LABOUR CONFERENCE: Proposals could force landlords to freeze rents

Landlords could be forced to effectively freeze rents for “three or four years” and be stopped from increasing rates above consumer price index rises under new plans to tackle the housing crisis.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly outlined plannedmeasures to address “the scandalous increases in rent”, but insisted that they do not amount to legally questionable rent controls.

Under the moves, which he said are likely to be implemented before the end of this year, landlords and tenants will be forced to sign up to a renting “framework” to address unreasonable rises for three to four years.

The proposals will see rents tied to the consumer price index, among other issues, so that the cost of private accommodation cannot be increased unless the landlord can prove there is a clear reason, for example room extensions.

While the proposed framework will be compulsory, it will still be up to the landlord and tenant to negotiate the initial price.

Mr Kelly said that the measures are not rent controls — a policy which is fraught with legal difficulty and has previously delayed attempts to calm the bubble.

Labour’s deputy leader had earlier told delegates there is a serious problem in the market as “landlords feel they can get away with increases that are absolutely scandalous and we need to bring an end to that”.

However, speaking to reporters he said his plans to tackle the issue — which he described as “probably the biggest” problem in his portfolio — may also benefit landlords, saying it would allow house owners genuinely investing money into a well-looked after property to be “rewarded”.

The policy suggestion comes as the average national rent nationwide has risen by almost €150, from €790 a month to €933.

NO CONTEST

Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly said it would be “insane” for him to run against his party’s “popular” leader, Joan Burton, despite confirming he wants to assume her role “at some point in the future”.

Suggestions have grown that the environment minister could be a rival to the Tánaiste should Labour continue to fall in the polls or suffer an election disaster. However, the Tipperary TD said another leadership race less than a year after Eamon Gilmore stepped down is not in his plans.

“No absolutely not, that’s insane, no way. No,” he said when asked if a race is in the offing.

“People ask you do you want to be leader of the Labour Party. I came to my first conference when I was eight or nine, it’s in my DNA. How do you think I’m going to answer it?

“I can do three things; say yes, no, or I can waffle. The latter I don’t do too much of, I hope. Yes, at some point in the future [I want to be leader], but that is not in the near future.

“Joan Burton has my full support. I think she’s doing a fantastic job.”

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