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Sinn Féin Launch Bill to Tackle Rental ‘Loophole’ in Carrigaline

Writes Ciaran Dineen

Sinn Féin has recently published legislation to tackle a rental ‘loophole’ that has been a point of much contention for the past number of years in the Carrigaline Local Electoral Area (LEA).

The matter surrounds the designation of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) across the district and an issue that arose first in 2017, that has continued to exist to this day. In 2017, the then Ballincollig-Carrigaline LEA was designated as an RPZ but during this time, boundary drawings meant that the southern side of Carrigaline, along with Crosshaven and Ballygarvan were part of the Bandon-Kinsale LEA, which was not afforded the same rental protection.

In 2019, the maps were re-drawn as part of the May 2019 Local Elections, with all of Carrigaline, Crosshaven and Ballygarvan forming part of the currently existing, Carrigaline LEA. Despite this sensible realignment, the RPZ was never extended to facilitate the new areas that had previously missed out on the designation. The result of this is that despite being in the same district and LEA, some parts of Carrigaline continue to lack the RPZ status, while the same can be said for Ballygarvan and Crosshaven.

Rent Pressure Zones are located in parts of the country where rents are highest and rising, and where households have the greatest difficulty finding affordable accommodation. They are intended to moderate the rise in rents in these areas and create a stable and sustainable rental market that allows landlord and tenants to plan financially for their future.

Pic: Deputy Donnchadh O'Laoghaire with Eoghan Fahy, Sinn Féin local area representative.

In 2021 the Government had to change their approach around the use of RPZs, which in the middle part of the year capped rent increases at an annual rate of 4%, before this was replaced on 16 July 2021, with rent increases in RPZs currently prohibited from exceeding general inflation as recorded in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP). This was then subsequently adapted so that the new annual rate will now be capped at 2% should inflation rise above this figure.

While the change in legislation has benefited many in the Carrigaline LEA, there continues to be a major and obvious divide within the district itself as a large percentage remain without any rental protection. This is despite numerous attempts to change the situation since the boundary alteration in 2019 and dating as far back as the original designation for the Ballincollig-Carrigaline district made in 2017.

In response to the situation Sinn Féin, and their elected representative in Cork South Central, Donnchadh O’Laoghaire TD, have indicated that they are seeking to publish legislation through the adoption of the Local Government and Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (Carrigaline Rent Pressure Zone) Bill 2021.

The Bill’s aim is to ensure that where a substantial area of a local electoral area is prescribed as a rent pressure zone, the local electoral area shall be prescribed as a rent pressure zone in its entirety.

Speaking to The Carrigdhoun on the matter, Deputy O’Laoghaire said, “most of county Cork, and all the City is covered by Rent Pressure Zones. This is meant to keep rent increases to the level of inflation. These are not perfect and we would prefer a rent freeze, but it does prevent a landlord asking for whatever rent increase they want. But due to a bizarre loophole, however, the part of Carrigaline south of the Owenabue, Ballygarvan, and Crosshaven, are not included. This has been raised with Ministers back since 2018, and regularly by myself, as well as local councillors. However we have had no progress, despite the Department acknowledging that the loophole existed, and that Minister promised to address it.”

He went on to add that while it is unusual to have a piece of legislation for a specific area, the seriousness of the situation left the Deputy with “no choice, as it is clear the law needs to be changed”.

He continued, “I will be tabling this legislation in the coming weeks and I hope we can debate it in the short run. It is incredible that this loophole has been allowed to exist for so long and that 1200 renters (source- residential tenancies board) in the area can still face whatever rent increase the landlord decides. There is nothing to stop a landlord increasing rent on a tenant in these areas by 3 or 400 euro in one go. Ultimately, we need a rent freeze, but some form of control for everyone in the area would be a good start.”

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