A new Bill coming before the Dáil this week has the potential to address three major issues of concern to Galway renters - security of tenure, affordable rents, and quality of rental accommodation - but only if it achieves cross party support.
This is the view of Labour Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, who was speaking as Labour’s Renters’ Rights Bill, was introduced into the Dáil this week, which seeks to introduce a series of rights which are standard in many other European countries.
The Bill focusses on strengthening renters’ rights and security; making the cost of rent affordable in the long term, and ensuring rented properties function as quality homes that renters can make their own.
Renters in Galway
“Renters in Galway are already struggling with the high cost of living and can often barely afford to make ends meet, yet alone save for a deposit to buy their own home,” said Cllr McNelis [pictured above]. “Renters need a break and the Government needs to realise people are renting homes, not investment opportunities.”
The former mayor said that in his experience of speaking with people on this issue, the main issues facing renters are security of tenure, rents and deposits, and quality of rental accommodation.
“We know unaffordable rents are crippling renters in Galway,” he said. “There are things that need to be dealt with to make renting more affordable for all. I have been particularly struck by the many single people renting, for small studios that they can’t quite make feel like home. More than 400,000 people in Ireland live alone, and Labour’s Bill would take account of this, in particular by ending the rogue practice of landlords demanding more than one month’s rent for deposits.”
Aims of Renters’ Rights Bill
The Bill proposes to limiting the situations in which a landlord can end a tenancy, through banning ‘no fault’ evictions; removing the grounds which allow landlords to end a tenancy on the basis they intend to sell the property within three months; limit a landlords ability to evict renters to move in their own family member, by restricting this to spouses, civil partners, or children; and prevent landlords from evicting tenants for renovations where “no reasonable measures can be taken to maintain the dwelling fit for human habitation”.
“There is a power imbalance between renters and landlords,” said Cllr McNelis. “Landlords can charge what they want with very little transparency expected of them.”
The Bill will also seek to ensure the private residential tenancies register provides clarity for renters, so that information on a dwelling will include the number and duration of previous tenancies and any refurbishment works which may have been undertaken.
Pets and furniture
“We need this type of transparency to see what works have been carried out to justify any increases in rent,” said Cllr McNelis. “It would also end the practice of landlords seeking to bypass rules around rent pressure zones on the basis that there have allegedly been substantial renovations to the property. This Bill would refer all such cases to the Residential Tenancies Board, giving more power to renters.”
Labour’s Bill would give renters the right to opt for an unfurnished home, for the same rent, allowing a renter to bring in their own furniture to a dwelling. The Bill would also remove blanket bans on pet ownership for renters.
“This Bill will put people at the heart of our housing strategy,” said Cllr McNelis, “and give power back to renters and away from landlords.”