Rent Restrictions Bill, 1944— Committee Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 15 November 1945

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 98 No. 10

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Debate resumed on amendment No. 101:—

To add at the end of the section the following sub-section:—

(3) On the death of the statutory tenant of controlled premises the following provisions shall have effect:—

(a) in case the statutory tenant leaves him surviving his wife, who was residing with him at the time of his death, she shall be entitled to retain possession of the premises under the same terms and conditions as the deceased statutory tenant;

(b) in case the statutory tenant does not leave a wife so residing, such member of the statutory tenant's family so residing or, where there is more than one such member, such one of them as may be agreed upon between them or as may be selected by the court in default of agreement shall be entitled to retain possession as aforesaid;

[1201] (c) in case the statutory tenant was a woman, paragraphs (a) and (b) of this sub-section shall have effect with respect to her husband and family as they have effect with respect to the wife and family of a statutory tenant being a man;

(d) in any case to which none of the foregoing paragraphs applies, the interest of the statutory tenant shall determine at his death.— (Minister for Justice.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  This amendment is consequential on amendment No. 8 and I think it meets amendment No. 123.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Boland): Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I made my case for the amendment last night.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 39, as amended, agreed to.

Section 40 to 43, inclusive, agreed to.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I move amendment No. 102:—

In line 23, before the word “order” to insert the words “impose on the landlord a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds and may”.

The object of the amendment is to provide a penal as well as a civil penalty, and I suggest that, having regard to the fact that there would be misrepresentation on a very serious issue, the offence is not met merely by recovery on the part of the tenant. It is a serious contravention of the law.

Mr. Boland:  It is a matter which can be dealt with under the ordinary common law. What we are providing here is compensation for the tenant. We are concerned with the tenant's interest. If a person makes a false declaration, he is amenable under the ordinary law, and I do not think it is necessary that we should do any more than we are doing in providing compensation for the tenant.

Mr. Sheldon: Information on William Alexander Sheldon  Zoom on William Alexander Sheldon  Could the Minister say what penalty a person would be liable to under the common law?

[1202]Mr. Boland:  That is a matter for the court to decide. All I say is that it is an offence under the common law and can be dealt with in the courts.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 44 agreed to.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I move amendment No. 103:—

In line 29, after the word “let” to insert the words “bona fide”.

The case for this amendment was practically made by Deputy Moran last night, and, as a matter of fact, I was wondering how he managed to make his argument at that particular stage, in view of the fact that there was a specific amendment on the point. The case made by Deputy Moran is the case that I would make, that is, that so far as tenancy agreements are concerned every effort should be made to ensure that nothing in the nature of prohibition will be included, and that so far as temporary convenience is concerned, it should be of a bona fide character. Otherwise, in the case of a shortage of houses, a landlord could insist on a tenant, taking over the premises. The tenant, because of economic or other pressure, may take the premises, and at a later stage may find himself at the mercy of the landlord and the court, because there would be no protection in the matter of eviction, the only protection afforded being in relation to rent.

Mr. Boland:  Deputy Moran raised this matter last night and said that, there were any number of cases in which people sought to evade the provisions of the Act by pretending that a letting was a matter of temporary convenience. Deputy McGilligan queried that and I subsequently made inquiries. I find that the question has been decided. In 1925, a case was brought, and the Chief Justice held that whether a letting is for temporary convenience or not is a question of fact to be determined by the court. It cannot be done in the way Deputy Moran suggests, and, that being the case, I do not think there is any necessity for this amendment. If [1203] what Deputy Moran says were the position, I quite agree that we should see to it that that type of evasion would not be allowed, but, in view of the court decision in the matter, Deputies should be satisfied that the section is all right.

Mr. O'Sullivan:  What are the details of the court decision?

Mr. Boland:  As I understood Deputy Moran, he said that the making of agreements purporting to be for temporary convenience, whether they were or not, was quite common and that in that way there was evasion of the Act. Deputy McGilligan queried it, because he said he thought there was a decision on the point. I made inquiries and I find that Deputy McGilligan was right. The mere statement that a letting is for temporary convenience is not sufficient. It is a question of fact to be determined by the court; in other words, the court would go into whether it was or was not a letting for temporary convenience.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 45 agreed to.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I move amendment No. 104:—

In line 35 before the word “or” where it occurs the second time to insert the words and figures “or under the Public Health Acts, 1878 to 1919”.

I am asking that, in addition to the provision which enables recovery under the Housing Acts, provision should also be made for proceeding under the Public Health Acts. As a member of a local authority, I am interested in this point. Linked up with town planning is the procedure of taking over a number of old houses, which would probably in a short time be ready for demolition, particularly for street widening. The Dublin Corporation has operated extensively in that direction in the last five or six years. It is obvious that street widening may not take place for a considerable period and meanwhile the local authority has property on its hands. The procedure [1204] at present is restricted to activities under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, while the procedure under town planning is strictly related to the Public Health Acts. I seek to give power to local authorities, and particularly to the Dublin Corporation, to recover under the Public Health Acts.

Mr. Boland:  I will have this examined. The section was examined by the Local Government Department, but I admit that I have had not quite enough time to go into it. If the power is not there, I will see that the position is remedied, but I shall have to consult the Minister for Local Government, as the matter is one which concerns him.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  I think the local authority has power already under the Public Health Acts.

Mr. Boland:  The Department of Local Government was satisfied with the section because they believed they had the power, but in case any further power is required, I shall look into it.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  The power exists, but it is of a very limited character, being confined to the matter of street widening.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  With regard to amendment No. 105, in the name of Deputy Cosgrave, it seems to me that the amendment is outside the scope of the measure and that it applies to the Housing Acts generally. It is not confined, in my opinion, merely to controlled houses. I am afraid it has too wide a scope.

Amendment No. 105 not moved.

Section 46 agreed to.

Section 47 agreed to.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I move amendment No. 106:—

In sub-section (1), page 22, line 45, before the word “owing” to insert the following words:—“the engineer or the architect of the sanitary authority prove to the satisfaction of the court that”.

I am asking in this amendment to allow the procedure to be vested also in the [1205] engineer or architect of the sanitary authority, and the reason I ask for this is that local authorities, quite naturally, have a very serious interest in the life of ordinary private property, particularly in a city like Dublin. Cases might arise, during the operation of Part III particularly, where the tenant would be called upon to execute repairs, and these repairs might be of a very considerable character, involving a heavy financial outlay—say, a matter of £50 or more for the repair of a roof—and obviously the tenant could not undertake such an outlay. I am linking 45 and 46 here, Sir.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Yes.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  In such a case I suggest that power should be available to the sanitary authority to give their certificate as well as any other officer of the court empowered under this Act, and that power should also be given to the sanitary authority in such a case to execute the repairs and to recover the cost afterwards. As I say, the sanitary authority in a city like Dublin have a very serious interest in old private houses, and the opinion of the engineer or architect of the sanitary authority would be of distinct value to the court. For that reason, I would ask the Minister to accept this amendment.

Mr. Boland:  Again, that is a case where I shall have to consult with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I see the Deputy's point, and I will consult the Minister for Local Government and Public Health on the matter.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  I would suggest that since this Bill is only dealing with the relationship between landlords and tenants it would be better to keep the local authorities as far removed from it as possible. I think it would be better to leave it a matter between the tenant and the landlord.

Mr. Boland:  Yes. Well, I shall look into the matter.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I have had experience in the City of Dublin where, time and again, landlords are called upon by their tenants to undertake [1206] repairs and fail to carry them out, and eventually the matter is left to the tenant who, because of his financial position, is unable to carry out the repairs. In a great many such cases the local authority is forced to intervene.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Is the Deputy withdrawing amendment No. 107? Amendments Nos. 107, 108 and 109 are in the same category as amendment No. 106.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  Yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Is the Deputy not moving them?

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  No.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Very good.

Amendments Nos. 107, 108, and 109 not moved.

Question proposed: “That Section 48 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Could the Minister tell us in what way it is determined what is “tenantable repair”? What amenities are included in that? For instance, suppose that a landlord sets a house, the valuation of which is £36 a year, in which it might reasonably be assumed that there was a hot water supply. If the landlord's attention is drawn to the fact that, in fact, the hot water supply is not effective at all and is merely a dummy masquerading as a hot water supply, is the tenant allowed to put in a reasonably adequate hot water supply and deduct the cost of that from the rent? Let me give another instance. Suppose that a tenant who is ordinarily responsible for interior repairs in the house discovers that the walls of the house habitually blacken, no matter what paint or paper he puts on them: is the tenant entitled to put on the walls whatever structure will render the house water-tight and capable of being decorated, and deduct the cost of that from the rent? While I know the Minister's difficulty in dealing with specific cases, if he cannot give the House any idea of the limitations of these words “tenantable repair”, can he refer us to any compendious judgment of the [1207] courts, or some other source, where we might get some true appreciation of the obligations we are placing upon a landlord in adopting the terms of that section? Lastly, would the Minister say whether the form of those terms: “that the court may order the landlord to pay to the tenant such sum as, in the opinion of the court, will be required to put the premises into good and tenantable repair”, is new, or are those terms taken from some previous statute on which there is a case of law to be found?

Mr. Boland:  That term is taken from the 1923 Act, and I am advised that the term “tenantable repair” is well known. I cannot give the details, naturally, but I understand that it is a well-known expression, that cases have been decided on that term, and that the court is able to say what tenantable repair is. Naturally, I could not go into the details here. As the Deputy knows, it must be a court order. The tenant cannot make the repairs, and then claim from the landlord. It must be decided by the court. Anyhow, this is taken from the 1923 Act, and the term is well known in the courts.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Would Deputy O'Connor say what is the regular experience in regard to this matter? Is there much recourse had to this section, or do tenants actually go to the courts and say: “The walls of my house are turning black and it is necessary to have repairs done”, and the court then orders such repairs to be carried out?

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  It is done very often. The court makes an order to that effect.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  And it is the usual procedure?

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  Yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  This happens to be a new procedure.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  What, Sir?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The procedure that the Deputy is now adopting.

[1208]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Well, Sir, there is such a thing as a divinity that hedges kings.

Mr. Boland:  I suggest, Sir, that the Deputy is in such good humour you should let the matter stand.

Section 48 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That Section 49 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  There is a new provision in Section 20 of the Local Government Bill, 1945. I have not gone very closely into the matter, but on looking at this Bill, it seems to me that there is a conflict between Section 49 here and Section 20 of the Local Government Bill, and I would suggest that the Minister should look into the matter. It would appear as if this section were drafted without reference to the Local Government Bill, 1945.

Mr. Boland:  I shall look into that matter.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is not Section 49 an amendment of the existing law?

Mr. Boland:  Yes.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Well, would the Minister outline for us exactly what it does?

Mr. Boland:  I am afraid that I am not sufficiently familiar with the position. There was a doubt whether there was relief for more than six months. This clears up the point.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The reason I asked the question is that I have a recollection of somebody saying to me that this section operated harshly on landlords, whose tenants left premises at or about the date the rate is struck. To be quite frank, I cannot recollect the exact technical difficulty that arose, but I was informed by somebody whose opinion carried weight with me, that sub-section (1) placed on a landlord a liability which he had not got heretofore, and that, in many cases, it might represent very material hardship. Perhaps the Minister would make inquiries between this and the Report Stage.

Mr. Boland:  The position is that it was decided that a landlord was only [1209] entitled to relief for one period of six months during the whole term a house might be unoccupied. What is being done now is to make it clear that the relief is for six months in every year the house would be unoccupied.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  And with that concession the landlord is saddled with unoccupied premises?

Mr. Boland:  It was decided that the relief would be only for one six months while the premises were unoccupied.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Section 49 confirms that a landlord who finds himself in possession of unoccupied premises will be entitled to six months' relief if they remain unoccupied.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  The existing rule with the corporation is 1/24th for every month.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  The point is that the Local Government Act says that premises are subject to a remission of 1/12th, and the existing law, as amended, I presume, by Section 49 fixes 1/24th.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  It is 1/24th in Dublin and not subject to the conditions of the Local Government Act.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Sub-sections (3) and (4) of this section exempt premises under the Small Dwellings Act from rates, and will also exempt premises situated in the County Boroughs of Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Cork and Dun Laoghaire. To be quite frank, I do not know what Section 49 means. I have the kind of feeling that there is a nigger in the pile if I could find him.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  There was a decision that if relief was given it would be given only in one financial year; that the landlord was only entitled to relief once, even where houses remained empty for two or three years. It is to get a decision on this section that the amendment is designed. The section of the Local Government Act seems to give the landlord relief up to 12 months, so that there is a conflict here.

Mr. Boland:  I will look into it.

[1210]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Section 49 provides that a landlord is entitled to six months' remission of rates each year provided he satisfies the court that he is not receiving any benefit.

Mr. Boland:  Yes.

Mr. M.E. Dockrell: Information on Maurice E. Dockrell  Zoom on Maurice E. Dockrell  In Dublin does a landlord get six months' remission or does he get more than six months?

Mr. Boland:  There was a corresponding provision in the County Borough Act dealing with this question.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I move amendment No. 110:—

In sub-section (2) line 44, after the word “fees” to insert the words and brackets: “(not exceeding two-and-one-half per cent. of the rateable valuation of the property)”.

The Minister for Finance and the Minister draw up a scale of fees, and I have put down the amendment in view of the fact that the Minister is associated with that scale of fees, so that he might give an indication of what the scale is likely to be. I am informed that the Valuation Office make a charge of £3 10s. 0d. for each valuation. If a scale on that basis were operative, it would be a very serious matter where a number of valuations take place. My object is to put a brake on an abnormal state of things.

Mr. Boland:  In this matter the Minister for Finance has the power. I could not accept the amendment. I must consult the Minister.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  As Minister you have a voice?

Mr. Boland:  I have.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 50 agreed to.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  I move amendment No. 111:—

To delete sub-section (6), lines 38 and 39 in page 24.

The object of the amendment is to [1211] prevent the possibility of persons trying to get outside the Act by refusing to grant any tenancy other than one for 14 years or upwards. It is a remote possibility, but considerable abuses arose elsewhere, and a commission which examined the problem recommended that the term 14 years should be taken out in order to prevent that type of thing happening.

Mr. Boland:  I do not think there is any necessity for the amendment. A person who can negotiate for a 14 years' term does not require any protection under this Bill. He may be able to get an abatement or other concession by getting a lease for over 14 years, and by paying a sum of money to the landlord may get more favourable conditions. Generally I think the amendment is not necessary in the case of people who are in a position to make a long-term letting of that kind. I do not think it is necessary to give the same protection there as to people who make a short-term letting.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  Why fix 14 years?

Mr. Boland:  The reason is that that was in the 1923 Act. People in a position to make a long-term letting do not require protection.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  The only object I had in putting down the amendment was this, that if the shortage of houses became more acute, landlords might avail of this provision to refuse short-term tenancies, by insisting on a 14 years' agreement in every case. If that development were to occur here landlords would immediately put themselves outside the Act. That has happened elsewhere.

Mr. Boland:  They would not be outside the Act; they would be entitled to get a premium.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  The landlords might refuse to give a monthly or yearly tenancy and insist on the tenant taking the premises for a 15-year term.

Mr. Boland:  I do not think that there is any case for a change. Those who are able to make an agreement for that [1212] period really do not require the protection of a measure such as this.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  It is not a question of people being able to make a long-term agreement. It is a question of landlords taking advantage of the shortage of houses to insist on tenants taking houses for long terms. A family looking for a house for a year or two might have no option but to take it for a long term.

Mr. Boland:  I think that that is remote but I shall look into the point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Larkin (Junior): Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  Will this section deal with the type of case we have in Dublin of payment down by way of a deposit——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Is the Deputy speaking on the section?

Mr. Larkin (Junior): Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  Yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Perhaps the Deputy would wait until we dispose of the other amendments. Amendment No. 112 was discussed on amendment No. 95. Deputy Pattison is entitled, however, to get a decision on it if he so desires.

Mr. Pattison: Information on James P. Pattison  Zoom on James P. Pattison  The Minister promised to look into some similar amendment.

Mr. Boland:  Yes. I am looking into that question. The Deputy was not, I think, here yesterday when the matter was discussed.

Amendment No. 112 not moved.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  I move amendment No. 113:—

At the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—

() This section shall not be construed to prohibit or make punishable the demand or acceptance by a landlord or the offer or payment by a tenant of such sum as would be a reasonable security against waste, failure to keep covenants or conditions of the tenancy on the part of the tenant, such security not to exceed in any case 20 weeks' rent, and to be returnable to the tenant or his personal representative after the termination of the tenancy, less all or any deductions to which the landlord [1213] may reasonably be entitled by reason of such waste or failure aforesaid.

This amendment is designed to meet the case where a landlord accepts from a tenant a sum of money to be held as security for non-payment of rent or breach of covenant by the tenant. This practice originated about 15 or 16 years ago. Instead of asking the tenant to get somebody to sign as guarantor, the landlord asked him to put down a small sum as deposit which the landlord would hold during the tenancy. That sum was always available to put the premises in repair when the tenant left and to pay any rent which might be due by the tenant. It afforded considerable security to the landlord. The section prohibits the taking of any money as premium. It is not intended, I think, to prohibit the taking of deposits such as those with which my amendment deals but there is some doubt as to whether the section would, in fact, prohibit the taking of those deposits. I should not like to disturb the position brought about by the section. I appreciate that it is necessary to have some prohibition; otherwise landlords might evade the provisions of the Act by taking cash payments from the tenant and, in that way, obtain more rent than the Act allows. If I thought that the amendment was likely to take from the strength of the section or to open the door in any way to abuses of that kind, I should withdraw it. I suggest that the matter is one which the Minister might consider between this stage and next stage.

Mr. Larkin (Junior): Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  This is the point on which I rose to speak a moment ago. The particular point to which my attention was drawn was that referred to by Deputy O'Connor—the requirement to put down a certain sum of money as security. In a particular case in the city, the total amount of money put down by tenants by way of deposit is in the neighbourhood of £20,000. Deputy O'Connor's case is that such deposits should be permissible from the point of view of giving certain safeguards to the landlord regarding breaches of covenant and failure to carry out the conditions of the tenancy. He thinks that the putting down of a [1214] deposit is equitable from that point of view. The other side of the picture is that, while the deposit in each case may be comparatively small, the total sum deposited may be very large. A question has been raised why such a large sum should be required from a body of tenants who receive no return by way of interest on the deposit. The interest goes to the landlord. In addition, there is the danger, as pointed out by Deputy O'Connor, of advantage being taken of this practice. We are not concerned merely with the restriction of increases of rent under this Bill; we are also concerned with facilitating people who require habitations in getting them. If we leave the door open in this way, by requiring larger sums in the form of deposits, the landlord may be enabled to exercise a very wide discretionary power in the selection of tenants. Inasmuch as the landlord has got the ordinary legal protection afforded by the agreement, he should not require this additional protection from the tenant. The tenant has no other protection than that afforded him by the agreement. If we do agree that such deposits or security should be permissible, the tenant should be entitled to the earnings of that money rather than the landlord.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  How much would those deposits amount to?

Mr. Larkin: Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  In this case, £20 for 1,100 tenants.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  There is always the danger that, if you permit deposits of this character, having in mind some large body like the Artisans' Dwellings Company who, we may presume from their standing, act in perfectly good faith and take those deposits merely against repairs and so forth, you will open the door to individuals who will not act in good faith, who will take deposits which are really key-money and in the event of the tenant seeking his remedy under the Act and claiming the money back on the ground that it is illegal to take key money, will come into court and say: “This is not key money; it is a deposit such as is envisaged under the O'Connor amendment and, at the end of the tenancy, we shall return this money to the [1215] tenant provided the repairs we have to carry out when the tenant leaves do not absorb it all.” What is the position of the tenant then? The court has to decide. There is clear authority given under this amendment to take repair-deposits. The landlord says: “I will give the money back the minute the tenant goes.” The tenant says: “I do not intend to go; it was hard enough to get into the house.” The landlord says: “I hold this deposit under the O'Connor amendment and I dare anybody to interfere with it.” How are you going to meet that position? If Deputy O'Connor, who has experience of these matters, found himself confronted with that situation how could he meet it? How could he proceed to prove to the satisfaction of the court that it was not an O'Connor-amendment payment, that it was, in fact, key money? If you are to prevent key money being given, you have to come down like a guillotine and say; “We will not have the practice at all.”

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  That is what the Minister is doing.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I admit that large building societies acting bona fide have found that it works very well. It may be a great inconvenience, and I would perpetuate that inconvenience unless prudent and experienced people said to me that in practice it was going to give rise to the evil that I envisage. I am afraid that it will. I am sorry that Deputy McGilligan and other members of the House who are constantly in and out of the courts in rent cases are not here to give us the benefit of their advice, but, in the absence of reassurance on that point, I think the Minister should stand fast so that between this and the Report Stage he may have the opportunity of seeking extra advice. If he is told that there is no serious danger of abuses of that kind arising, then, of course, there is a great deal to be said for the amendment.

Mr. Boland:  I do not propose to accept the amendment. I am afraid that if I were to do so it would open the door to abuses and, having considered the matter, I am not prepared [1216] to accept it. If this provision were put in the Bill it might be availed of by people such as Deputy Dillon has suggested. I will look into it further.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Will the Minister consider the question whether he should take power for the district justice, the Circuit Court judge or himself to deal with these cases? I had in mind people like the Artisans Dwelling Company, and such bodies, who desire for a legitimate purpose to operate a system of this character and who, on submitting details to the Minister, to a Circuit Court judge or a district justice, might ad hoc be permitted, in respect of the properties named in their schedule of application, to operate the system. I can imagine that in our desire to close the door against every abuse we might gravely embarrass perfectly worthy and well-intentioned bodies that have found this to be a great convenience in operating their estates equitably and justly. Very few applications, I imagine, would be made. I do not think it is unreasonable to reserve power to certify for such an arrangement in respect of specified properties, if necessary for a limited time. They might be required to renew their application every seven years, so that in the meantime, if an abuse has grown up, the whole matter can be investigated when the new application comes forward, and the right withdrawn if there has been abuse.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  I would strongly appeal to the Minister to adhere to the decision he has taken on this matter and not consider the amendment in any shape or form. I think that it would open the door to the very abuses that Deputy O'Connor feels it is designed to prevent. If a tenant and landlord dispute items of waste or disrepair it would appear, on the face of it, that the landlord would have the right to make a deduction, so that the tenant would have no option in the matter.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  The tenant can sue.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  He can, but you are putting the landlord in this position that he can say to the tenant that he is deducting £12 out of the £15 for [1217] waste or disrepair. You immediately put the tenant in the position that he has to go to court to assert his rights. I think that a position like that, as between landlord and tenant, would be altogether inequitable, and should not be allowed to crop up under the Bill. I think that if the Minister did consider inserting an amendment of this sort he would have to make further provision by which the tenant would be given the same right in cases where deductions were made by the landlord. I think this amendment would leave the door open to a lot of abuses, and I suggest to the Minister that he should not consider it.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  People like the Artisans' Dwelling Company are, after all, doing very useful work.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  Pardon me, but the Artisans' Dwelling Company is not concerned in this at all.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I do not know a thing about the Artisans' Dwellings Company, but I do know that we have certain companies in the country that built houses to let to people with moderate incomes. This system of making a deposit and returning it at the end of a period has worked well. If no damage is being done to the tenant who goes out of a house owing no rent, and if this has worked in practice, we ought to be slow to rush in and break up the system. Otherwise, it will make the administration of large groups of the particular kind of houses that we want to have built more difficult. It is for that reason that I suggest to the Minister that, while we in this House cannot possibly legislate for the exceptional case, there ought not to be any objection to leaving a discretion in the district justice, the Circuit Court judge or the Minister himself to hear an application from a particular landlord who puts the facts before him, and asks for permission to operate this machinery in respect of the property set out, at the same time putting on him an obligation to come back in seven years to get the application renewed. That is all that I [1218] want, and I ask that that should be considered on its merits.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  The amendment drafted is very much wider than that. It speaks of the payment by a tenant of such sums as would be a reasonable security against waste and of failure to keep covenants or conditions of the tenancy on the part of the tenant. That I submit, is a very wide provision.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  Deputy Larkin put the case very clearly on behalf of tenants and with, I think, admirable restraint. He mentioned a large sum of money. I would like to point out to him that there is no limit to the amount of money that any company or persons engaged in building houses to rent require. Every penny counts when you consider the cost, say, of erecting 1,000 houses. My object in drafting the amendment was that the financial standing of the companies that have made it a practice to take these deposits should not be disturbed in any way. These companies have built up a financial reputation that has induced the public to give them money on very favourable terms. It was with the object of preserving that state of affairs that the amendment was drafted. In case the section might disturb the practice of companies holding these deposits, the Minister might consider between now and Report Stage if anything could be done to validate the procedure of holding a sum of money as a deposit against failure to keep the conditions of the tenancy. I might mention that I have never heard tenants complain of this procedure. The fact that a selected tenant for a house is ready to put down £15 as a deposit shows that he is a man of some substance, and that it is really the best recommendation he could give. If that procedure of taking deposits was not there greater hardship might be inflicted on tenants. They might be asked to get guarantees from insurance companies in respect of which they would have to pay an annual premium. I am withdrawing the amendment in the hope that the Minister will reconsider it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sections 51, 52 and 53 agreed to.

[1219]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  In regard to the sections I take it we may assume that the Minister will direct our attention to any section in the Bill which proposes to amend the existing law materially.

Mr. Boland:  I move amendment No. 114, which is intended to meet an amendment in the name of Deputy Dillon:—

To add at the end of sub-section (1) the following new paragraph:—

() The compilation of registers of controlled premises, the standard rents or basic rents of which have been determined by the court, or any classes of such premises, in such form and containing such particulars as may be prescribed in the regulations, the inspection thereof by members of the public and such other matters relating thereto as the Minister may think proper to provide for.

This amendment proposes to confer power on the Minister for Justice to make regulations providing for the compilation of registers of controlled premises the standard or basic rents of which have been determined by the courts. The regulations may prescribe the form of such registers and the particulars they are to contain and may also provide for their inspection by members of the public.

Very complete records of cases in which standard rents have been fixed are available in the Circuit Court and it is proposed at the outset to compile a register for Dublin from these records and from such records as may be available in the District Court. The vast majority of cases under the 1923 Act have been dealt with in the Circuit Court so that the register, when compiled, will be a pretty complete record of all standard rents fixed in Dublin. Should it be thought necessary to do so, similar registers will be prepared for other larger centres such as Cork, for example.

Arrangements will be made for adding to the registers particulars of basic rents according as they are determined under the new Act by the courts. It may be found more convenient to open fresh registers for the new cases, [1220] but this is a matter which can be settled when the regulations are being prepared.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is it the Minister's intention to do that right away under the powers conferred upon him?

Mr. Boland:  Yes.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  That meets my amendment completely.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  Who will be responsible for the compilation of the register?

Mr. Boland:  The Court staff.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Boland:  I move amendment No. 115:—

To add at the end of sub-section (1) the following new paragraph:—

() The provision by landlords of identifying numbers for parts (being controlled premises) of any houses or classes of houses.

This is to provide for identification numbers. We thought that would be more convenient than trying to describe a particular room. It is a small thing but it would be convenient. I do not think there is anything objectionable in it any more than there is in having houses numbered. At first I thought there might be, but on consideration I do not see anything objectionable in it. It is to facilitate arrangements under Part III that we are taking power to have numbers for premises in tenements.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  That simply means to paint a number on the door?

Mr. Boland:  Yes.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  What is the meaning of “any houses or classes of houses”?

Mr. Boland:  It would be to limit it to the class of houses that would be covered by Part III, that is, the 1923 controlled houses. We are only applying Part III to those houses, that is, the older tenement houses. It would be very hard to identify premises if we had not got some power to have them numbered.

[1221]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  So that in this way we may anticipate a situation arising at last in which there would be available in a register the fixed rent in respect of each room of a tenement house?

Mr. Boland:  That is what we have in mind.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  That would be a most desirable reform.

Mr. Boland:  We are hoping that.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Amendment No. 116 not moved.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is there a distinction between “not moved” and “withdrawn”?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Yes.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Well, I withdraw the amendment in view of the Minister's amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Then it is not moved.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I could not tell you, Sir. I desire to indicate on the record that I was present and withdrew my amendment inasmuch as it had been met by the Minister and that it was not “not moved” because I was not here to move it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  It was not discussed.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am afraid the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has not seized my point.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  It will be recorded as not moved.

Amendment No. 116 not moved.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  I move amendment No. 117:—

At the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) No regulation made by the Minister under this section shall make obligatory the use of any rent book in cases where the landlord or his agent on the occasion of each payment of rent, furnishes to the tenant or his agent, a receipt or receipts signed by the landlord or his agent, identifying the premises with reasonable [1222] particularity, and specifying the amount of the rent paid and the period or periods covered by such receipt or receipts.

This amendment is designed in aid of solicitors, estate agents and all persons who have any dealings with tenants or take rents from them. It is quite a simple matter. We generally find that the rent book is a complete nuisance because the tenant coming to pay the rent will come without the book and has to be given a temporary receipt. If the regulations that the Minister will make under the section are to have any effect, I am afraid it must be obligatory on landlords to supply rent books. There have been abuses where landlords refused to give any receipt at all or gave the receipt in such a form that it could not be known what it was about. Naturally there should be regulations to cover that kind of thing but I consider that where a proper receipt is given, such as would come from an estate agent's office or a solicitor's office, there should not then be any necessity for a rent book. The rent book is going back and forward through the post. It gets into a state, after a year or so, that it is almost falling to pieces and the inconvenience caused by temporary mislaying would be very great. Whenever a solicitor gets a case of a tenant, if there is a rent book, he puts it out of action and gives the receipts according to his own procedure. I suggest to the Minister that he might accept the amendment so that the people who do their business properly will not be obliged to give rent books when that would not suit their particular procedure or practice.

Mr. Larkin (Junior): Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  I would urge the Minister not to accept this amendment. I have in mind probably the biggest party affected by this particular form of receipts, that is the Dublin Corporation. Any of us who has to deal with corporation tenants has had the sad experience on numerous occasions of being handed a handful of receipts. When the receipt is in perfect order the amount is quite clear, but when it has been in the possession of the tenant for six months or longer it becomes illegible. It may [1223] be quite convenient from the point of view of landlords, especially those dealing with a large amount of property, to issue receipts and to have the counterfoils bound in a large volume, but it is very difficult and very inconvenient for tenants and any person having to deal with their case to have loose receipts as the basis of a particular case. If the point made by Deputy O'Connor with regard to wear and tear of rent books is to be considered, it would be possible to send loose receipts and provide the tenant with a book into which the receipts could be pasted. Deputy O'Connor knows the difficulty in looking after a couple of hundred receipts. That point might be considered.

I think the point made by Deputy O'Connor, namely, to make it obligatory on the landlord to provide a rent book, should be considered. I do not know whether the Minister has any definite ideas or not as to the form these regulations, which he is empowered to make in respect of rent books, will take, but I think it would be practicable and very useful if a standard form of rent book were devised. There is one objectionable feature about rent books, and I do not know how we can meet it, that is the commandeering of the rent book by the landlord and replacement by an entirely different rent book with entirely different figures inserted. It is all very well to say that the tenant should know he has legal protection against that sort of thing, but we are dealing with very many people who have no conception of their legal rights. I have had experience of cases where the tenant was given a rent book which was completely useless from the point of view of protecting his interests. I do not know whether or not a regulation could be made providing that the continuity of the rent books should be shown, but certainly I think there should be some standard form of rent book set out in the Minister's regulations and that it should be obligatory on the landlord to supply that book. The cost would be very small. It should be obligatory that the entries should be consecutive, [1224] properly made and legible, so that even those tenants who may not be very literate would be able to read what their commitments were and to what extent they had met their commitments.

Mr. Coburn: Information on James Coburn  Zoom on James Coburn  I do not know that the Minister can meet the point put up to him by Deputy O'Connor and Deputy Larkin. The whole thing depends on the honesty of the landlord and the person collecting the rent. Public bodies used to have books and they found they were not satisfactory. The town clerks reverted to the practice of giving the tenant a receipt. There must be some obligation on the tenant to look after his own business and I think it is in the interest of the tenant to keep safe the receipts he gets so that if by chance the collector goes wrong the tenant will be in a position to produce the receipts. It is very difficult to devise any machinery to safeguard against the weakness of human nature. As far as the question of making it obligatory upon landlords to have special standardised rent books is concerned, I do not think that would meet the situation either. In the main it depends upon the tenant to look after his business in respect of any money he pays out, to see that he gets a proper receipt and as to whether that is an ordinary voucher or a rent book makes very little difference to him.

Mr. Boland:  I think it would be very useful to have a rent book as Deputy Larkin has said, particularly for the poorer classes of people who find difficulty in keeping receipts together. They would also be a great help in connection with any case that would come to court. The district justice would be able to see at a glance what the position was as he would have it in the book. We will try to devise a standard rent book giving the name of the landlord and the agent and whether the payment was for current rent or in respect of arrears. We are hoping to put in some short extract from the Act giving some details of the rights the tenants have under the Act. I think there is something like that in operation in England. That is what I had in mind. If there are certain [1225] classes of tenants for whom this might not be necessary, we could suggest on the Report Stage the matter of exempting them. Generally speaking, I think it would be desirable to have a rent book rather than a lot of receipts. I think a poor person would find it much easier to keep a rent book as he might not have a good place in which to lock up receipts. Then, of course, there is the point to which Deputy Larkin referred that, if a Deputy or a member of the corporation is approached by a tenant, the tenant might have only one receipt, he might not have the consecutive receipts; whereas, if he had a rent book, the Deputy or member of the corporation could see at a glance what the position was. On the whole, I think it is a good thing. I will consider if I can meet Deputy O'Connor's point.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  This is an important point and possibly this experience may be of some value to the House. Anybody living in the West of Ireland years ago had an opportunity of witnessing the operations of what was popularly known as the “gombeen man”, that is the dishonest shopkeeper who desired to trade on the incapacity of simple people to appreciate the importance of receipts for money paid. I can assure the House from my experience amongst my own neighbours that the greatest safeguard simple people can have is a pass-book in which the merchant will write every item that he supplies, with the appropriate price attached to it, and on the pages of which he will inscribe the details of every payment made. I entirely agree with the Minister that you are dealing with people who are not experienced in business matters. While they may be very strict about asking for their receipt on the occasion of the collector's call, it is stuck in an eggcup and sometimes somebody in the house is short of a match and he makes a spill of it and lights it and the receipt is gone. It is only a very foolish person or an improvident person who will tear a sheet out of a pass-book. So true is that, that in my experience 95 per cent. of persons who come with a pass-book out of which leaves have been torn are dishonest. They are trading [1226] their pass-book for the purpose of defrauding their creditors. In simile modo, I think it is no exaggeration to say that 70 per cent. of people who have lost receipts are in good faith and have genuinely lost them. So that, if there is an analogy between shop debts in rural Ireland and rents in poor quarters of the cities, I strongly recommend to the House the desirability of securing the issue of rent books.

In that connection, I should like to make reference again to a novel to which I have referred earlier, London Belongs to Me, by Norman Collins. There he describes a rather interesting practice that landlords have and that is making an excessive charge for rent books. You do find old ladies living in rooms who will lose a rent book and the landlord can say: “You must pay half a crown for a new one”. That can become a great abuse if poor helpless people are required five or six times every year to pay half a crown for a rent book. On the other hand, you have to think of the landlord's view, that, unless you make the rent book of some value, there are people so foolish that they will take no precautions to keep it intact. That is a practice which may require to be watched.

Lastly, I entirely agree with the Minister that the rent book would almost justify itself if he requires to have inscribed at the back of it or on the covers or somewhere else, certain provisions of the rent restriction code of a fundamental character designed for the protection, say, of tenement dwellers, because very often a repeated reading of a thing like that would bring home to a person something that he would be very slow to pick up no matter how often you told him. It strengthens the simple person in the assertion of his rights when he can produce a pass-book and say: “I have such-and-such a right; it is written there, and I insist upon having it”. It protects people from being bluffed out of the assertion of their rights by some glib individual who is concerned to deprive them of the rights that we desire them to enjoy.

For these reasons, I strongly [1227] advocate the use of rent books. I have no doubt that the Minister's advisers will be able to devise an equitable scheme imposing the obligation on landlords of providing them, without asking them to provide them too often in the current year, and ensuring that excessive charges will not be made for renewals in the event of their being lost or mislaid.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 54, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 118 not moved.

Section 55 put and agreed to.

Amendment 119 not moved.

Mr. Boland:  I move amendment No. 120:—

To insert immediately after sub-section (1), the following subsections:—

(2) The Minister may from time to time nominate one or more of the district justices for the time being assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan District as the justice or justices who shall have sole jurisdiction in that district in all cases, within the jurisdiction of the District Court, arising under this Act, and all such cases shall be referred to the justice or one of the justices so nominated.

(3) A nomination under sub-section (2) of this section may be withdrawn at any time by the Minister.

This amendment proposes to authorise the Minister for Justice to nominate one or more of the justices assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan District as the justice who will have sole jurisdiction in all Rent Act cases in Dublin. The primary purpose of this provision is to make it possible to concentrate all the business arising under Part III in the hands of one or, if necessary, two justices, who will thus become expert in the administration of the scheme embodied in that part of the Bill. This obviously should make for more efficient and satisfactory administration.

[1228]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Could we have an assurance from the Minister, if he intends to do this, that the justices appointed for this work will not be temporary district justices?

Mr. Boland:  I hope not. I am not in a position to say. The trouble we are in at present is, as the House is aware, that there has been a lot of extra work in the courts which, we believe—and hope—is as a result of the emergency conditions. Unfortunately, we have had to resort to the practice, which I do not like, of appointing temporary district justices. We cannot get away from that practice until the position becomes somewhat stabilised. If we have to continue to employ temporary justices, it will not be on this work, for which I will try to get some of the best permanent justices we have. Naturally, I cannot expect the Minister for Finance to agree to a permanent establishment which he hopes will not be necessary in a short time.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister will see at once that, unless the House gets some personal undertaking from him that temporary justices will not be employed on this work, the whole purpose of these schemes falls to the ground.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Temporary justices are not mentioned here for this purpose.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Unless we have some assurance that definite persons may be left permanently at the job, so as to train them in this particular work—as we have in the case of District Justice McCarthy, in regard to juvenile work —the scheme falls completely to the ground.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Section 56, as amended, agreed to.

Section 57 agreed to.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  I move amendment No. 121:—

In page 26 to add the following new sub-section:—

(2) Any person who immediately before the operative date was in possession of premises to which the provisions [1229] of the Act of 1923 or the Order of 1944 applied shall be deemed to be a person to whom this Act applies.

The purpose of this amendment is to protect tenants who were not statutory tenants on the date of the operation of the Bill, but who would otherwise be entitled to its benefits. This is designed to make it quite clear that the benefits of the Bill will flow to those people who were not, on the operative date, designated statutory tenants. I think it is desirable to have that made clear.

Mr. Boland:  My advice is that it is perfectly clear. There is no question whatever about it.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  This Bill does not apply to persons; it applies to premises.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I know, but it would be perfectly possible to amend Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment to say, “shall be deemed to be a person in occupation of a house to which this Act applies”.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  The Act applies to houses.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Would it not be perfectly possible to say: “Any person who immediately before the operative date was in possession of premises to which the provisions of the Act of 1923 or the Order of 1944 applied shall be deemed to have been in possession of those premises before the operative date”. Deputy O'Connor need not be a pedant at this stage of his life.

Mr. Boland:  The purpose of the section is to remove all doubts and it naturally starts by saying “To avoid doubts”.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  If it allays the Deputy's mind, put it in.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  There is a wide difference between a statutory and a non-statutory tenant.

Mr. Boland:  What would the other tenant be? One with a contract or a stronger right than a statutory tenant?

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  There is a difference.

[1230]Mr. Boland:  The section says:—

“To avoid doubts, it is hereby declared that any person who, immediately before the operative date, was in possession of premises by virtue of the provisions of the Act of 1923 or the Order of 1944 shall, subject to this Act, be entitled to retain possession of the premises.”

I do not think it could be made any clearer.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It only says, “entitled to retain possession of the premises” but it does not define his status for the rest of the rent restrictions code.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  Will the Minister have another look at it?

Mr. Boland:  It is not necessary to do so, but if it satisfies the Deputy for me to inquire into it again, I will do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 58 agreed to.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  I move amendment No. 122:—

Before Section 59 to insert a new section as follows:—

No alienation, assignment, or sub-letting of the whole or part of any premises to which this Act applies shall be valid unless the written consent of the landlord or his agent thereunto lawfully authorised shall first have been obtained thereto.

I propose this amendment principally in order to clear up the position regarding tenants' rights and privileges. We have it suggested that a party deriving title under a tenancy may be the tenant, but there is nothing to show clearly that a tenant is entitled to assign his tenancy, or what the position is. I suggest to the Minister that this prohibition should go into the Bill, that it is neither right nor proper that a tenant should be allowed to assign his tenancy. Particularly in times when there is a scarcity of premises, a tenant might be induced, for fee or reward, to assign a tenancy.

The same applies to sub-letting. I submit that the landlord is entitled to be consulted before sub-letting. The [1231] tenants may be bringing more people into the house than it will accommodate, or anything of that nature may happen. A landlord should be entitled at least to know who is in occupation of his premises. This provision will not be necessary in the case of any landlord who has a properly drawn tenancy contract. It only applies where there is no written contract but merely an ordinary letting. I submit that the tenant should not be allowed to play about with his tenancy and that it should be assignable by him only on the death of the tenant.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  This amendment appears to me to be full of difficulties for tenants of houses. The word “sub-letting” coyers a lot and I would ask the Minister not to make it harder, but to make it a little easier for a tenant, where the tenant has taken in a member of his own family, which may be done for a period of sickness or unemployment. The landlord may come along and throw a notice to quit at the mother or married daughter. I know of a case quite recently where a daughter came over from England to have a new baby in her mother's house and the landlord fired a notice to quit at the mother for sub-letting. I hope Deputy O'Connor does not wish to make it more difficult in a case like that.

Those who own property are fully protected and the conditions about sub-letting are severe enough. Deputy O'Sullivan and other members of the Dublin Corporation can tell of the difficulty that arises very frequently, where a mother brings in an unemployed son, who was evicted from some other house. The corporation agents are no different from other landlords and, though my colleagues sometimes do not agree with me, I would say that out officials come down in some cases rather harshly and tell the mother that she must put her son out, as there is to be no sub-letting of corporation cottages. There should be some special claim for these cases of hardship and they should not be made more difficult. We all know that there is protection at the moment and that, if a tenant goes into a landlord's [1232] house and tries to turn it into one or two-roomed flats, or let it unfurnished, the landlord is protected. He has a grievance against that tenant, he can say he did not give permission to sub-let and objects to it, whereupon the tenant has to surrender. From that point of view I would ask the Minister not to make it harder for the type of case to which I have just referred.

In my position in the City of Dublin, I have come across cases every day in the week where these hardships were being inflicted on the poorer class of persons. I do not know how the matter can be overcome. I do not wish to approve of the idea of some speculator taking a six or seven-roomed house at £1 a week and then sub-letting it in rooms at 10/- a week. I do not hold any brief for that type of person and think it is very unfair that that should happen in a city that is so overcrowded at the moment. There are married couples going around Dublin looking for rooms. They cannot get in anywhere especially if they have one or two children. Younger people cannot get into these houses either, because the tenant says: “Although I have two rooms vacant, my landlord will not allow me to sub-let.” What is the use of having these two rooms idle? There are some thousands of people in Dublin who cannot find any place to rent. There appears to be constant influx from the country and that is aggravating the position. Old houses are falling down at a far more rapid rate than they are being replaced at present and if you prevent sub-letting you will, as I say, aggravate the position.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  Does the corporation allow sub-letting?

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  They do not, but I should not like to draw too much attention to any desire to give the corporation power to make things more harsh for tenants who are accused of sub-letting to their sons or daughters. If a son or daughter has encountered some difficulty or hardship and the mother or the father who is the tenant brings that son or daughter into a utility house or a corporation house, is it [1233] right that the tenant should be told to put them out?

Mr. O'Connor: Information on John S. O'Connor  Zoom on John S. O'Connor  Raise that in the corporation.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Why not here?

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I want to protect the people occupying not alone corporation houses, but any house in which there may be two or three rooms vacant when there may be a number of people looking for these vacant rooms. Under present conditions these rooms will not be let to them because children are objected to or because there is the excuse that the landlord objects to sub-letting. I do urge on the Minister to clear up the position in that respect and not make it too harsh for people who are seeking housing accommodation of any kind.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  On the Second Reading, I raised the question on Section 51 as to whether it was intended to prohibit a tenant assigning for valuable consideration his interest in a tenancy and I was assured there was no such intention. I presume from that statement that the Minister is not going to accept Deputy O'Connor's amendment. I think, as framed, it is a very dangerous amendment. It restricts the right of sale, assignment or sub-letting without the consent of the landlord, a consent which in practice would probably be refused. As Deputy Byrne has pointed out, owing to the acute shortage of housing to-day, it would be dangerous to put any restriction on the assignment or sub-letting of a house or part of a house. If there is any merit in Deputy O'Connor's amendment and if the Minister is inclined to consider it, I would suggest that a further addition might be made to the amendment providing that the consent of the landlord should not be unreasonably refused. That is the formula you have in the Landlord and Tenant Act. As the amendment stands, if the landlord refuses to agree to the sub-letting it would be an end of the matter, but if you add the words “which consent shall not be unreasonably refused” it might be helpful. Personally, I do not like any restriction.

[1234]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is there not a middle course between the views advanced by Deputy O'Connor and those put forward by Deputy Byrne? I think there is a great deal in what Deputy Byrne says. Having carried me a long part of the way with him, I felt, however, that his sympathetic soul carried him a little too far. We who live in rural Ireland are familiar with the evils of unlimited sub-letting both in connection with labourers' cottages and under the landlord system. Unlimited sub-letting in the days of the landlords was largely responsible for the rundale system and the production of a large number of uneconomic holdings. Unlimited sub-letting has resulted in certain cases, where people secured possession of cottages designed to relieve unhealthy domestic surroundings and in which eventually they let in two or three other families, on their receiving five or six times the rents they themselves were paying to the local authority for such houses. I think it is a good thing to restrict in some measure sub-letting, but there is a lot of force in Deputy Byrne's representations. If there is a woman who has let an apartment to her married son or daughter or a blood relation who happens to be in dire stress, I do not see why we should legislate to require that mother to turn her son or daughter out of the door. I think that Deputy O'Connor would agree that an exception might properly be made in the case of a member of the family and that we should deprive a landlord of the right to resist a temporary sub-letting to a member of the family while at the same time a landlord's consent would be required for any sub-letting to a stranger. Any attempt on behalf of the first tenant to turn a place which was designed for one family into a lodging house for half-a-dozen families should also be resisted. I suggest that the Minister might turn the matter over in his mind and consider whether some amendment along those lines is practicable and desirable.

Mr. M. O'Sullivan: Information on Martin O'Sullivan  Zoom on Martin O'Sullivan  In connection with lettings made by the Dublin Corporation, it is only right to state [1235] that in the circumstances mentioned by Deputy Byrne the corporation does take a sympathetic view of all cases where, say, a head of a family has a married daughter who has fallen on evil days and the necessity arises for her to go back again to her parents' home. In such cases, while the present position in regard to housing exists, the corporation does take a sympathetic view and there is no unnecessary harassing of such people. So far as sub-letting is concerned a provision is made in the definition part of the Bill, in Section 2, recognising the position of a sub-tenant.

Mr. Coburn: Information on James Coburn  Zoom on James Coburn  We all agree with Deputy O'Connor so far as that part of the amendment dealing with alienation or an assignment of a tenancy by a tenant is concerned. After all, a landlord must have some rights. However, when one comes to examine his amendment in the light of the experience which we, public men, have gained during the last 15 or 20 years as members of local authorities, one is forced to the conclusion that it would be highly dangerous to accept this amendment in its present form. For instance, take the case of a tenant who, perhaps owing to circumstances over which he has no control, is unable to pay the rent. With a view to enabling him to pay the rent that tenant brings in a friend, a first cousin, a son-in-law or a stranger for that matter. Those people may be living with the tenant for a period of anything from five to ten years. They are in reality the tenants because they finance the payment of the rent. The actual tenant merely goes through the formality of handing the rent over to the rent collector. The danger of this amendment is that these people, when the real tenant dies, might be served with a notice to quit by the landlord who perhaps would be able to get a higher rent from somebody else. Whilst I have sympathy with Deputy O'Connor's point of view I think it would be highly dangerous to incorporate this amendment in the Bill. As regards the question of houses controlled by local authorities, there is no use in blinking the fact that these [1236] houses are often sub-let as much as two or three times and, although it is absolutely in contravention of the conditions of the tenancy, the circumstances of the housing position are such that no public authority could in equity serve notice to quit on these people.

We all know that three or four families are living in many small houses at the present time. Those houses were built for the purpose of doing away with slum areas and creating healthy areas, but we know that, in the past three or four years, owing to circumstances over which neither the Government nor the people had any control, those new houses have been turned into veritable slums. Of course no tenant has any right to assign his tenancy or to tamper in any way with the tenancy of a house which does not belong to him, but if the amendment were accepted in its present form I could see great hardship arising as a result in certain cases. The sub-tenant might be put out of the house the moment the original tenant had to leave as a result of some circumstances unknown to the landlord.

Mr. M.E. Dockrell: Information on Maurice E. Dockrell  Zoom on Maurice E. Dockrell  I do not know the conditions prevailing in country places, to which I presume Deputy Coburn is referring, but, in connection with the Dublin Corporation, Deputy Byrne has mentioned the hardship imposed on certain individuals. Deputy O'Sullivan has told us that the corporation takes a lenient view in those cases, but I should not like to see anything done in connection with this matter which would weaken the right of the Dublin Corporation to restrict the sub-tenancies. We in the corporation have moved those people out of insanitary dwellings, and put them into corporation houses. There is no use in blinking the fact that if the corporation did not watch a large number of those people they would turn the corporation houses into slums, and the very purpose for which those houses were erected would be defeated. I should be very sorry to see anything done in this Act which would weaken the hand of the corporation or of landlords [1237] generally in this matter. We are anxious to see the tenants get every consideration possible, but some of them require to be protected from themselves.

Mr. Boland:  I should like to draw the attention of Deputies to the fact that in this Bill we are not concerned with local authority houses at all. If we forget that, we might go a little bit too far, and be here all night. On the amendment itself, I think it is a matter for the landlord to arrange when he is letting the house. He ought to have that in the contract. If he does not think it worth his while to do that, I do not see what we can do for him.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  There is a great deal of force in that.

Mr. Boland:  If he does not agree to a sub-letting, he will have to show, as Deputy Coogan has said, that he is not withholding his consent unreasonably. I think that is all right. As Deputy Dillon said, if a man wants to throw himself in the front of a tramcar we cannot help him, and if he does not put the necessary provision in the contract I do not see what we can do for him.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 123 not moved.

Question proposed: “That Section 59 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  On the section, I would have put in an amendment similar to Deputy O'Connor's if I had known that he was not going to move it.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  He cannot withdraw it except by leave of the House. No amendment placed upon the Order Paper can be withdrawn from the consideration of the House except by the unanimous consent of the House. If Deputy Alfred Byrne appears when amendment No. 123 is called, and refuses his consent to have it withdrawn, in my respectful submission Deputy Alfred Byrne has the right to discuss the amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Amendment No. 123 was not moved.

[1238]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Deputy O'Connor may not withdraw it except with the consent of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  He did not withdraw it. It was not moved.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I will be very brief. I have known cases in Dublin where the tenant had been 40 years in a house, and his family were born and reared there. When the father and mother died, the eldest son or daughter, who had a number of the smaller children with them, got notice to quit. Therefore, I think something should be done to protect the family.

Mr. Boland:  That has been done already. The Deputy is making a speech which is not necessary.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  That matter has already arisen in several aspects.

Mr. Boland:  Amendment No. 101 settled that.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  On a point of order, has Deputy Alfred Byrne the right to make a speech in this House at all without the Chair interrupting him, and the Minister interrupting him, and everybody else interrupting him? If Deputy Alfred Byrne does not like what is being done, has he not the right to say so?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Neither Deputy Dillon nor Deputy Byrne can be allowed to make a speech which is out of order.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  But Deputy Byrne is perfectly in order on this section.

Mr. Boland:  I did not wish to interrupt Deputy Byrne at all. I was merely telling him that the question had been decided on amendment No. 101.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  In a nutshell, I am asking if the Minister will see that the families of tenants are protected and will not be evicted when the father and mother die.

[1239]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  That matter has been settled already.

Mr. Boland:  The Deputy was not here.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  On a point of order, if Deputy Byrne, on a section of this Bill, wants to ask the Minister for Justice if full and adequate protection has been given to the families of tenants, has he not a perfect right to do so? The Leas-Cheann Comhairle may know the answer. Deputy O'Connor may know the answer. I may know the answer. Deputy Coogan may know the answer. But Deputy Byrne wants the answer from the Minister for Justice. Is he not entitled to get it?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Both Deputy Byrne and Deputy Dillon should know that on a section of a Bill in Committee you cannot raise any matter except what is in that section. The matter which Deputy Byrne is raising is not relevant to Section 59.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I was not aware that Deputy O'Connor was going to withdraw the new section which he proposed to insert, and I merely wanted to draw attention to a few cases in Dublin where the families were evicted when the father and mother died.

Mr. Boland:  Amendment No. 101 dealt with that.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  When did Deputy Byrne first go into the House of Parliament across the Border? He must have been present at some of the discussions on rent restrictions. Those matters have been law since 1914. We are widening the provisions now.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Neither does that arise on Section 59.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule and the Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 5th December, 1945.


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