11 January 2001 Edition

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Tenants' rights must wait

After years of protest and lobbying, the Minister of Housing and Urban Renewal, Bobby Molloy, announced last week his `reform package' for tenants of private landlords.

Unlike in other EU states, in the 26 Counties, tenants face arbitrary, uncontrolled, rent increases. They have no security of tenure or right to a review of rent by an independent body, still less a right to a review of the quality of accommodation provided.

Landlords are required to register and undergo inspections for health and safety, but landlords don't register, and a legal challenge to the local authority's right to enforce this legislation has remained undecided since 1998.

Molloy's package, which has to wait for two years pending legislation, promises to give a statutory right to tenants of over six months standing to renew their lease for up to four years. However, landlords will be able to terminate leases where there are insufficient bed spaces or if they can claim they intend to refurbish, renovate, sell the property or use it to accommodate family members.

For tenants who succeed, under this landlords' charter, in retaining their accommodation, rent increases are to be restricted to annual reviews. And in two years' time, a Private Residential Tenancies Board to deal with disputes between landlord and tenant is to be set up on a statutory basis.

South Dublin summons Molloy on housing

Meanwhile, Bobby Molloy is to be called to explain the government's inaction on the housing crisis to South Dublin County Council. The PD minister is to be asked to attend a meeting of South Dublin County Council to personally explain how he intends to deal with the growing housing crisis.

The council, the second-largest local authority in the 26 Counties, backed a proposal by Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Crowe at Monday's monthly council meeting to ask the minister for a special face-to-face meeting.

``We need to know from the minister what he is actually going to do about the increasing crisis in housing when we are supposed to be enjoying the fruits of the Celtic Tiger economy,'' said Crowe. ``We want to know exactly what Minister Molloy and the government are going to do about the situation.

``Not only is the number of homeless people increasing and rents in private accommodation spiralling upwards, but even young couples where both are working are caught in a Catch 22 situation - they cannot afford a mortgage between them and they earn too much to qualify for local authority housing.

``Buying a house is beyond the reach of the average PAYE worker and only 8 per cent of all houses are being built by local authorities while waiting lists have increased over the past four years by 43 per cent.''

Focus Ireland reports that nearly 46,000 households are on local authority waiting lists. Sinn Féin has called on the government to implement a `Social Housing Programme', to set targets for 70 per cent of people on waiting lists to be housed within two years, control of land prices to stop speculation, and special grants to encourage use of urban and rural derelict sites for new homes.

Crowe has also urged the government to ``stop dithering'' on bringing in new laws to protect tenants in private-rented accommodation from illegal evictions, unjust rent rises and poor conditions. He was speaking after the Threshold housing rights agency revealed a 150 per cent rise in illegal evictions last year. Calling on Bobby Molloy to immediately act on proposals published last July by the Commission on the Private Rented Sector, Crowe called for the statutory control of rents, effective laws on standards for accommodation, and more resources to enforce regulations. ``The Government has a duty to protect the rights of everyone in housing - not just landlords. Tenants have rights and they must be protected,'' said Crowe. ``Spiralling house prices force people onto local authority waiting lists and into private-rented accommodation. There they face poor living conditions, high rents and no proper security of tenure. Unscrupulous landlords can let sub-standard property for high rents and evict tenants with little difficulty.''

Meanwhile, it was announced this week that the provision of what is called ``social housing'' fell 12% below 1999 levels for the first nine months of 2000.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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