The rental sector has always catered for a diverse range of households, but increasingly rental housing is becoming a more permanent home for a growing number of both individuals and families.
The key actions set out in this Plan will build on the structures already in place to support the rental sector in Ireland.
Ireland is relatively unique internationally in having a dedicated regulatory body for the rental sector – the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) – providing tenancy registration, advice, and dispute resolution services. It will be important to ensure that the regulatory framework and supporting policy for the rental sector is fit for purpose in terms of the role envisaged for the sector in the future – one that is attractive for tenants and landlords, offering appropriate supports and protections for both.
To do this, DHPCLG will publish a strategy for the rental sector by Q4 2016. This strategy will contain a range of actions focused on:
• Security – bringing greater certainty to tenants and landlords;
• Supply – maintaining existing levels of rental stock and encouraging investment in additional supply;
• Standards – improving the quality and management of rental accommodation; and
• Services – broadening and strengthening the role and powers of the RTB to more effectively provide their services and empower tenants and landlords.
Rental housing, because of its flexibility, is particularly important in enabling the housing market to adapt to the changing needs of the population. In Ireland, the rental sector has traditionally been regarded as a residual sector in which households, who would prefer either to own their own home privately or access permanent social housing, must serve time on their way to their true tenure of choice. This has to change if Ireland is going to develop a truly affordable, stable and sustainable housing sector.
Rental housing provides a flexible housing option to meet rising demand and can promote better alignment with the more mobile labour market of 21st Century Ireland. It also aligns with changes in people’s behaviour in terms of house purchase, making it easier for individuals and families to pursue job opportunities or adapt their accommodation to changing family circumstances quickly. A well-developed rental sector can reduce the macro-economic risks of an over-reliance on home ownership. Countries with relatively large private rented sectors, such as Germany and Switzerland, have been better insulated.
The rental sector in Ireland has doubled in size over the course of the last two decades. Almost one fifth of the population now lives in the rental sector. Growth in the sector has been driven by a range of factors including a reducing reliance on home ownership as a tenure of choice, demographic factors including inward EU migration, decreasing household size, and increasing rates of new household formation. The contribution made by the rented sector in delivering social housing supports for low-income households through long-term leasing initiatives and, more recently, the Housing Assistance Payment, have also been key factors.
In parallel with the growth in the rented sector, Ireland’s traditional reliance on home ownership, driven and supported by easy access to mortgage finance and a range of incentives that have been offered to households going back to the foundation of the State, has been reducing over time. While Ireland still has one of the highest rates of owner occupation in the OECD, there is an increasing acceptance that a viable and sustainable rental sector is a key building block for a modern economy.
However, the rental sector in Ireland is not yet a truly viable or sustainable sector. Severe supply pressures, rising rents, concerns regarding security of tenure, regulatory treatment of encumbered buy-to-let properties, examples of poor accommodation standards and a shortage of professional institutional landlords or other landlords with long-term investment plans all act as impediments to delivering a strong and modern rental sector that offers real choice for individuals and households, while contributing to economic growth.
The Government is committed to developing a real and meaningful strategy for the rental sector to enable it to develop to its full potential. This strategy, to be completed by Q4 2016, will chart a path forward, offering a vision for what role we want and expect the sector to play over the short, medium and long term. Incorporating measures already under development, including the new Deposit Protection Scheme, it will contain a range of ambitious measures which the Government will pursue in partnership with the RTB, other stakeholders and agencies in the housing arena.
It will be a strategy developed with the needs of both tenants and landlords in mind.
The strategy will be structured around the following four key areas: security, standards, supply and services. The following are some of the specific measures that will be considered under these headings:
• The potential role of new mechanisms for both setting and reviewing rent, similar to some continental European models, that reflect local market rents and are informed by comprehensive and up-to-date market data;
• Legislative measures to protect tenants affected by landlords’ arrears (encumbered buy-to-lets); and
• The scope for a move to indefinite leases, replacing the Part IV four-year tenancy, perhaps with incentives for landlords to waive their right to terminate a tenancy in the event of the sale of the property.
• Provision of mixed tenure development – including market rental – by local authorities and AHBs using HFA or other funding;
• A build-to-rent model that can deliver additional supply towards the overall target supply of 25,000 units per annum; and
• An affordable rental programme
Standards• Implementation of new standards following on from the 2016 review process underway; and
• A move towards enforcement of quality standards in rental accommodation on a regional basis.
Services• Reform of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), as a regulator, to improve services for tenants and landlords, with a specific focus on:
o accelerated dispute resolution timeframes;
o streamlined eviction process for very problematic tenancies (for example, extreme arrears cases);
o greater focus on non-adversarial dispute resolution and prevention through education, awareness and support;
o greater awareness by tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities; and
o restructuring of the RTB fee structure to reflect trends in the rental sector and allow the RTB to plan properly for the delivery of a broader range of services.
Early Legislative Actions New legislative provisions governing tenancy terminations will be brought forward in the Autumn for early enactment. These will include actions to prevent a future recurrence of situations which have arisen, where large numbers of residents in a single development are served with termination notices simultaneously. While it is not intended to dilute the right of landlords to sell their property (subject to the requirements currently set out in the Act), it is proposed that where a landlord proposes to sell 20 or more units within a single development, the sale would be subject to the existing tenants remaining in situ, other than in exceptional circumstances.
Other early actions will be taken to enhance the RTB’s enforcement and dispute resolution powers. Specifically, it is proposed to amend the Residential Tenancies Acts to accelerate dispute resolution timeframes (by reducing the time period for appeals), restructure the administration process and provide for the possibility of one-person tribunals for certain categories of cases. We will also examine the model for resourcing enforcement within the RTB to allow for more enforcement cases to be taken in the future.
Standards in Rental Accommodation
The current minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, as amended, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These regulations specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as, structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light, as well as safety of gas and electrical supply. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations.
Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations currently rests with the relevant local authority, supported by DHPCLG via a dedicated stream of funding (provided from part of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the RTB).
To ensure that the standards reflect the requirements of a modern rental market, a review of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, as amended, has been initiated and a stakeholder consultation process is underway. This review will be concluded in Autumn 2016.
Source Irish Landlord