Séamus Woulfe addresses Lawyers Against Homelessness event in Dublin.
Attorney General Séamus Woulfe: new legislation was “going to provide increased protections for tenants”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Landlords who raise rents higher than the legally allowed limit in rent pressure zones will be criminalised and may be forced to re-let their property at the appropriate price, the Attorney General has warned.
Séamus Woulfe SC told a Lawyers Against Homelessness (LAH) event on Thursday, hosted by Constance Cassidy SC at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, that the housing and homelessness crisis was being treated with a “seriousness of the highest order” by Government.
He pointed to “great efforts being made to address the situation”. Among measures on the way was the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill which he described as a “major piece of legislation” that would be “published shortly”.
Rent pressure zones
There had been arguments that some landlords in rent pressure zones were not complying with the rule that rents in these areas could not be increased by more than 4 per cent per year.
A series of reports have shown average rent increases in Dublin in the last year have been double the allowable limits, and individuals have told of facing increases of as much as 20 per cent.
Mr Woulfe said the legislation was “going to provide increased protections for tenants in terms of security of tenure and the rental pressure zones . . . There have been arguments that that is not being complied with by landlords and it’s going to effectively become a criminal offence to breach that legislation.”
This was the fourth occasion the LAH held this event, entry to which lawyers must pay for, to hear solicitors, barristers and judges give updates on legal issues.
All money raised goes to the Capuchin Day Centre, which provides about 700 hot meals a day, and 1,700 food parcels a week, to the poor and homeless.
Among the sponsoring legal firms on Thursday were Reddy Charlton, Byrne Wallace and BLM (Berrymans Lace Mawer).
Mr Woulfe said Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy had to “walk a careful line” between potentially criminalising landlords “in certain areas” and keeping landlords in the rental market.
“If we don’t keep landlords in the market we are going to have less rental properties and that’s not going to help the situation. So in areas like this he has to balance objectives.”