Landlords were ripe for mugging on property levy

ONE of the last acts of the current crazy government before it exited the stage for a long summer break was to impose a €200 levy on every second and subsequent housing unit in the state.

Desperate to extort ever more money from the citizenry under any pretext whatever, this measure, they told us, is to fund the activities of local authorities, ie, administration of parking fines, towaway schemes, car pounds, fines for illegal dumping, planning enforcement and so on.

All too aware that public servants and other groups are highly organised and refusing to pay any more to our incompetent rulers, they looked around for easy targets and saw that property-owners were ripe for mugging.

Landlords, in particular, have always had a bad press in this country. The term itself conjures up images of rack-renting and of poor, defenceless people being thrown onto the side of the road in former times. Only those who willfully refuse to grow up do not see that times have changed. While most local authorities have failed miserably in their statutory obligation to provide adequate social housing for disadvantaged people, the private landlord has stepped into the breach. This is not the place for long lists of statistics, but to anyone interested in these matters I recommend Housing in Contemporary Ireland by Michelle Norris and Declan Redmond, published by the Institute of Public Administration.

There they will find much evidence that the private rental sector is a cheap option in the provision of housing by local authorities.

If this levy were an isolated incident of unfairness, it might be tolerable. It is not. The supplementary budget last April was particularly severe on property-owners. Among its savage measures amounting to a shakedown, all property-owners were subjected to a reduction in mortgage interest relief, an increase in capital gains tax, increases in capital acquisition tax, a reduction in the threshold of inheritance tax and rent supplement reductions. Prior to that, we had, courtesy of the Green wing of government, a legal requirement for building energy rating certification and ridiculous new measures on standards of accommodation which have little justification and bear no relation to standards imposed in other countries.

This measure is a blunt instrument, allowing for no exceptions regardless of individual circumstances. A huge oversupply of property is the direct result of government policies where construction grants and tax incentives were handed out indiscriminately for the past 20 years, combined with little or no regulation of bank lending.

Existing housing units are now very difficult, virtually impossible in some cases, to fill. So could anyone tell me from what income is this levy to be paid?

Statistics tell us the vast majority of landlords own one or two houses and are, in many cases, supplementing the purchase and maintenance of their investment property from other income. Most of them see it as part of their prudent provision for their old age.

Meanwhile, another arm of the state, the propaganda mill, unburdened by such statistics, takes advantage of the current confusion between bankers with large severance payments, major property developers, and lumps in ordinary people who happen to have a second home either through inheritance or hard work.

Madness. Like so much else going on right now.

Maureen Moran

Lough Villas

The Lough

Cork

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