Residential Tenancies Bill 2003: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Thursday, 1 July 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 588 No. 4

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Debate resumed on amendment No. 51:

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are resuming on amendments Nos. 51 to 56, inclusive, 60a and 159. Deputy Morgan moved amendment No. 51 and Deputies Cuffe and Gilmore spoke on it. I call the Minister of State to give his comments on it.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I have spoken already on the group of amendments before us. In regard to amendment No. 53, I undertook to reconsider this amendment relating to the notice of change of rent, as I appreciated Deputy Gilmore’s objective in tabling the amendment. A view that there should be no need for any notice to be given before a rent reduction comes into effect is understandable, and that might be so in many cases. However, it is also possible that the tenant might not be agreeable to the amount of the reduction and would wish to take a case to the tenancies board in this matter and given that possibility I do want to accept that amendment. I understand the motivation behind it, which is to ensure that rent reductions come into effect as quickly as possible. It is conceivable that in the case of a downwards rent review a landlord may be in no hurry to issue the written notification and, thus, activate the decrease.

I oppose amendments Nos. 54 and 55. A rent review may mean a decrease or an increase, particularly in the current market conditions, and it is not therefore in the interests of tenants to wait 56 days for it to become effective.

I do not intend to accept amendment No. 60a in the name of Deputy Cuffe. It allows for annual rent increases at the rate of inflation plus up to 5%. It is in conflict with section 19 in Part 3, which prohibits rents greater than the market rate. The rent provisions in the Bill are based on ensuring that the rent charged to any tenant does not exceed the going market rate for the type, standard and location of property involved. The measure proposed by Deputy Cuffe would not be compatible with this approach. Moreover, as it allows the charging of rents above the market rate, it is unfair to tenants at a time when market rents are declining. In some cases it might seem like a logical move, but in the current climate when rents are decreasing, it would not be fair to tenants when they would expect a greater supply [1025]of rental accommodation to translate into lower rents. That is happening in many, if not all, areas of Dublin.

One of the functions of the board is to advise on any legislative amendments that to it seem to be necessary, particularly in regard to the operations of Part 3 dealing with rent setting and rent reviewing. If the board at any stage into the future is of the view that market rent is being manipulated, it will advise me or the Minister of the day that this aspect of the legislation is not working as intended and action can be taken at that stage.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I will respond briefly to a number of valid points raised by the Minister of State and Deputy Gilmore in regard to amendments Nos. 54 and 55 in respect of the term of notice. I believe landlords think about this before they do it. Giving notice of 28 days, particularly in cases where rent is increasing, has the potential to break the back of a tenant. This difficulty could be addressed by the landlord giving additional notice. I accept that in the current market we may shortly begin to move towards a decrease in rents, but there is not overwhelming evidence of that at present. Given the points I made earlier, which I will not repeat, in terms of tenants’ significant monthly rent payments, on balance, an additional period notice would be valuable.

Regarding the issue of what we call a book of quantum, the Minister of State spoke about the market rent possibly decreasing and, therefore, if the book of quantum was in position, it would fall behind and would be an imposition on the tenant as opposed to a benefit. I do not really accept that because the board could cause the book of quantum to be reviewed fairly regularly, perhaps initially on an annual basis and eventually every few years would probably suffice, as the private rented market settles down. That is the thrust of what we should be trying to do here, namely, to have the European model where people would not necessarily aspire to own their own homes and they could live in rented accommodation when that market has settled down. People would have a good relationship, at least in legal terms, with their landlords and could expect to spend all of their days in their rented accommodation. I am disappointed that the book of quantum in particular is not being accepted.

Question, “That the word proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 52:

[1026]Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 53:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 54:

Question, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 55:

Question, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 56:

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Amendments Nos. 57, 57a, 58, 58a, 59 to 60, inclusive, 60b, 61 to 63, inclusive, 63a, 64, 78 and 79 are related. Amendment No. 58 is an alternative to amendment No. 57a, amendments Nos. 58, 59, 61 and 64 are cognate, amendment No. 58a is an alternative to amendment No. 59, amendment No. 61 is an alternative to amendment No. 60b, amendments Nos. 63 and 63a are alternatives to amendment No. 62. Amendments Nos. 57, 57a, 58, 58a, 59 to 60, inclusive, 60b, 61 to 63, inclusive, 63a, 64, 78 and 79 will be taken together by agreement.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I move amendment No. 57:

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  These amendments relate to the conditions of tenancy laid down in Part 4, which deals with the issue of tenure. The formula being proposed by the Minister of State is that after a period of six months’ tenancy, a tenant will qualify for a four-year right of tenancy provided that the landlord does not need to recover that property within the period for any of the reasons stated in the Bill. At the end of the four years, however, the tenant has no further rights and must, under the legislation, go back on a six month probation before becoming entitled to a further four year right of tenancy.

The Labour Party does not agree with that approach to security of tenure. Our view, as expressed on Committee Stage, is that the formal security of tenure should be such that after a probationary period, about whose length we can argue, a tenant becomes the tenant and remains such as long as the property remains rented property and for so long as the tenant complies with the tenancy agreement. The landlord has rights to seek to terminate the tenancy if, for example, he needs the property for his own use or if he is disposing of it for some other type of use, as provided for in the Bill. The arrangements are in place through the Residential Tenancies Board for the adjustment of rents, etc. The arrangement should be analogous to an employment contract whereby one has a probationary period and remains in continuous employment for as long as there is employment for one and under which there is a mechanism by which disputes can be resolved. Similarly, a tenancy agreement should hold for as long as the property is being let for residential purposes and the terms of the tenancy agreement are complied with.

Some of these amendments, which are proposing to delete certain subsections, comprise an attempt to establish a continuous tenancy arrangement. Others, however, address the specifics of the four year arrangement. Let me draw attention to some flaws in what is proposed. Amendment No. 58, which is in my name, seeks to replace the six month probationary period with a three month probationary period. There is no reason a landlord would not be able to determine within three months or sooner whether the tenant is paying the rent regularly, honouring the tenancy agreement, respecting the property and not causing a nuisance to neighbours. I do not know what the landlord will find out about a tenant in months four, five and six that he or she will not have found in months one, two and three. Therefore, the probationary period should be reduced to three months.

Amendment No. 60 seeks to delete “the relevant date” and substitute “28 May 2003”. This was the date of publication of this Bill. The Minister is proposing that, once this Bill is enacted, the four year tenancy will begin not when the Act [1028]is passed but when the Minister commences Part 4 of the Act. In other words, existing tenants, of whom there are approximately 150,000 in the private rented sector, will effectively be placed on a six-month probation when Part 4 comes into effect. Section 27 states: “In this Part ”continuous period of 6 months“ means a continuous period of 6 months that commences on or after the relevant date.” The relevant date is defined in section 5 as the “date on which Part 4 is commenced”. On the day this Act, under its present terms, comes into effect, every tenant in the country will go back on probation for a period of six months. The clock will start ticking for the six months and if the landlord is satisfied at the end of the six months the tenant may get a four year tenancy.

I propose that the term “the relevant date” should be replaced by “28 May 2003”, which was the date the Bill was published. That is the normal practice. In a Bill introducing new rights, for example, the rights usually apply from the date from which the Bill is published. In any Bill, such as company or planning legislation, which changes the nature of a contract between two people the operative date is the date of publication and not the date on which the relevant Part commences. The effect of amendment No. 60 would be that existing tenants would know that their position is secure and they would not find themselves, six months after commencement of the Act, being given a notice to leave by their landlord.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Assuming the amendments are not accepted by the Minister, what will happen if a landlord terminates a tenancy after five months? Will all the rights a tenant has built up be eliminated? If that is the case I will support the amendment, which would reduce the trial period to three months. Any landlord will be watchful of new tenants and the first three months will tell the story of a tenant’s legitimacy or conduct. Anything that cannot be found out in the first three months will not be found out in six. If the amendments are not accepted will the landlord retain the right to terminate a tenancy after five or five and a half months, and for what reasons?

Mr. Cuffe: Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  I find myself in disagreement with both the Minister of State and the Labour Party on the fundamental issue of rights of tenure. The Government is proposing that there be a cut-off date every four years and that no tenant should have rights to a period longer than four years. Under the Labour Party proposal, once a tenant is in residence for three months he or she may remain for life. The fairer solution is a happy medium between the two.

I propose that tenancy rights increase incrementally. A landlord will know much more about a tenant after three years than after three months. There are many circumstances in which a landlord may wish to plan in advance for a [1029]period of weeks, months or years as to when he or she might like to have a vacant property. For instance, a landlord might have a child who in a couple of years time will go to a college close to where the dwelling is situated. A reasonable way to proceed would be to tell the tenant that the use of the dwelling would be required in two years time, rather than invoke the family member clause. This would give people on both sides an element of certainty.

Allowing rights to accrue incrementally would help all those involved. An elderly person could be told at the age of 60, 70 or 80 that he or she must leave in 16 weeks’ time. That is not fair. It is fair to allow rights to increase incrementally so that after renting for five weeks a tenant must be given one week’s notice to leave, after five months he or she must be given a month’s notice and after five years a year’s notice. That gives more of an element of certainty to both sides and is a fairer way of proceeding.

The Government’s proposals do not go far enough and the Labour Party’s proposals go too far. The Green Party’s solution is contained in amendment No. 63a.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I am glad I did not speak before Deputy Cuffe because he would have disagreed with me also. I now have the privilege of disagreeing with him and supporting the Labour Party position. The Sinn Féin position is contained in amendments Nos. 58, 59, 61, 62 and 64. The six month period is too long. A number of the Sinn Féin amendments refer to reducing the run-in period to three months. A key element is the settling down of the tenant and landlord as quickly as possible, and three months should be more than enough time to do that.

Amendment No. 62 deals with the review after four years. This is a disconcerting element to put into the Bill. We all agree with the general thrust of the Bill but some of the sections jar significantly. There is no need for a review after four years. When people have established their tenancy they should be allowed to get on with their lives in the knowledge that they may remain in their dwellings so long as they behave themselves. What more could be asked of anyone? Even settled loyal tenants will look forward to their four year review with concern and trepidation. Such a review is unnecessary and I hope the Minister of State will not require it to be made.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  We discussed this matter at great length on Committee Stage. This was one of the core recommendations of the commission and I am reluctant to move away from it. The issue could be debated either way. We know the situation in Ireland and there is little point in talking about what happens in other countries. We are trying to change the situation in Ireland and the question is how that is to be done. It would be easy to take either side of the argument and to say that six months is too long or too short, depending on who one represented. The com[1030]mission was obliged to make a judgment call, having examined the question at great length, to come up with a reasonable balance between the different interests of landlords and tenants.

I hear the argument about the need for a probationary period, whether it should be six months and whether there should be a probationary period the second time around. This was the commission’s recommendation as the best way to introduce a measure of security of tenure so that a landlord would, in practice, be happy to allow a tenant to occupy a dwelling on an ongoing basis. We are trying to ensure that both sides have trust and faith in the system so that they can enter a new era. We have seen how counter-productive the current long occupation lease system is under the Landlord and Tenant Acts. We have all come across cases where, theoretically, people have rights after 20 years but, in practice, landlords have found some reason to oblige them to move to another apartment or house as the 20 year limit approaches. An absolute theoretical right can act as a block and work against a tenant.

The four year upper limit in the Bill prevents legal significance attaching to the fact that a particular tenant has occupied a property for a long period of time. A tenant may be in occupation but have no legal right. The landlord can, comfortably, go on renting the property to the tenant as long as it suits both sides.

Theoretical rights are of no use if they do not help in the real situation. We are trying to achieve a balance in the Bill that will lead to real improvements for tenants who wish to achieve greater security of tenure. Landlords are in the business of letting property and making money, not in the business of evicting people for no reason. If the new regime ensures they get market rent, be it from a new or old tenant, and if the tenant has proved himself, why would the landlord be in a mad rush to get rid of a good tenant who has respected the property? Why would he jump into the unknown and get rid of a tenant with a proven track record and introduce someone who might turn out to be a messer? It does not make sense. Landlords want business and money and we are introducing a system that is balanced. I do not want to accept any amendments that move away from that.

A tenant has no rights unless he or she has been resident in a dwelling for more than six months. If he or she is there for five and a half months, the landlord can give due notice to him or her to leave without a reason. A person only secures his rights after six months. Amendment No. 57 states that a landlord terminating a tenancy within that six month period must provide the tenant with a written explanation of the reasons for termination. That conflicts with the core recommendation of the commission that there should be a six month qualifying period at the start of each tenancy during which the landlord would be free to terminate without having to give a specific reason.

[1031]Amendment No. 79 seeks to delete section 42, which provides for the right of termination without providing a reason in the first six months. The same point applies; it is in conflict with the recommendation of the commission. It recommended this format to introduce a security of tenure measure in such a way that landlords would be happy to allow a tenant to occupy the dwelling on an ongoing basis. The operation of the initial probationary period provides the acceptable basis for allowing the subsequent three and a half years security of tenure.

The Bill may not be perfect but it is a huge improvement on the situation as it was. We must, however, be reasonable to both sides. For years landlords were able to terminate at any time without specifying any grounds. The new system will be a huge step forward for tenants. Under the new set-up, tenants, unlike landlords, will be able to terminate at any time without giving any reason, provided they give due notice. The landlord, once the six-month period has passed, can get the property back, but only under specified reasons. It may well be that in ten or 15 years, we will have moved into a new, more European situation, but we must recognise from where we came and how we will move forward in partnership.

I will not be accepting amendments Nos. 57a, 58, 58a, 59, 60b, 61 and 64 because they all make the same point. This was one of the core recommendations of the commission and I do not want to move away from that. That applies to the other questions.

Deputy Cuffe’s amendment No. 63a would reduce the tenant’s security of tenure. It depends on the situation on completion of the qualifying period but could reduce the secure tenure from three and half years to 36 days, or six days if the qualifying period was reduced to a month, as the Deputy sought in another amendment. I understand what the Deputy wants to achieve, but the way Part 4 has been structured makes it impossible. The more we reduce the qualifying period, the fewer rights the tenant will have.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  On Deputy Cuffe’s concern with the approach being taken by the Labour Party to security of tenure, why should a tenant not have tenancy for life if the landlord continues to rent the property? Why would the landlord want to change after four, eight or 12 years? If he is a good tenant and the rent is sorted out by way of the residential tenancies board and is the market rent, and the landlord is happy to continue to let the property, why should the sitting tenant not have the first call on it?

The difficulty with a fixed-term arrangement is that it would encourage landlords to discontinue tenancies. The four years will come to an end and the landlord will think he must serve notice on the tenant because otherwise he would acquire additional rights. It will create insecurity. This is a compromise that came out of the deliberations [1032]of the commission, which did a superb job, particularly the chairman, but a compromise coming out of discussions that involve parties with differing interests does not always make the best legislation. Our job is to legislate for what works and I do not think this four-year provision will be workable.

Of all of the amendments we are taking together, however, the one I ask the Minister of State to reconsider, even at this late stage, is amendment No. 60 which provides that, for existing tenants, the clock should have started on their six months on the day the Bill was published. It was never the intention of the commission or the Minister of State that, as soon as this Bill was passed, every one of the 150,000 tenants in this State would go on six months’ probation and, within that six months, the landlord could evict him without giving a reason.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  They can do that now.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Ironically, we are passing legislation purportedly to give tenants additional rights but the unwitting effect in the immediate term will be that, when enacted, the State’s tenants will have fewer rights for six months than they had beforehand.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  That is not the case.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I have acknowledged the good elements of this Bill and welcomed the thrust of it. The Minister of State, however, has made it clear that he will not accept these amendments, even though this six month review every four years will only cause disruption and unease.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. Cuffe: Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  I move amendment No. 57a:

Question, “That the word and figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 58:

Question, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 58a and 59 not moved.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 60:

[1033]Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Cuffe: Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  I move amendment No. 60a:

[1034]

Amendment put.

[1033]The Dáil divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 52.

Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony.
Information on Marian Harkin  Zoom on Marian Harkin  Harkin, Marian. Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus.
Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic.
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Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
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Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
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[1033]Níl
Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
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Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
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Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom. Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
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Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Ned.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim.
Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom. Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
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[1033]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Cuffe and Durkan; Níl, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher.

[1033]Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Cuffe: Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  I move amendment No. 60b:

[1034]Question, “That the figure and word proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk): Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendment No. 61 cannot be moved.

[1035]Amendment No. 61 not moved.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 62:

[1036]

Question put: “That the words and figures proposed to be deleted stand.”

[1035]The Dáil divided: Tá, 55; Níl, 37.

Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
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Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel. Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel.
Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony. Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom. Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Liz.
Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John. Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt.
Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Ned. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim. Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan.
Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  Walsh, Joe. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.
Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.  


[1035]Níl
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Paudge Connolly  Zoom on Paudge Connolly  Connolly, Paudge.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin.
Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Mitchell, Gay.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.  

[1035]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Ó Snodaigh.

[1035] Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 63 and 63a not moved.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 64:

[1036]

Question, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

[1037]Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 65:

This amendment, which was recommended by Threshold, was debated on Committee Stage. Its purpose is to ensure there would be a general anti-avoidance provision in the Bill.

  2 o’clock

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I appreciate the general objective behind the amendment but it is not necessary. I would not consider general avoidance provisions to be the way to go. It is preferable to close off specific loopholes. While the Deputy’s proposal is a prohibition, it is worded in very broad terms as it states, “on any action for the primary purpose of avoiding the application of this Part [4]”. It is felt that the wording is too general and is in conflict with section 25. It is not necessarily the way to go.

I intend to propose a specific anti-avoidance measure, which involves an amendment to section 34, to address potential scope for abuse of some of the grounds for a valid termination of a Part 4 tenancy. The explicit outlawing of the various avoidance devices as they come to light is the most effective way of ensuring the security of tenant provisions operate as intended.

I recognise what the Deputy is trying to do. In future, it may be the case that both landlords and tenants try to avoid or work around some of the measures being put in place simply because they do not like them. Every appropriate effort has been made to close off such opportunities as we find them. We all know in the real world that until legislation is in place to prevent it, people may be innovative and try to find other ways of doing it. All we can do is undertake to monitor the situation. It is one of the specific functions of the board, under section 152, to monitor and report back on any requirement for amending legislation if there is any effort made by either side to circumvent the rules. While I understand what the Deputy is trying to do, a vague catch-all anti-avoidance measure is not necessarily the way to go. It is better to try and identify problems and take specific measures to address them, which is what we are doing.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Are amendments being discussed together?

Acting Chairman: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  No. We are only discussing amendment No. 65 but the Deputy can speak on it if he wishes.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  No. Tá brón orm.

Amendment put and declared lost.

[1038]Acting Chairman: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendment No. 66, in the name of the Minister, arises from Committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 67 to 71, inclusive, 73, 88 to 90, inclusive, 105 and 132 are related, amendments Nos. 70 and 71 are alternatives to amendment No. 69. Amendments Nos. 66 to 71, inclusive, 73, 88 to 90, inclusive, 105 and 132 will be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 66:

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I wish to speak in particular to amendment No. 69. Some of the other amendments in this group are relevant because parts of this section contain excuses a landlord could use to evict a tenant. The Minister of State’s amendment greatly improves the existing section 34. I am concerned about the table to which my amendment refers in section 34 which states:

If a family or couple living in a first or second floor apartment have a baby, could that be regarded as reason enough to evict them under the terms of that table? I fear that it could and therefore seek to delete this sentence. If the Minister of State thinks otherwise I would appreciate his elaboration of the point.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I oppose amendment No. 69. The grounds listed in the table to which the Deputy refers are as recommended by the commission and accepted by the Government. Their deletion would have a negative impact on the supply of accommodation available. If the Deputy is concerned about the potential for abuse, my amendment to section 34 could help allay his concerns. Overcrowding is contrary to housing policy but that does not encompass the situation the Deputy describes. Overcrowding refers to a change in the composition of the household subsequent to the commencement of the tenancy that renders the dwelling unsuited to that household’s accommodation needs. A child or two of that age will not seriously affect the accommodation needs. We could not be seen to condone serious overcrowding, which is determined by rules and regulations, but one extra baby would not be a legitimate ground for eviction.

The grounds specify “bed spaces” as opposed to bedrooms so there is no question of requiring a bedroom per occupant. The number of bed spaces in a dwelling is easily established. If a land[1039]lord terminates a tenancy by citing this ground, a tenant who considers the dwelling to be suitable is free to dispute the validity of the termination. The landlord would then have to prove that the dwelling is not designed to accommodate the number of people residing there. A landlord who tried to do that would not necessarily succeed because the dispute would go to the board and a case such as the Deputy describes would not be pursued very far. If, however, several adults came into the dwelling and created serious overcrowding, that would not be condoned.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 67 not moved.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 68:

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 69 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendment No. 70 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 70 not moved.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 71:

[1040]

[1041]

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I move amendment No. 72:

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 73:

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Will the Minister of State explain the purpose of this amendment and what it seeks to achieve?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  It is a technical amendment to section 35 and is consequential on amendment No. 71 which uses the term “contact details requirement”. An explanation of “contact details” must therefore be included in section 35 on foot of the change to section 34. The term “contact details requirement” relates to the tenant providing within 28 days of receipt of the notice of termination and thereafter keeping up to date a means by which the landlord can make contact to offer him or her continuance of the previous tenancy. This applies where a landlord has asked a tenant to leave because his or her family is moving into the house or something similar and the situation changes. In a change of the landlord’s circumstances the tenants would have first refusal if the tenancy became available again. There is an obligation on the tenant to keep in touch to enable him or her to avail of the first refusal option.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendments Nos. 74 to 76, inclusive are related and will be taken together by agreement.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 74:

There was considerable debate on Committee Stage about the position of family members where the death of the sole person who is the tenant occurs during the existence of a Part 4 tenancy. I agreed to try to amend the provision to give family members who are not joint tenants the right to continue in a Part 4 tenancy in the case of established relationships. I am pleased to propose amendment No. 76 which enables spouses, partners and adult offspring or parents who were residing with the tenant to elect to become tenants and to continue a Part 4 tenancy where the death of the tenant occurs. There was much discussion on Committee Stage about this and this amendment should not pose any constitutional difficulties.

Amendment No. 74 is a technical, consequential amendment. Amendment No. 76 has been framed so as not to impact on the position regarding leases under the Succession Acts. The position will continue to be that a deceased tenant’s successors will inherit the rights and obligations of any lease governing the tenancy. As a general principle, where a dwelling is being let to more than one occupant it is advisable that some or all of the occupants enter into the tenancy as joint tenants in order that their position will be unaf[1043]fected by the death of a member of the household.

When we discussed this issue on Committee Stage, Deputies called for security for established relationships. The amendments provide for security in the case of established, family-type relationships, rather than homosexual or other relationships. I have, therefore, taken on board specific requests made on Committee Stage that the spouses and families of tenants in established, family-type relationships be offered protection. While further changes may be made in future as regards other relationships, I am not taking other matters on board now but doing specifically what was asked on Committee Stage.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I welcome amendment No. 76 and the security it provides for other occupants who are also family members in the event of the death of the person whose name is on the tenancy. I am curious, however, about the Minister of State’s final remarks and the condition set out in the second last paragraph of amendment No. 76, paragraph (3)(ii), which extends the Part 4 tenancy to “a person who was not a spouse of the tenant but who cohabited with the tenant as husband and wife in the dwelling for a period of at least six months ending on the date of the tenant’s death”. I am curious as to the reason the term “cohabited with the tenant as a partner” was not used, as it would have been much more in tune with society in this age of equality, or at least of attempts to achieve it.

What caused the Minister or the commission to fail to recognise those who are in gay relationships? Why were they excluded? The Minister of State specifically stated that he omitted this group. Why? Will he revisit the matter? In this day of enlightenment, I am amazed such a provision was not included. As matters stand, if one partner in a gay relationship of either sex resides in rented accommodation dies, the other will be forced to move out. Amid the trauma of a bereavement, the person will be discriminated against because of his or her sexual orientation. That type of thinking belongs to the 18th, not the 21st, century.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I welcome the Minister of State’s movement, if that is the correct word, on this matter since Committee Stage. The amendment brings practice into line with that which applies to local authority rented housing, where the sons or daughters of a tenant who dies will not be evicted and may assume the tenancy, provided they live in the house. The amendment moves in this direction by giving the children of deceased tenants Part 4 tenancy rights.

Will the Minister of State clarify the practicalities of establishing that persons have been cohabiting for six months? Who will adjudicate on this matter? Will it, too, go before the board? Would a person who stays in the dwelling irregularly, comes and goes, or is also resident in [1044]another property be regarded as a person who has been cohabiting for six months? The status of persons to which Deputy Morgan referred notwithstanding, how will cohabitation be defined?

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Amendment No. 75 in my name reflects what I proposed on Committee Stage, when I highlighted that while joint tenants were protected, the families of tenants were not. I welcome that the Minister of State has moved somewhat in the direction of my proposal. There are, however, a couple of exemptions. The definition does not include a sibling of a tenant. It is not uncommon for a number of members of a family, brothers or sisters, to live together, particularly in circumstances where they work in the same area. Older siblings also frequently share accommodation.

In addition, the amendment does not provide for gay relationships, as the Minister of State highlighted. I am curious that he appears to have gone out of his way to exclude gay people from the protection of the legislation and even highlighted their exclusion.

The formula used in amendment No. 76 is that Part 4 protection will be extended to “a person who was not a spouse of the tenant but who cohabited with the tenant as husband and wife for a period of at least six months ending on the date of the tenant’s death”. I presume it should read, “husband or wife”, as both would be an achievement.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Anything can happen.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  If this were redrafted to read, “a person who was not a spouse of the tenant but who cohabited with the tenant as a partner for a period of at least six months ending on the date of the tenant’s death”, it would cover all circumstances.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Only one word is required.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Minister of State mentioned in passing that he was not extending this protection to gay relationships. Perhaps he will inform the House of the reason. It is strange he went out of his way not to so provide.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Perhaps I spoke for too long. As the Deputy was returning to the House, I assume I continued to speak to allow him time to resume his seat.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  It is Deputy Gilmore’s fault.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  If I could turn back the clock, perhaps I would have stopped my contribution sooner.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Was the Minister of State afraid the other Deputies present did not share my liberal instincts?

[1045]Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Deputies were very forceful on this issue during the long debate on it on Committee Stage. We have moved a long way to address their concerns. The reason I may have gone beyond what was necessary in my previous contribution was to give the Deputy an opportunity to contribute on the issue. I was not trying to make a particular point.

The fundamental issue is that we should encourage everybody to register as joint tenants because it would give them protection. The debate on this matter on Committee Stage arose because a person who had not registered as a joint tenant encountered problems when the registered tenant died. If people register spouses, partners, friends and others as joint tenants, they would not be affected by a subsequent death. This is how the matter should be approached. People in such scenarios should register their partners, friends and siblings as joint tenants as they would then have protection. The debate on Committee Stage centred on families, and members of my party as well as Opposition Members stated that the section, as drafted, was not acceptable. We have tried to address that.

With regard to the other scenario, the law may well change in next few years and if it does, the section will be amended, but my amendments address the issues raised.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I am at a loss to understand why three words “husband and wife” cannot be deleted. As Deputy Gilmore stated, it should read “husband or wife” in any event but I do not wish to nail anybody to the cross for a simple typo. If the phrase “husband and wife” was substituted by the word “partner”, everybody could live happily ever after, irrespective of their sexual orientation or the type of relationship in which they are involved. Is that feasible even at this late stage? I do not intend to trip up the Minister of State on this but inserting the word “partner” would reflect modern society. I commend him on amendment No. 76 because it improves the Bill considerably. However, the phrase “husband and wife” is unnecessary and unfortunate.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I would be happy to take an oral amendment if the Minister of State is agreeable.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  A provision was sought to cater for married and unmarried couples and the amendment addresses that. The position on other relationships may change in the future but that is different. Other relationships can be looked after if the individuals involved get people in as joint tenants. I do not wish to make further amendments.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  How will the Minister of State square this provision with the equality legislation, given that, under that legislation, it is illegal to discriminate against a person on the ground of sexual orientation? He proposes to provide for such discrimination in the amendment. Which [1046]legislation will have precedence if somebody decides to pursue a case? If the Minister of State is not prepared to make the amendment we seek now, will he consider examining this issue before the Bill is taken in the Seanad?

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  He will be slaughtered there.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  No.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is a bridge too far for the Minister of State.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 75 not moved.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 76:

Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendment No. 77 not moved.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 78:

Question, “That the words and figures proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 79:

Question, “That the words and figures proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Acting Chairman: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 are related and may be discussed together.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 80:

These are two technical amendments, which have been tabled on the advice of the parliamentary counsel, who is concerned there may be potential for ambiguity in these two sections.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 81:

[1048]

TABLE

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Amendments Nos. 82 to 87, inclusive, are cognate and will be taken together.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 82:

We debated several similar amendments and the House will be aware of the intent of these amendments.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I oppose these amendments to reduce from six months to three months the qualification period. We discussed similar amendments previously. I regard this as one of the core principles of the legislation.

Question, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 83 to 87, inclusive, not moved.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 88:

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 89:

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 90:

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I move amendment No. 90a:

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I do not propose to accept the amendment. I inserted the 70-day maximum notice period on Committee Stage because I did not want a long notice period to be used to prevent tenants from qualifying for the protection of Part 4. Landlords have consistently argued that the qualifying period of six months was too short and should be increased to a year or, at a minimum, nine months. The longer the qualifying period, the more conducive it is to terminating tenancies before any rights can accrue. Giving a tenant a long period of notice of termination is a way around a qualifying period which is perceived by landlords as too short, and in many respects this amendment is in conflict with amendments tabled earlier.

The careful choice of a 70-day limit allows a tenancy which is terminated in the first six months to last a maximum period of approximately eight months because, as originally drafted, a landlord could give notice a week or two before the end of the six months. We included the 70 days as a maximum period, so the maximum now is six months and 70 days. I oppose the amendment because it would be reverting to nine-month tenancies. This is not a coincidence. We chose 70 days carefully because there was a loophole in the Bill as drafted. I ask the Deputy to reconsider and withdraw his amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Amendments Nos. 92 to 98, inclusive, are related to amendment No. 91 and amendments Nos. 93 to 98, inclusive, are alternatives to amendment No. 91. Amendments Nos. 91 to 98, inclusive, are to be taken together.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 91:

I direct Deputies’ attention to the fact that the word “year” after “3” in the second-last line of the first column of table one in amendment No. 92 should be in the plural. It is just a typographical error.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I am glad the Minister can amend the Bill on the floor of the House when he likes. That is good news for me.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Deputies will recall a lengthy debate on Committee Stage about the application of the longer notice periods to tenants who are terminating as well as to landlords. I agreed to look again at the notice periods applying to tenants and am now proposing amendments Nos. 91 and 92, the effect of which is to reduce, where the tenancy has lasted three or more years, the notice period applying to terminations to 56 days. In the original Bill it was the same for both.

This means the maximum notice a tenant will be required to give will be 56 days and notice periods will now apply once a tenancy has lasted two or more years. The first amendment replaces section 66(2). We are also reversing the order of the two columns so that the tenancy duration is read first, followed by the period of notice required. As this change departs from a recommendation of the commission that was based on fairly detailed consideration and discussion of the appropriate notice periods that should apply to both parties, it is as far as I can go in response to other proposed amendments. The 56 day maximum notice period is a substantial reduction from the original provision of 84 days after three years and 112 after four.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I raised this issue on Committee Stage and the Minister of State will recall that, in the original text of the Bill, tenants would have been required to have given the same period of notice to a landlord when they proposed to leave a house or flat and terminate the tenancy as a landlord would have been required to give to them. I pointed out that the relationship between landlords and tenants is not an equal one and that seeking equal notice periods was not appropriate.

On a practical level, it was also inappropriate in the original text of the Bill that a tenant would have been required to give a landlord three months’ notice of his or her intention to leave if he or she had a tenancy for four or more years. That would have been excessive if someone was moving jobs, as he or she might only have to have given an employer a month’s notice while having to have given a landlord three months’ notice. Such tenants might have been caught for two additional months’ rent after moving somewhere else had they been transferred by their employer, for example.

[1052]I acknowledge the Minister of State has moved significantly in the direction I was seeking but 56 days is still a bit long for someone who is a tenant for only two years. However, I acknowledge the Minister of State listened to the Committee Stage debate and that he has responded on Report Stage. I accept his amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 92:

Duration of Tenancy
(1)
Notice Period
(2)
Less than 6 months 28 days
6 or more months but less than 1 year 35 days
1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days
2 years or more but less than 3 years 56 days
3 years or more but less than 4 years 84 days
4 or more years 112 days

Duration of Tenancy
(1)
Notice Period
(2)
Less than 6 months 28 days
6 or more months but less than 1 year 35 days
1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days
2 or more years 56 days

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 93 to 98, inclusive, not moved.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 99:

I bring the attention of the House to section 68(2) which states:

How on earth could anyone be expected to hang about for a week when there is, by reason of the behaviour of the landlord, an imminent danger of [1053]death? One is supposed to hang about the place for another week although there is imminent danger of death. I am trying to amend this to 24 hours because if my family or that of the Minister of State or any other Deputy were in a situation where the landlord posed an imminent danger of death or serious injury, we would want to get our skates on. The legislation refers to a full week. I hope the Minister of State considers this again. I will hear what he has to say. If it is not of concern to him, it is to me.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I do not accept the amendment. Seven days is the minimum notice period which must be given to tenants who have engaged in serious anti-social behaviour and I consider it appropriate to maintain equality of treatment. Accepting what the Deputy said, it may not be an equal situation but it is better in legal terms to maintain an equality. I do not know if the type of situations referred to by the Deputy would arise, but if they did, the person would not be compelled to stay there. I recognise it might be his or her main place of residence but, in legal terms, it is best to retain the equality provision.

  3 o’clock

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I am puzzled as well. If the tenancy is being terminated by reason of the behaviour of the landlord that poses an imminent danger of death or serious injury or imminent danger to the fabric of the building, what would the landlord have done? Will the Minister of State give an example? If the landlord was off his or her rocker, for example, and threatened to assassinate the tenant, what does the Minister of State have in mind when he wants to give seven days’ notice in that case?

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  The Minister of State talked about anti-social behaviour but that is not to what my amendment refers. My amendment refers to imminent danger of death or serious injury. We need to be clear about that. We are not talking about anti-social behaviour or some such nonsense; we are talking about imminent danger of death. Is the tenant supposed to hang about this dangerous premises for a full week?

The Minister of State said he does not know if such a situation would arise. If there is no question of such a situation arising, why is this provision in the Bill? It is in the Bill because we all know such a situation could arise. It is a laudable part of the Bill and I do not have a problem with it other than expecting a tenant, who is in imminent danger of death or serious injury, to hang about for a week to see if it might happen. I do not believe this is being realistic. This is quite disgraceful and mad.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I hear what the Deputy is saying. While it is provided for in the Bill, I do not believe it will apply too often. We are talking about legal terms. I believe the provision was inserted at the request of Threshold to ensure [1054]equality of treatment between landlords and tenants. It is a notice period of terminating a tenancy. It does not mean the tenant must stay. It is a legal term.

Deputy McCormack asked what the section was all about. It specifies the shorter notice periods applicable where the termination of the tenancy by the tenant is due to the landlord’s failure to comply with the tenancy obligations. Where the landlord has been notified of the breach and has failed to remedy it within a reasonable time, the notice to be given by the tenant is 28 days.

Where a breach by a landlord of a tenant’s right to peaceful occupation involves behaviour that poses an imminent danger of death or serious injury or danger to the fabric of the dwelling, the notice period is seven days. I hope the situation about which Deputy Morgan talked will not arise but in legal terms, it is best to include the provision. If it arose, I am sure the tenant would not be legally forced to stay. It is, however, a situation which could technically arise and that is why it is provided for in the Bill. For technical, legal reasons, it is recommended that it is left as it is from an equality point of view.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I understand what the Minister of State is doing here. A tenant with two years’ tenancy would have to give 56 days’ notice to the landlord if he or she was leaving. However, if the tenant believes the landlord is about to kill him or her, the tenant will only be required to give seven days’ notice which seems fair on the face of it. Much of this Bill has come from consideration by the commission. Obviously, the commission has done much work on the standards of dwellings, rents and so on. I confess I have not come across a case of a tenant having been killed by his or her landlord nor has anybody come to my clinics to tell me he or she thought his or her landlord was going to kill him or her. People have told me a few other things their landlord threatened to do or that they suspected their landlord might do, but killing them is one I have not come across.

Did the commission report to the Minister of State that there is a high incidence of this of which we have not been aware? Why is this provision included at all? If it is for legal reasons and if the Attorney General’s office has said to the Minister of State that there must be a provision in the Bill to provide for the eventually that a landlord might threaten to kill a tenant, will he share with us the logic of the learned gentlemen who provided that advice? What type of protection would the tenant get by giving seven days’ notice as opposed to 56 days’ notice? Are landlords who intend to kill their tenants prone to reflecting on it for more than one week? Why is it seven days’ notice?

Deputy Morgan’s amendment is good because he has highlighted one of the more daft provisions in the Bill. This is a long Bill and sometimes provisions appear in the drafting which have not been fully thought out. This is one which [1055]needs to be pruned out of the Bill because it is a bit laughable.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  It needs to be explained. We are getting to the nub of the issue, namely, the reason for the inclusion of this provision in the Bill because it seems a bit foolish. Perhaps there is a logical reason which is escaping Members on this side of the House. Will the Minister of State explain whether the commission or the Attorney General asked for this provision to be included in the Bill? How did it arise? I must take it there is some logical explanation for a provision such as this being included, namely, that somebody could be threatened with death. Perhaps it may only be a figure of speech but sometimes landlords say, “I will kill that frigger if he is not out of this place in two days.” Would that be considered a threat of death?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  It came about because of the provisions in section 67 which states that seven days’ is the minimum notice period which must be given to tenants who have engaged in serious anti-social behaviour. Threshold was one of the groups which suggested that we should have an equivalent, balancing provision for landlords. We may have made changes to the last section but one of the overriding principles is to try to have equality of treatment, although accepting the point that it might not always be a fair or an equal world. This provision was included as a balance to section 67.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  What is the tenant supposed to do? Is he or she supposed to hide in the wardrobe?

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Ronnie Drew and the “Seven Drunken Nights”.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  We are talking about legal terms. If such a situation arose and if it was as bad as the examples given, nobody would force the tenant to stay.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The tenant would have to go on the run.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  We are talking about a legal provision. Nobody will force the tenant to stay there. We are talking about a legal provision but it has come about as a provision to balance section 67.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  The Minister of State said the tenant would not legally be forced to remain there. I am sure that is a mighty relief to the tenant. It is certainly a mighty relief to me, and I am very glad to hear that the poor, unfortunate tenant who is in imminent danger of death or serious injury would not have to remain there. I would [1056]bail out and head over to a relative or neighbour and I am sure any tenant in that situation would do the same.

However, the provisions of the Bill mean that the tenant still is legally obliged to pay rent for the seven days during which he is not there. If the landlord is a lunatic or if the fabric of the dwelling or property containing the dwelling is in imminent danger, the poor old tenant still has to pay for it. Last week, in the course of a minor spat between us, Deputy Gilmore mentioned occasions when one has to roll up one’s sleeves and get stuck in. This is mundane stuff but occasionally we come across a priceless piece like this.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Deputy has risen to the occasion.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  The odd time we come across a wee gem like this, which one could not make up. Children in a school playground could not come up with stuff like this, yet it is in the Bill before us. The seven-day period makes no sense. It makes absolute sense, however, that the maximum period should be 24 hours. The Minister of State has told us that it is the law, there probably is no such case but it is being left in the legislation anyhow. Thank God for a bit of humour and craic now and again, but if this situation ever arose it would provide neither craic nor humour. It would be deadly serious. It is unfortunate that the Minister of State is not prepared to accept a practical amendment.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  One can take these provisions and try to twist them around.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I am not twisting them.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Should anything like that occur, the gardaí are there. They have a job to do and anything of a criminal nature will be dealt with by them.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  They cannot be found when they are needed.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  The provision basically gives seven days to either party to dispute the allegations. The board is there to adjudicate so is it reasonable to expect people to do all this in one day? The provision gives the board seven days during which to adjudicate. Some people can be very inventive in thinking up situations. This provision will give people the opportunity to state that someone is making a false allegation against them, and the board will adjudicate quickly on such claims. If such a situation arose, the truth would quickly become obvious. Some of these matters, depending on how one twists them or looks at them, may not make sense. Equally, however, if there was a false allegation, the pro[1057]vision gives people seven days in which to make a complaint to the board. In that way the board can decide whether the complaint is valid or should be set aside.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  If the tenant was still alive after seven days, would that be proof that it was a false allegation?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  This is getting into a Committee Stage type of discussion.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  For the safety of tenants I am sorely tempted to put the amendment to a vote, but I will not. I will let it go.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Shoot the messenger.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Amendment No. 101 is an alternative to amendment No. 100, so both may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 100:

This amendment is in respect of a dispute over the amount of rent that has been paid. The tenant will be required to go to the board within 28 days of the termination of the tenancy. I propose that that period should be extended to 60 days because 28 days is a bit tight. Sometimes, a tenant may consult members of his or her family, get advice, and may require time to make up his or her mind. I consider that 60 days is a more reasonable period.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Amendment No. 101 seeks to extend the period within which a tenant may appeal to the board, from 28 to 56 days in cases where there is a dispute over the amount of any rent that had been agreed to, or paid, by the former tenant. In such cases, the unfortunate tenant may well be so occupied trying to secure accommodation for his or her family that he or she may not have an opportunity within the 28-day period to make a submission to the board. My amendment, therefore, seeks to increase the period to 56 days. I chose to double the 28-day period provided for in the Bill, although I do not disagree with Deputy Gilmore about the four additional days, which are neither here not there once it gets up to that sort of period. The 28-day period is a big deal, however, because it might not be long enough. One can imagine someone being in dispute and having to get the matter sorted out. During a row with the landlord he or she may be trying to find alternative accommodation under all sorts of pressure, including moving furniture. Appealing to the board under such circumstances could be well down the list of [1058]priorities in that first four weeks. A longer period would, therefore, be fair and reasonable. I do not think landlords could complain overly about it.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I do not consider that the amendment is appropriate. The Deputy is speaking about a tenancy that has just been completed or may have just started. Section 76 provides that a dispute about the rent applying to a terminated tenancy may not be referred to the board more than four weeks after the tenancy has ended. I understand the situation where somebody has just moved in and perhaps was not too wise.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  It could end over the dispute.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Yes, but the time to have an argument about the rent is when one is in the tenancy. Perhaps the Deputy has chosen the wrong section for his amendment. He is talking about extending the period in which to dispute the rent after the tenancy has ended, but that does not make sense. It would be foolish to end up with a Bill that stated the period for referring a dispute over rent was only 28 days in the case of an existing, ongoing tenancy, but was 56 or 60 days for a tenancy that had ended. That sounds almost as strange as the previous amendment we discussed. Section 76 concerns tenancies that have ended. I know that disputes may arise about rent, but the time to sort them out is during the tenancy or within 28 days of it ending. I do not see any need to extend that period for a tenancy that has ended. The section does not refer to ongoing tenancies.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  In page 51, line 10, section 2 refers to cases in which a tenancy has been terminated and there is a dispute as to the amount of rent. That is exactly what my amendment addresses. Is the Minister of State confused about that because I did not understand his comments? He did not appear to understand the intent of my amendment because it is in the cases to which I referred — when a tenancy has terminated and the tenant is trying to find other accommodation or is in temporary accommodation pending another long-term tenancy — that this issue arises. The former tenant may be under extreme pressure and may not have time to make a submission to the board in such circumstances. That is why I am seeking a longer term because it is very reasonable and straightforward.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Why would such people not have done this months earlier, when they were tenants?

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Perhaps because the row is about the amount of money the landlord retained.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  That is a different issue.

[1059]Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Is it? I do not think so.

Question, “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 101:

I will concede the four days to Deputy Gilmore and will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I move amendment No. 102:

I would like to hear the Minister of State’s response to the amendment.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  As I indicated in the course of the Committee Stage debate, I do not propose to accept this amendment on the basis that it is unnecessary. The provisions in section 84 will ensure that decisions made by the board to reject dispute referrals will have to follow a rigorous analysis of their applicability to this legislation.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Is the licence agreement referred to here a licence or can the board determine that it was only a device used by the landlord hoping he or she could deny the tenants their rights? Is it for the board to define that issue?

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  There is well-established case law in the area of licensing versus tenancy arrangements and the board will be required to have regard to this law when deciding whether to accept a dispute referral. Work currently being undertaken by the Law Reform Commission to review landlord and tenant law may also have a bearing on this matter. If the letting has the characteristic of a tenancy, unless one of the exclusions in section 3 applies, the letting will come within the scope of the Bill, regardless of what the landlord may seek to call it. This will be the case and it requires no amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[1060]Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 103:

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I move amendment No. 104:

We are dealing with section 78, which lists the various matters that may be referred to and examined by the board for resolution. One of the issues which should be entitled to be referred to the board is whether the rent, at the commencement of the tenancy, was or was not greater than the market rent. A tenant can go to the board if he or she feels that the current rent is not the market rate and similarly a landlord can go to the board if he or she wants an increase in rent.

In all this, the point of reference is the market rent. However, because of the manner in which this Bill is being commenced and because the rights established in this Bill will not come into operation until it has been commenced by the Minister, many tenants currently in rented accommodation may well want to dispute that the rent set at the beginning of their tenancy was not the market rent in the first place. It should be possible to have that issue examined by the board.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I thought we discussed this matter on Committee Stage and inserted it at that stage. Paragraph (b) of subsection (1), which was amended on Committee Stage, clarifies that the amount that ought to be set as the initial rent is a matter which may be the subject of a dispute to the board. I thought that clarified the point the Deputy made at that stage.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I stand corrected. We did indeed do so and I apologise for taking up the time of the House on an amendment which was dealt with on Committee Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I move amendment No. 105:

[1061]Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I move amendment No. 106:

This is about the period of time that ought to be given in disputes for resolution or appeal. A period of 28 days is not nearly enough time for what might be a major dispute between the landlord and the tenant. In such circumstances, one could expect communication and attempts at reconciliation between the parties, but after 28 days have gone by, without a submission being made to the board, the whole issue falls. A longer period would be more useful.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I am opposed to this amendment. It does not make sense. A period of 28 days is more than ample time in which to take a decision to refer a dispute to the board about the validity of a termination notice which has been received. Apart from the seven day notice period, to which we referred earlier, for serious anti-social behaviour, 28 days is the minimum notice period specified in Part 5 of the Bill. It would not make much sense for dispute referrals about the validity of terminations to come before the board after the notice period had expired and the tenancy is over. There is always a danger over a longer period that a person will forget to take the necessary action. In all walks of life, people leave everything to the last moment. The time to dispute an issue is when one is within that period of notice in order that something can be done about it. If one leaves it until the period is over, it does not fully add up.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  As it is now 3.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: “That amendment No. 168 and the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed.”

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I advise Deputies of two further typographical errors in amendments Nos. 109 and 176.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Perhaps the Minister of State would give a note to the Clerk.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  The Chair mentioned that we are accepting amendment No. 168. I thank all the Deputies, particularly party spokespersons, for their work and contributions on the various Stages. Hopefully this will be good and valuable legislation for the tenants we are trying to serve [1062]while maintaining a balance. I pay tribute to the officials in the Department for the work they have done, some of whom have been involved in it for many years and have put a significant part of their life into this issue from the time of the commission.

Question put and agreed to.


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