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'Grossly unfair': Landlords are not happy about new plans to penalise vacant property owners

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy announced this week that penalties may be introduced for owners of vacant properties.

File photo of vacant properties in a ghost estate in Co Leitrim. (Dated 2011)
File photo of vacant properties in a ghost estate in Co Leitrim. (Dated 2011)
Image: Mark Stedman

NEW PLANS TO penalise owners of vacant properties have been met with resistance from landlord groups, with one organisation warning the Government to be “very cautious and wary” about interference in the sector.

The Irish Property Owners’ Association (IPOA) said it had a growing concern with the Government’s plans to tackle housing issues, including its measures for dealing with vacant homes.

“The Government have not been particularly good at handling issues in the private rental sector over many years and the record is there for all to see,” IPOA chairman Stephen Faughnan said in a note to members.

They have failed to be realistic and pro-active in bringing forward serious implementable measures to keep people in their homes and to ensure that other prospective homes are not left idle.

The IPOA was responding to comments made on Monday by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy that people who operate long-term vacant properties may be penalised in the future for not having them occupied.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Murphy outlined measures to bring Ireland’s large stock of vacant properties into use as a measure for tackling the country’s housing crisis.

The minister said he hopes to introduce incentives for property owners with a second home lying idle, “but also a penalty scheme… so we can get those properties back into use,” he said.

Murphy also wants his department to be given increased Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers.

He said he was putting homeowners with a second vacant house “on notice that changes are coming… penalties are coming”.

Response 

Also commenting on the proposed measures, director of the Residential Landlords Association of Ireland Fintan McNamara said members would be “very concerned about penalties”.

“If someone is penalised if their house is not being let out that is grossly unfair,” McNamara said.

He said there are many reasons why a person might not want to let out a vacant property, and that measures to incentivise landlords to do so would be welcomed.

“They should try out incentives first and see how it goes,” he said.

However, McNamara did say he agreed with penalties for owners that leave properties vacant and derelict with no one caring for them over a long period of time.

Vacant stock

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, spokesperson for the Simon Community Niamh Randall said that any plans to address vacant housing stock needed to be “ambitious”.

“We need to ensure that any plans to address vacant homes are really, really ambitious,” said Randall.

She said that Minister Murphy’s comments on Monday didn’t give enough details on the penalties that may be introduced for vacant homes.

Census 2016 identified 80,000 vacant homes across the country. However, the minister said many of these may have been empty due to a house being in the process of being sold or let, adding the figure could be closer to 25,000.

Charity officials and opposition politicians strongly criticised Fine Gael last week, after Census 2016 data showed that homelessness among adults and children has risen significantly over the past six years.

There were 6,906 people recorded as being homeless in Ireland during Census Night last year.

Latest Housing Department figures show that there were 4,972 adults with 2,708 children staying in State-funded homeless accommodation across the country in June.

Read: ‘Penalties are coming’: Minister puts householders with vacant second home on notice

Read: Census 2016: Nearly one in five homeless adults have a job

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