The Government has been urged to incentivise tenants to move to rural areas or lift the blanket ban on bedsits instead of imposing de facto rent controls on properties.
The Irish Property Owners’ Association (IPOA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) made the comments as they said the move could cause a mass retraction of properties from the rental market — and may even breach their constitutional rights.
Under plans outlined at Labour’s party conference at the weekend but yet to be formally unveiled, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said he wants to put in place measures by the end of this year which would see rents effectively frozen for three to four years.
The move would involve landlords and tenants being forced to sign up to compulsory “framework” agreements for a set period. These would outlaw any rent rises unless genuine investment is made to a property, he said.
Mr Kelly said the approach could bridge the gap to the end of the decade, at which point he claims his department will have built 110,000 social houses to calm the market.
The deputy leader of Labour said his rent “certainty” move is not rent control.
Despite the claim, the IPOA and RLA both hit out at the proposals yesterday, insisting it is rent control under a different name.
RLA spokesman Fintan McNamara said if he was in Mr Kelly’s position, he would “remove the draconian blanket ban on bedsits” and provide incentives for people in urban areas to take up the “rural resettlement scheme” which would see them moved to homes in isolated parts of the countryside.
Housing expert Lorcan Sirr said the return of bedsits would be a return to substandard “rising damp” accommodation.
Mr McNamara said the facilities may suit students or people saving for mortgages.
IPOA spokeswoman Margaret McCormick was equally opposed to the plans, saying they could see landlords leave the market in droves and that the group will wait until the policy is published before deciding if a legal challenge on constitutional grounds is needed.
Focus Ireland’s Mike Allen welcomed the move on RTÉ Radio, noting 52 families became homeless in January because of surging rents.
However, he added that any measures need to be introduced quickly as delays could allow landlords to hike costs before a new regime is introduced.
Rent certainty rather than rent control
Despite landlords insisting the claim is untrue, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has stressed that his plans are not rent ‘control’, but rent ‘certainty’.
Rent control involves the State placing a cap on the amount a tenant pays.
However, it is fraught with legal difficulty, with Mr Kelly ruling it out last September due to “substantial” legal obstacles linked to a 1982 Supreme Court decision as it undermines a landlord’s constitutional rights.
Rent certainty instead provides medium-term assurances to landlords and tenants about their rent rates without the State saying what that price should be.
According to Mr Kelly, this can be done by making it compulsory for landlords and tenants to sign up to a framework linked to inflation which will state the rent cannot rise for three to four years unless a home is improved.
The initial price, however, will still be decided between the landlord and tenant, leading to the claim the State is not breaching landlord rights.
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