Anti-social behaviour is something that effects many towns, villages and cities across Ireland. County Clare is in no way unique, but I have had a lot of contact from residents about this issue. We have seen it make local and national headlines, and this is an issue we simply have to deal with more robustly.
I took the opportunity in Dáil Éireann to express concerns in relation to private rental accommodation. The current situation is that local authorities can deal far more effectively with anti social behaviour in their controlled properties than private residents can. We must tackle that.
I am happy that a significant change soon to be introduced will allow for Residents Associations take a case on behalf of members to the PTRB. This is important – we know that intimidation is a factor in some cases of unruly neighbours and some persons who have contacted me will not go to the Gardaí or the court for fear of reprisals.
We must continue to work on this area and look to see what is best practice in other European countries. There is also an issue around rent supplement and whether or not these payments should be made without any conditions in terms of behaviour attached. I believe there should be some consequences in relation to rent allowance if there is consistent and ongoing misbehavior from those in receipt.
I want to acknowledge the good work being done in this area by Minister Jan O’Sullivan and I will be continuing to feed into policy decisions as the Bill moves through committee stage.”
Full text of Deputy Joe Carey’s Dáil Éireann script below:
Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012 (Seanad) Second Stage Speech by Joe Carey TD
The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 and 2009 provide the regulatory framework for the private rented residential sector and for the operation of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).
I welcome this amending Bill which extends the remit of the Act, to tenancies in the voluntary housing sector, streamlines and simplifies administrative processes, reduces the size of the Board, from 15 to 12 members and introduces measures to increase the take-up of mediation services.
I further welcome the fact, that the Minister, has clearly pointed out that she is prepared to include further issues in relation to housing on which this legislation could deal with at Committee stage.
There is one issue, I want to bring to the attention of the Minister and the Department in the context of this legislation.
It is the anomaly whereby the structures and tools available to the authorities in relation to dealing with anti-social behaviour in private rented accommodation are not robust enough. In some of these cases, state bodies are providing rent supplement without any vetting or investigation on prospective tenants; a blank cheque issued, so to speak. This is not the case in relation to Local Authority provided housing.
I would like to stress that there are a minority of tenancies causing serious problems, however their impact on everybody else is getting more and more significant. The situation can no longer be left unchecked and un-dealt with.
In July of this year the following notice of motion was unanimously passed by Ennis Town Council;
“That Ennis Town Council write to our Clare Oireachtas members to ask them to put in place legislation that would protect tenants in rented accommodation from unscrupulous landlords, and in turn landlords be made accountable for the behaviors of their tenants. The HSE should be instructed to view a tenancy agreement prior to sanctioning rent subsidy.”
All of our local authorities have adopted an anti-social behaviour strategy in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. The strategy applies to the administration by the council of dwellings in its own ownership, dwellings subject to rental accommodation availability agreements and tenant purchased dwellings. The strategy however does not apply to private rented accommodation and therefore the councils have no legislative powers in this regard.
Rent supplement is administered by the Community Welfare Service, which is attached to the Department of Social Protection. The Community Welfare Service is only responsible for the payment of rent supplement and is not responsible for dealing with anti-social behaviour. I realise that Rent Supplement is to be transferred to the Department of the Environment & Local Government over the next number of years. I ask that the standards applied currently in relation to Local Authority Housing be brought to bear immediately on those associated with Rent Supplement.
As it stands at the moment, Anti-social behaviour being perpetrated in private rented accommodation is a matter for the individual landlords and An Garda Siochána. I do not believe that this is robust enough.
The Gardai and indeed the landlords would say that they need the help of the people affected by the anti-social behaviour in order to do something. I can understand this perspective but it is difficult to act as a witness or complainant in the circumstances that you have to continue to live beside those that you complain about, as I have already stated the current tools available are not robust enough.
I would ask the Minister to look at best practise in relation to private rented accommodation elsewhere in Europe and how it is that you become a tenant. What are the vetting standards elsewhere?
According to the 2011 census the private rental sector houses 19% of all households. Of the 305,000 households in the private rental market, 92,000 or 31% of the market involves the rent supplement.
In broad terms, I welcome this Bill as it has been presented, but ask that the Minister, at Committee stage would revisit the legislation. With a view to applying the standards which are already in place, for local authorities in relation to their own housing stock and that these provisions be extended to private rented accommodation which is to come under remit in the near future.