tenant under a contract of tenancy not being for more than a term of five years, then the rent at which the dwelling-house was so let, or where the dwelling-house was not so let on that day, the rent at which it was last within a period of 3 years so let before that date shall, subject to the deduction specified in the next succeeding Sub-section, be the standard rent.” And (b) says: “In any case not coming within the provisions of the last preceding paragraph, the standard rent shall be determined by the Court on the application in the prescribed manner of the landlord or the tenant.” Deputy Johnson was inaccurate in suggesting that there was no provision made for recourse to the Court. The town tenants representatives, of whom some of his criticisms were an echo, declared that all the provisions in the proposed Act confirmed the bad points of the existing Act, and in no sense carried that relief from the burthens that the town tenants complain of and seek to have redressed. They declare that the new Act should embrace fixity of tenure, the right of free sale of the tenants' interests, the setting up of fair rent arbitration courts, and the right of all the occupying tenants to acquire the fee-simple of their holdings. Here we have an echo of my childhood. One of my earliest recollections is a political rhyme which went as follows:—
That was the Die-hard's version of the three F's. Here we have the three F's resuscitated. I thought I wept over their tomb—fixity of tenure, fair rent, and free sale. This is another of the usual devices of the reviewer of books. If he does not complain of the title, he complains that the book was not about something else. Why does not the Minister for Home Affairs introduce a Bill to secure the three F's for the town tenants? Perhaps he will, perhaps he won't, but at any rate that is not the  immediate business in hand. The immediate business in hand is that on the 24th of this month the Rent Increases Restriction Act comes to a close, and another Act, such as this Act, must replace it, otherwise there will be all sorts of difficulties. Whatever may be the shortcomings of this measure, it is intended to meet that very imperative demand. There are one or two things in it which, I think, might be improved. In the report which I have already commended there is one thing which does not convince me, and it is this reduction of the limit to £60 in the city and £40 in the country. It is true—and we must remember it—that the Committee had the advantage of hearing evidence. I plead guilty to not having heard or read that evidence, but on the other hand I can provide evidence for myself. It may not be so expert or satisfactory, but it comes home to my business and bosom in a way that the evidence of other people would not. I turned to the Directory. I have engaged in this very dull and uninteresting occupation in odd moments. I took Bray as being one of the places outside the Dublin Metropolitan area with which I am fairly intimate, and I read the Directory valuation of Florence Terrace—one of the beautiful rows of houses facing the Head and occupied mainly by men who come to the city to their business. Practically all the houses there are over this valuation. You give them no protection. I am afraid if I were the owner of these houses I would seize my opportunity. It would require a great deal of prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds to restrain my spirit of cupidity in putting up the rents.
Similarly in Greystones all the houses outside Church Road are above this valuation. Those people are immediately deprived of protection. I know of cases inside the city where serious hardship would ensue if protection were reduced to a valuation of the standard rent of £60. So I would suppose, and I hope I will have the advantage of introducing it as an amendment later on that as regards the Dublin Metropolitan area the amount should be £100, and £60 in the rest of Ireland. That amounts to what we know to be the requirements of the environs of this city. I do not know much about the valuation of country areas, and when the report of the Committee says anything above the figure fixed on here, in the  country would mean the removal of all restrictions, they are possibly right. I am not in a position to question that, but I feel, on the other hand, with regard to what I am able to attest, and about which I have some personal knowledge, that the report is not found satisfactory, and there is, therefore a possibility that it is not satisfactory as regards the figure outside in the country.
There are a great many other things, but I have spoken so long and been so tedious that I reserve them for the Committee Stage. I think, for instance, it would be useful if, in the definition clause, although it is not really essential that statutory tenancy and contractual tenancy as implied in the Act should be defined. Statutory tenancy means the tenancy of the occupying tenant who continues to hold, merely because there is this Act.
There is one other item which I cannot sit down without referring to. That is Section 8, Sub-section 3. This appears to me to be one of the most valuable items in the whole enactment:—“Any transfer to a tenant of any burden or liability previously borne by the landlord shall, for the purpose of this Act, be treated as an alteration of rent, and where as a result of such a transfer, the terms on which the dwelling house is held are, on the whole, less favourable to the tenant than the previous terms, the rent shall be deemed to be increased whether or not the sum periodically payable by way of rent is increased.” If the Bill contained nothing else than that, it would have provided a most valuable relief from the deficiencies of the preceding Act of 1920. I support the Second Reading of this Bill, with one or two slight reservations as I have made, not because of the reasons given by Deputy Johnson that the support of it commits us to certain doctrines, but because it is an eminently practical measure which answers the purpose it is designed to serve. The whole question of the relations of morals and law, the law that can be administered in a Court might be raised by a theorist in this matter. I wonder Deputy Johnson did not quote summa jus minima injuria, when he was pleading for the permission of a tenant to retain the possession of a dwelling house, although the man from whom he bought it was thereby precluded from enjoying the ordinary right of ownership. In this case it is easy to make a  popular speech, in which sentiment—the homely pathetic—could be appealed to. It is on the same lines that those who read of the French Revolution are made to shed tears for the sufferings and horrors to which the noblesse were subjected, and we can shed such tears so long as we forget what the centuries of horrors were to which the populace were subject that gave rise to the revolt that inflicted those cruelties. It is all very well to give us this very pathetic story, but, on the other hand, although I have not letters to produce, I can conceive cases where a man is entitled to get possession of a house according to all the rules of fair dealing and common sense. The Court has to decide on whom would be inflicted the greater hardship, by the granting of the rights of the owner or the continuing in tenancy of the occupying tenant. Now, the report of the Committee has given that special prominence. Section 17 imposes restrictions, and embodies orders for the recovery of the possession of dwelling houses. The provisions making it necessary that a landlord who requires premises for occupation by him or his employees should show that alternative accommodation is procurable, is a direction against which I appeal. Deputy Johnson wants that objectionable feature of the 1920 Act restored into this Act. It is an amendment of the first. It is suggested that the wider view should be adopted throughout, and the criterion of the greater hardship uniformly adopted. In such cases where the merits are equal, the ordinary laws should prevail, so that the landlord who has not bought over a tenant's head, and who, in fact, bonâ fide requires the premises for occupation by himself or his employees should not be precluded from his ordinary rights. As I say, that is what the Law Courts are for. A asserts that under the existing fabric of law he has certain rights. B, on the other hand, pleads that under the existing facts that press harshly on him, the operation of the law would cause him a certain inconvenience, even a very great inconvenience. Now, society cannot altogether look on, unmoved as regards this conflict, and organised society has provided itself with a tribunal before which our relative rights can be pleaded, and a decision in the name of the community be arrived at.
It seems to me that instead of this terribly fixed automatic machine system  of the principle of alternative accommodation being procurable, we have here in our new measure, a resort to something which is equitable and reasonable, and which is really exercising on behalf of the community the proper interference of sentiment and good feeling within the limits of what is right. I feel for the occupying tenant, who has to go. When I hear the case for the owner, who wants to get in, I feel with him. When I was at the Bar one of the great sources of amusement was the Recorder of the time who was so soft-hearted, so kindly, and had such an ability for seeing all the arguments on both sides of the case, that frequently he had the plaintiff and the defendant, and the plaintiff's and the defendant's witnesses up on the Bench beside him, and eventually he would fling off his wig and declare that he could not come to any decision, that some of them must be perjuring themselves. Now, those days are passed. Under the new system resort can be had to a tribunal to try these cases, and it is the only proper way to decide the matter. The fact that I happen to be the tenant in occupation does not give me, by the mere accident of circumstances, a better, a stronger, or more equitable claim for the retention of the dwelling-house, but sentiment makes it appear that it does, and sentiment must come to be adjudged before the bar of reason. The substitution of the greater hardship is the criterion that appeals to me as the wiser criterion in this difficult case, and the doing away of what I call the mere automatic rule is a most decided amendment.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Deputy Johnson, to whom I do not intend to refer at any length, raised a question of some importance by marching into the middle of the field and claiming it to be a field to be possessed by him, and if anybody were to be so bold as to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, he is only to do it because he agrees with the general principle enunciated by Deputy Johnson. I do not accept that principle, and nevertheless I intend to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. The Minister, in moving it, stated that it did limit freedom of contract, and it does limit freedom of contract, but it does something that is rather earlier than that, I suggest. It recognise that freedom  of contract had already been limited before the operation of this Bill, and its predecessors, which gave rise to this Bill, by circumstances that had intervened. Those circumstances still intervene, and still impose a very considerable injustice upon tenants, and ever since 1915, in spite of the operations of these successive Bills, they have imposed injustices upon the tenants.
The first point I wish to make here to-day is this, that I do think that the Committee that sat and furnished so able and complete a report, and the Bill which is so closely drafted, and based, upon that report, have not sufficiently recognised the fact that even since 1915, when these Bills began to operate, grave injustices did occur. There has been since then, owing to the fact that these Bills, drafted for English conditions, did not wholly suit Irish conditions, and owing to the further fact, flowing and following upon the first, that conditions vary far more widely in Ireland than they do in England, there has been, in spite of the protection offered by these Bills, a considerable amount of what cannot be described in the suburban districts of Dublin, otherwise than rack-renting—a very considerable degree of it. I do urge, while I agree with the general principle of this Bill, that it does not recognise that sufficiently. I urge the injustice that has been done by accepting the very high rents of 1914 as a standard rent, and by not recognising that the operation of the Restriction of Rents Acts that have succeeded one another from that time to this, have not given that protection in Ireland that they have given in a country for the conditions of which they were originally drafted.
That raises the second point that I wish to bring before the attention of the Dáil. I am fully aware of the arguments Deputy Magennis has put forward that if there exists earlier legislation, because of the familiarity of the courts with that legislation, it is very much better to amend it than to sweep it all aside and to introduce entirely new legislation.
Recently in this Dáil we have had a great deal of discussion, and some of it will recur at a later stage of the proceedings on a different matter altogether; that is in regard to the fiscal policy of this country. English conditions have been taken over and legislation has  adopted them, and slightly adapted them with very incongruous results. I think it can be fairly stated that though the results do not, in this case, possibly go to the same range of incongruity, there is, nevertheless, very considerable incongruity revealed in the attempt to apply them to this country, in this revised form, and at such short notice, too, so that radical amendment is not possible. The original Rent Bill was not drafted for conditions in Ireland. It is not pretended that the original Increase of Rent and Mortgage Acts were devised for Ireland; we know they were not. We know, further, that the Departmental Committee that met had those Acts before it for consideration; we know that the present Bill that is now before the Dáil is based upon that report, and ultimately based upon those earlier Acts. I recognise fully that the time is short, but I do think that it would be wise to contemplate the possibility of raising the entire principle after that date has expired, whether some other conditions might not be imposed more suitable to the circumstances of this country. I have before me the report of the Committee, and I would desire to draw attention to a point cognate to that to which I have already referred. It was raised by one of the members and is contained in the note of reservation by Mr. Brady. He says in his note—and I do no more than underline the importance of his remarks—that it is obvious to every person's mind that the conditions in this country are far more various than in England, and that the means of conditions cannot be so easily assessed in Ireland as it can be in England. His words are:—
Owing to the variation of local conditions in the different towns and districts throughout the country, such as demand for dwelling houses, amount of local rates, state of repair, cost of repair, salaries and wages, I do not think it a sound proposition to lay down a general legal standard percentage of increased rent to govern the entire country.
The proposal he puts forward in that note is one which, I think, is substantially sounder and would work out with greater justice ultimately—that is, instead of applying conditions and regulations, or what is called here a “general legal standard percentage of increased rent,” in conditions  that must necessarily vary so widely, to adopt a much more flexible system and set up Courts of Appeal that would assess the figure. I think there is a great deal to commend that. It is impossible for any person to read through the sections of this Bill—and the Minister no doubt himself perceived it, and there are many echoes of it throughout the report of the Committee—without observing that when you are dealing with those surburban districts in Dublin which I represent, you are dealing with a set of conditions unlike conditions to be found elsewhere in Ireland, and when you are dealing with certain of the smaller towns in the West of Ireland you are dealing with conditions unlike those that prevail anywhere else in the country. There are certain parts of the country that can be geographically delimited, and within which a uniformity is preserved. But once you pass outside that delimitation you come upon an entirely different set of circumstances. I think that principle of leaving the system flexible, so that it could adapt itself to the different conditions prevailing in the different parts of the country would have proved a wiser method than to lay down a general legal standard as is laid down in the Bill. I think that might be borne in mind in the future. I have in mind at the moment a certain town in the West of Ireland with which I am familiar, and with which the Deputy Ceann Comhairle is also familiar. If one were to try to fix a definite standard or rule and apply it impartially to those towns, and to the suburban districts of Dublin, the contemplation would be laughable. It cannot be done, and yet that is the attempt that is being bravely made with a great measure of success in this Bill. I think, no matter how wise the provisions be, they are necessarily being set down in statutory form, inflexible to the variety of circumstances that require to be met. I urge, therefore, that the system suggested by Mr. Brady of leaving the matter to be assessed by the local courts is the better way. In three clauses he sets out his suggestion in this note of reservation. Impressed, as every Deputy must have been, with the ability and the sincerity and the care which are evidenced in every page of this Committee's report, I am bound to say that very few parts of it made a stronger impression upon my mind than that reservation that Mr. Brady put forward. It was  not until I had read that note, and had been impressed by it, that I discovered that Mr. Brady spoke for the tenants with special competence and with intimacy with the subject with which he was dealing.
Another matter which partly arises out of this very consideration on which I have been speaking throughout, is the question touched upon by Deputy Professor Magennis—the drop from £78 in Ireland, as hitherto prevailing in the English Statutes which we took over, to the new range set out in the Bill of £60 per annum in Dublin, and £40 in the rest of the Free State. I could have wished that the Minister had given some of the arguments that led to this reduction. I should have wished that the Committee had given some of the arguments that led them to recommend that reduction, instead of merely stating the fact, as they do, in the report, because I have been wholly unable to discover any reason for this change. I can appreciate the reason for it if one goes outside the immediate circumstances of Dublin. But those immediate circumstances in Dublin, for which I have the honour here to speak and which I have the duty also to represent, very largely lie at the base of the consideration of this Bill. This Bill is an amendment to the earlier English Statutes in this matter. It has been decided, as I have stated, to base the Bill upon its predecessors. Well and good. But its predecessors have also had amendment on somewhat the same lines in England since. If one may use the figure, the earlier legislation applicable in the two countries, while remaining substantially the same, and having the same origin, has become bifurcated. The contrast is rather remarkable because in England the old figure of £78 has been retained while the President here said the other day that it is cheaper to build houses in England than in Ireland. Everybody knows that that is the case. More houses are being built in England, and they are being built at cheaper moneys. Nevertheless, although the conditions are so inimical in the Free State by comparison with Great Britain, the standard has been dropped from £78 to £60, and the effect of the Bill is that tenants of houses of which the rents or  rateable values lie between £60 and £78 in Dublin, or lie between £40 and £78 elsewhere in the Free State are to be deprived of the protection they enjoyed under the British Act of 1920, and the Dáil Decree of April 1921. They will now be liable to ejectment unless they pay whatever rent the landlord may choose to demand, to which must be added the fact that the situation from the tenant's point of view is considerably worse now in Ireland than it was in 1920. If protection was necessary then, it is considerably more necessary now. Considerable numbers have moved in from the towns and from the country to Dublin, and there has been practically no building, so that the scarcity of houses is greater than it was in 1920. In England there has been considerably more housebuilding than in Ireland, so that the house shortage is not so great as here, notwithstanding that the British Parliament propose to continue the figure of £105 in London and £78 elsewhere, while the Irish Parliament propose to limit protection to houses of £60 valuation in Dublin and £40 elsewhere in the Free State.
That is one of the results of endeavouring to fix a rule that shall apply to conditions that very so widely in different parts of the country. I am glad that Deputy Professor Magennis intends to move an amendment with a view to rectifying that on the Committee Stage. It had been my intention to do so, but I will give his amendment my entire support. I think that the plain facts, so far as one is able to appreciate them, without having at hand the arguments set forth in the report that led the Committee to suggest that drop, are that a prima facie case is not only entirely against the change, but very strongly and forcibly against the change. I will not speak now in regard to the conditions in the country, but I do know that few matters have aroused more concern than the removal of protection for that type of house. I am persuaded that the results will be injurious if the change is persisted in. I believe that there are many cases —one knows that there are—I have heard of cases where people who are paying a rental of £65 a year in Dublin, who are now to be left upon the landlords' tender mercies, and who may have their rents very considerably increased or be  turned out of their houses. These will, very naturally, begin to look for houses if they can be got within the protected area, and, therefore, there will be an even greater competition within the protected area than there is at the present moment.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: The President asked me if I could give him a list of that type of persons. I have had some seven or eight cases brought to my attention, and one may always safely assume that cases of that kind or really wider than those that are brought to the Deputy's attention. But, if the President wants the matter put to a test, I suggest that he should adopt the procedure that was indicated by Deputy Professor Magennis when the President was not in the Dáil, a procedure that several people have adopted with advantage, and that is to take a Directory and run down the list of streets in the suburban districts immediately outside Dublin and take the rateable values in each of those cases, and he will be surprised to find the large number of houses.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I am suggesting that now. I had two or three letters on the matter. This is a matter that can be amended in Committee. The other one is one that I threw out here, which will subsequently have to be dealt with in legislation sooner or later before the period within which this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will operate, and that is of devising some method of assessing a fair rent something a little more flexibly than the method adopted in the Bill. Nevertheless, the time before this is short. The general substance, of the measure is sound. The principle is one with which most of the Deputies will agree, whether they put the construction upon it that Deputy Johnson put upon it or not. Consequently for that reason I will vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.
Mr. LYONS: I was more than  pleased to hear the Minister for Home Affairs congratulating the Committee who drafted the report that was circulated amongst the Deputies; and also to hear some of the speeches delivered here to-day in favour of this Bill. To my mind, as a tenant, neither the promoters of the Bill nor the promoters of the report deserve any congratulation at the hands of the tenant, at the hands of people they have tried to penalise. I completely disagree with Professor Deputy Magennis when he says that this Act is purely and solely drafted so as to benefit the tenants, and so that they may be able to have the law on their side, and that the landlords will not be able to increase the rent over and above the increase allowed by this Bill. The results of this Bill through the country, if it passes the Dáil, and I sincerely hope it will not, but that it will be rejected by a huge majority, will be viewed with regret by the tenants. If it happens to get through, every landlord through the country, who has not yet increased his rent, will have the law behind him and he can go to the Court and get an increased rent from his tenants. As the Deputies are aware, some of those houses through the country were bought by the owners at an auction. In the majority of cases the present owners did not build these houses, nor did their fathers or grandfathers. They were simply bought at an auction in 1906 or 1909 or thereabouts. They may buy a house for £100 and set that house at £17 a year. In ten years they would have been refunded the cost of that house and have £70 profit. Are these men entitled to an increase? I say not. I have no objection if houses are built at the present time to allow the landlords who invested a certain amount of money, a certain sum over and above the value of the house in pre-war days. I cannot see for a moment how the Deputies will let it go out to the country that they are in favour of landlordism and that they in tend to keep the landlords in the country. I think it is high time that every tenant in Ireland should become the owner of his own home. By doing this you will make them remain in the country and work for the welfare of the country. These landlords it is that we may thank for the fact that in the past there were so many Irishmen sent out of the country and that to-day America and all  over the world are overflowing with members of the Irish race.
In every town that you go into in the country, of from 600 to 10,000 or 12,000 people you will see numbers of streets of houses all wrecked, not from the Anglo-Irish war or from the present unfortunate situation, but through the neglect of the landlords who refused to keep those houses in repair. These houses are a disgrace to the town. If you pass through, you can see them in every town you go into. You can see them in every street, and especially in the outside streets. The houses are tumbling down, the roofs are off, and I know, myself, cases where people are living in a house where half the house had fallen down and the other half is roofed over. Then we find Professor Magennis saying that the persons who owned those houses, if they wanted them, could turn out the people who were living, or rather, perishing in them. He used the word Christianity. I do not see where Christianity comes in if a landlord is allowed to remove a young helpless family of four or five children and the father and mother because he wants the house for another employee. It is not a house. As a rule the employees of the country are not living in houses. They are living in what are worse than cabins, a kind of tumbledown shacks. Furthermore, I would like to remind this Dáil that it is the middlemen at the present time who are benefiting in the majority of those cases. I believe from past experience that there is no worse type of landlordism than the middlemen. They collect the rents. The rents are supposed to be sent to the proper owner. But when the tenant gets involved in a dispute with the middlemen, the latter fails to find the landlord's address. It is not to be had. Still the middleman is collecting the rents. Under this Act the middlemen will be allowed to increase the rent by ten per cent. for repairs and fifteen per cent. for rent. There is one clause here with which I do agree. That is the only one clause in the Bill, Clause 8 (c), under which the landlord is responsible for the whole of the repairs to an amount not exceeding ten per cent. of the standard rent.
I would certainly agree to giving the man who would keep his property in repair  10 per cent., but I would not agree to paying a man for looking after his own property. If you pay landlords for the repairs they carry out you are paying them for looking after their own property. The property is theirs, or at least some of them maintain that it is theirs. To my mind the property is the property of the occupying tenant, if that tenant is 20 years living in the house, because by that time he would have it well bought by the rent he is paying. I would be sorry to do any landlord out of his money or anything he would be entitled to. I do not want any landlords here at all. I want to see people in their own homes, and when they carry out any repairs or improvements they are doing so for themselves alone. At present if they carry out repairs, the landlord does not allow anything in that respect, and the landlords themselves do not carry out any repairs. I know there are several houses in the country on which the roofs are so bad that the people living in them very often have to remove their beds at night in order to avoid the drops of rain. According to this Bill the landlord would be entitled to 10 or 15 per cent. increase. Personally I will never vote in favour of the Bill, and when it comes for its third reading I would ask the Dáil to reject it. It is not an Increase of Rent Act we want; it is a Decrease of Rent Act. When everybody else is getting decreases it is time the tenants would get one. They are decreasing in number, I know, for the want of housing accommodation. Some Deputies may say: “How could we expect landlords to build houses when we refuse to give them a fair rent?” I am in favour of giving them a fair rent, but let a fair rent commission be set up to fix the amount. The Committee's report is not satisfactory, and neither is the Bill satisfactory, and as soon as the Bill comes up again I will oppose it.
Mr. WILSON: After so much has been said about the Bill, I will be very brief. I agree with Deputy Lyons that the Bill should not be brought in at all, but I agree for a very different reason from what he has in mind. I agree that if you have no Bill the landlord, or whoever owns the house, will get the economic rent of the house, whereas this particular arrangement keeps him in a sort of suspense. This Bill is, of course,  necessary by the circumstances of the case, and were it not necessary I should say it would mean a restraint on the use of capital. It will keep the scarcity of houses hanging on longer. It will keep people from investing money in the building of houses, who would otherwise do so. If the Bill is rejected, as Deputy Lyons wants, it will help a landlord to get a reasonable rent.
Mr. WILSON: I said I will be brief. This Bill has one provision which is very necessary and it does away with the alternative accommodation which existed in the other Bill. Under the other Bill alternative accommodation was enforced on a man who wanted to get the use of his own house, and some most extraordinary decisions were given in connection with this alternative accommodation. I am very pleased to see that alternative accommodation is not required, but at the same time we have to satisfy the Judge that a greater hardship would be done to the tenant by evicting him than would be inflicted on the owner by not giving him his house. I believe that where a man buys a house boná fide for his own use it is necessary that he should get possession. I quite agree this Clause is amended in the right direction. On the whole principle of the Bill it is a restriction on the flow of enterprise and therefore it is wrong. We cannot help it; it is the result of previous legislation. Otherwise I would object to it, but seeing it is necessary I agree to the Second Reading.
Mr. McGOLDRICK: Aontuighim leis an Bhille. I look upon this Bill as purely emergency legislation, and to begin to talk about principles in the case of emergency legislation seems to me to be altogether foreign to the subject. Dual ownership in houses is sought by Deputy Johnson to be woven into this Bill, or to have a recognition of it in some shape or form. I do not know how Deputy Johnson could possibly reconcile any such admission on the part of the Dáil in a question of emergency legislation such as this. We have had before, in the case of the Land Question, to adopt a similar measure as this under similar  circumstances of emergency, when the landlords had to be restrained by the Land Act of 1881 and by the agitation, the very fierce agitation, that prevailed at the time. Now we come up against a similar emergency, and it is necessary, it appears, to restrain the owner of houses, not because he is liable to pursue the same tactics to any extent as did the landlord of old, but because the curious form of competition that prevails with regard to the shortage of houses would make it impossible for him to continue tenants in houses while other people would be grumbling in order to get possession of those houses at a bigger price. I do not at all admire the means we have to adopt in this case. It does not square with my idea of rights or equities. The end it has in view is a worthy one. It is one we cannot afford to overlook, and I think the means in this case are going to be thoroughly applied towards the end in view. I am going to support the Bill in these circumstances. One gets confused when Deputy Johnson attempts to welcome the Minister to his own particular view of economic salvation, as he seems to interpret it from the Bill, and then we find Deputy Magennis coming from another angle to put an aureole around the Minister's head over another thing.
Mr. McGOLDRICK: In these things one is liable to get confused. However, in the circumstances the Minister has in this Bill to a large extent very definitely met a situation that was intricate and difficult. The British Act, of which this is now a new interpretation, was one that, to my mind, created hardships not so much against the tenant as against the landlord. I have known some cases of great hardship on the part of landlords affected by this Act of 1920. I have known tenants of business houses to retain occupation of them on terms that were preposterous in relation to the profits that were made. The landlords had no redress. I have known cases where there was no change of rent since 1914, where there was plenty of competition, and where the landlord might be disposed to take advantage of it. I think that this Act which is to be confined to a period of three years, is one that is necessary in  the circumstances. Deputy Johnson seems to make a point that we will not be able to meet the necessity of building the forty or fifty thousand houses that may be required in the interval. I hope that his fears will disappear, and that in the interval we will allow the ordinary law of supply and demand to operate. I am going to support the Second Reading, not on the principle which Deputy Johnson wishes to interpret, but because of the emergency for which it provides.
Mr. O'HIGGINS: It is at least gratifying to find that there is something approaching substantial agreement on the main provisions of this Bill. It is an important measure. It arises out of a situation for which we have no primary responsibility, and it arises out of legislation that is passed, and which we were not in a position to influence. The extreme scarcity value to which house property has attained, as the result of war conditions generally, was such as to necessitate an interference with supply and demand. Deputy Johnson may welcome that as a gem in this particular lot of garbage, and he can take whatever satisfaction he possibly can derive from it. Personally, I simply regard it as a matter dealing with an urgent and internal problem of the country, and I am not worrying what implications are drawn from it, or what extensions of that principle other Deputies may aim at. When extensions are claimed for that principle I consider that most sane people will consider them on their merits in view of all the circumstances. There are those who hold that the shortage of houses here, and the absence of anything in the nature of individual enterprise in house-building are due to the confusion of high wages and low output. For my part I am a child in these matters, and I have not yet groped my way to any conclusion as between the conflicting cases very emphatically laid down by Deputies Gorey and Nagle. We are dealing with this as an urgent problem. On the 24th of this month the existing legislation controlling house property will expire, and this is a general attempt to meet the situation. The Bill, as I explained, is based closely on the reports of the Committee on which conflicting interests were strongly represented. Deputy Johnson asked as to the relevancy of the date,  August, 1914. Of course, he is not nearly as simple as he would have us believe. The date is, of course, the date of the world war, which caused an entire upset in values, and which caused the cessation of building, and the influx of a population into urban areas that gave rise to the necessity for the measure.
Mr. O'HIGGINS: This is not a Town Tenants Act. It is a Bill dealing with the control of houses built under normal conditions, and which, owing to a combination of circumstances, have now acquired a scarcity value which would be a hardship on the tenants to pay. Therefore, discussion verging off on the terms of the Town Tenants Act are scarcely relevant to this Bill. One matter was mentioned—that no matter how long the tenant was paying rent he acquired no ownership. It was rather suggested he ought to. The house, of course, is not built out of his savings, but out of the savings of the landlord, and the rent is a mere income rent secured normally as the result of competitive demand. There seems no reason why by a process of paying such a rent one man should gradually acquire another man's property. There is no intention at the moment to introduce legislation—certainly not in this Session—to upset the whole structure on which our society rests. That is where that particular argument is leading. We can confine ourselves to the provisions of this Bill and Deputies who suggested that line of thought may be assured that I have no intention of introducing such a Bill.
As to the question of the £40 house which Deputy Figgis and Deputy Magennis both raised, I regret I could not agree with the Deputies on that matter. The £40 valuation outside the metropolitan area seems to me to involve a very big house indeed. The class of people who would be competing for such a house do not require the protection of controlling legislation. The Deputy in moving his amendment on the Committee Stage can disprove that, and we will be open to consider it.
Mr. O'HIGGINS: The amount for the city is £60. There is much the same view with regard to that—that a house  in excess of that valuation would have competing for its purchase people who do not need the protection of a Bill of this kind, and possibly the tendency would be that control will disappear by gradual reduction of the maximum figure. Deputy Johnson asks whether three years is the period of the Bill, and what expectations we had that conditions would have altered very -considerably in the meantime. If there is cause for extension at the end of three years no doubt the Parliament of the day will extend its effects. It seems just about as far ahead as one particular Parliament could safely look. The difference was commented on in the change from the 1920 Act, which put on the landlord the onus of providing alternative accommodation. That is changed now to a Clause which says: “the dwellinghouse is reasonably required by the landlord for occupation as a residence for himself, or for any person bona fide residing or to reside with him or for some person in his whole time employment or in the whole time employment of some tenant from him, and in the opinion of the Court greater hardship would, owing to the special circumstances of the case, be caused by refusing the order for possession than by granting it.” That is not an extravagant demand. If the Courts consider there is greater hardship by refusing a landlord possession caused to him than to the tenant by asking him to go, then the order for possession should be given. The house, after all, belongs to the landlord, and if he can show that the balance of hardship is against him by the refusal of an order for possession, it seems a reasonable matter. It will be a matter of fact that the Court alone can decide in each case, and must decide after hearing the evidence. I consider with Deputy Wilson that that constitutes an advance and improvement on the 1920 Act, and that it was a hardship and an unreasonable thing to put on the owner of a house the onus of pointing to alternative accommodation before he could get possession, no matter what the circumstances were. In certain cases of which I have knowledge that provision of the 1920 Act fell little short of tyranny. I think the Committee Stage of this Bill will probably be taken on Wednesday next, and in the Committee Stage we can more usefully consider  objections Deputies have raised, and the points they have made. I think there is agreement substantially on the main principles of the Bill.
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