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14 December 2006 Edition

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Tenants' rights: Campaign launched

Sinn Féin to put tenants’ rights on agenda of next Dáil


Sinn Féin has launched a campaign in Dublin on tenants’ rights. The party has identified a number of issues on which it intends to campaign for increased tenant protections, and has brought out a leaflet on the issue.
An initial print run of 20,000 leaflets will be delivered before Christmas in areas of Dublin with high levels of rented accommodation. Further print runs will be done in the new year, in Dublin and beyond.
Speaking in City Hall on 4 December at the launch of the leaflet, Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD described it as “vital” that households in the private rented sector are fully aware of their rights. Crowe went on to outline three major areas where Sinn Féin intend to campaign for increased protections: fair rent, deposits and sub-standard accommodation.

Legislative shortcomings
 “If the private rented sector is to be a viable housing option in the years ahead, much more needs to be done to improve the regulation of the sector and to inform tenants of their rights. It is vital that the almost 150,000 households in the private rented sector are fully aware of their entitlements. But there is also a responsibility on us to work for greater protections for tenants. While welcoming the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, Sinn Féin made clear our disappointment at the significant shortcomings in the legislation during its passage through the Dáil,” the Dublin South West TD said.
“We tabled a substantial number of amendments to the legislation, which were not taken by the Government, but which we intend to ensure are placed high on the agenda of the next Dáil. On unaffordable rents, the most serious problem facing tenants, we proposed that rent should be index-linked, not market-driven, particularly due to the Government’s failure to tackle the housing crisis where demand far exceeds supply. It is within the power of the Government to control and set ceilings for rent and it should do so,” he said.

Deposits
“We are also calling for deposits on accommodation to be held by the Residential Tenancies Board instead of by the landlord. This is clearly necessary given that in 2004 the failure of landlords to refund deposits was the single biggest cause of complaints brought by consumers in the Small Claims Court. Also in 2004, Threshold said that they saw a 44 per cent increase in the number of tenants refused the return of their deposits.
“The third major issue we intend to push forward is that of sub-standard accommodation in the private rented sector, which remains a significant problem. Over 40% of the total 4,703 inspections of private rented premises by local councils during 2003 revealed sub-standard conditions, according to Threshold,” Crowe said.

Guidelines
Sinn Féin is calling for local authorities to be given the resources necessary to carry out increased inspections of properties in the private rental sector. The party is calling for local authorities to be issued with guidelines requiring them to carry out spot checks on all private rented accommodation and to end the situation where inspections are only carried out in response to complaints from tenants.
“Dublin Sinn Féin’s housing campaign, which will see a major public meeting on homelessness in the coming weeks, must ensure that the rights of tenants are at the heart of what we do in the coming months,” said Crowe.


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