9 August 2001 Edition

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Rent control back on the housing agenda


What is the one word not to be raised with landlords in the private rented sector? It is rent control. Mention of this leads to dire warnings of investors leaving the market, not enough supply of accommodation, no refurbishment of dwellings and just general potential chaos in the housing market. However, the beginning of August marks also the beginning of the last period of a 20-year rent control experiment in the 26 Counties.

Next July, nearly 1,500 tenants will have to face the rigours of market rents after two decades of fixed rents. The 1982 Housing Act gave special protection to a small group of private sector tenants who had previously been on long leases and had effectively spent a lifetime in the same dwelling.

Today, many of these dwellings are in dilapidated condition, as landlords sit out their low rent tenants and their families, waiting to revamp and sell properties, many of which are in prime locations.

While the Housing Act of 1982 was a stopgap measure and the Department of the Environment is looking for ways to assist those whose existing tenancy agreements are set to expire, it still raises the issue of why rent control is such a pariah in the private supply of accommodation?

Last year's Commission on the Private Rented Sector ended up not just ignoring this issue but any real progress on affirming the rights of tenants while also failing to bring forward proposals to curtail landlords' arbitrary rights to raise rents.

With a year to go before the expiry of the 1982 Act, the government has ample time to come up with new legislation that would cover all tenants' rights and stop profiteering and exploitation in the private rented market.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1