New sanctions against rogue landlords and more stringent property inspection rules are set to be approved by the government in the weeks ahead.
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy TD announced in his speech to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis that the new rules, which will form part of the Residential Tenancies Bill, will be published in the coming weeks and should be passed by the Dail before Christmas, to come into effect early in the New Year. The new sanctions will impose tougher sanctions, including new fines, on landlords found to be abusing the system by breaching rent rules.
The legislation will increase the powers of the Residential Tenancies Board, allowing the board to investigate properties without a complaint or a third-party notice. Landlords have been accused of exploiting loopholes in existing rules in order to charge higher rents. This includes abusing a clause which allows them to ask tenants to move out of properties if they plan to perform renovations. Some landlords have then performed minor works on properties before moving in new tenants at increased rental rates.
Mr Murphy conceded that the existing rent pressure zones, which limit rent rate increases to 4%, were not working as well as the government had hoped.
This year’s budget increased funding to the Tenancies Board by 67%, which will be used to provide more staff to monitor and inspect the standards and conditions of rental properties.
Recent rent figures have shown that rental rates are continuing to rise at record levels, having risen by 11.3% nationally over the last year. Rates in Dublin are significantly higher now than they were at the height of the Celtic Tiger in 2006.
Mr Murphy said that a single piece of legislation will not put an end to the housing crisis but argued that the government cannot leave housing to the whims of the market. He added that between 18,000 and 20,000 new houses will be built by the end of this year.