Taoiseach dismisses Labour’s rent plans

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has dismissed Labour’s ambitions to control rising rents and signalled that the Government is anxious about interfering with landlords and the property market.

In a slapdown of Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s hopes to set rents in line with inflation, the Fine Gael leader warned that the wrong interference in the market is “not something we should do”.

His comments came after the Coalition failed to agree on rent certainty measures for the budget, after disagreement between Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Mr Kelly.

Fine Gael and Labour disagree on freezing rents somehow. The stalemate comes at a time when landlords are hiking up rates, particularly in Dublin, without any regulation.

Mr Kelly had pledged earlier this year that rent certainty could be agreed where rate increases would be linked to the consumer price index. His officials, though, have always been cautious about a possible legal challenge, particularly after a 1982 ruling where the Supreme Court struck down rent control legislation which appeared to undermine landlords’ constitutional rights.

Mr Kenny went further yesterday, during leaders’ questions, and signalled the Government would not take a gamble on interfering with the rental market unless the right solution can be found.

“It is clear that interference in the market, to its detriment, is not something we should do. While people are calling for what they call clarity on rent certainty, if we interfere in the wrong way, we will make matters worse,” Mr Kenny said.

“As was pointed out by the minister for finance, we had three reports in the 1980s by Mr Peter Bacon which were supposed to sort out all of this but things actually got worse. The Government will not interfere in a way that will make things worse.”

Despite this rebuff, Mr Kelly’s officials last night insisted that rent certainty regulations for landlords were still on the table. It was still Mr Kelly’s intention to “bring proposals around rent certainty to Cabinet as soon as possible”, according to his spokesman.

Tánaiste Joan Burton also insisted the rent certainty plans were still on track.


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