Rent Freeze is Legal, Constitutional & Necessary – Kelly

Alan Kelly TD
02 March 2020

Labour Party TD for Tipperary, Alan Kelly, has released legal advice he received as Minister for Housing on the constitutionality of a rent freeze.

Deputy Kelly said:

“A nationwide rent freeze is entirely constitutional. There is no doubt about this legally. It can be done through extending the period under which rent reviews are possible preventing rent increases for tenants in future.

“The legal advice I was given as Housing Minister in 2015 by both the then Attorney General and senior counsel proves this beyond doubt. 

“Long leases are the norm in commercial property. I believe this advice will assist the political system come to a decision and provide progress for renters.

“The flip flopping from Fianna Fáil on this issue is infuriating. Fine Gael have ignored this advice because it doesn’t suit them or their interests.

“When Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil tell the public that a rent freeze isn’t possible, don’t take their word for it. 

“While the State cannot direct landlords to set individual prices, both the Dáil and Seanad have the legislative power to regulate the frequency of rent reviews. This gives rise to an effective rent freeze.

“This means, as a temporary measure, we can easily extend the time period under which rent reviews are allowed and this delays future rent increases for a temporary period. It is easily achievable under the constitution to legally set this period to three years. There is no need for a referendum.

“The measure, to satisfy the constitutional parameters must be proportionate to the housing emergency. We all know how severe that is.

“We must act quickly as the speculation and equivocation surrounding this is encouraging landlords to use any means necessary to increase costs for tenants.

“We should all be clear that this as a measure prevents people from falling into homelessness. It does not in and of itself lead to a reduction in homeless numbers. So other measures are required alongside it including aggressive investment in housing provision.

“This is certainly within the remit of the Dáil and Seanad and should be done as soon as possible. It will create immediate security and certainty for residential tenants.

“When the Dáil resumes on Thursday, it is inevitable that a Government will not be formed, but that does not mean that elected members of the Dáil should just sit on their hands. A Select Committee on the Housing Crisis with a representative from each Dáil grouping should be formed to turnaround a cross-party report on short-term measures to tackle the escalating problems in the rental market.”

ENDS

Legal advice approved by the Attorney General received in October 2015 by the then Minister for Housing, Alan Kelly stated: Length of interference with protected property rights can be a factor in determining whether such interference is justifiable and the duration selected for legislative reform should be supported by a clear policy rationale and extensive market analysis to ensure it will be found reasonable, proportional and minimally invasive of established property rights. Ultimately, the duration is a matter of policy – if the length selected can be objectively justified and supported by cogent evidence, then it should be defensible as a proportionate measure.

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