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Tenants to be asked to bid on property if landlord sells as independent value plan is abandoned

Government planned to have the legislation in place by the summer, but it has now been pushed out to autumn.

WHERE A NOTICE to quit is issued to a tenant, a landlord will be obliged to simultaneously invite the renter to make a bid to purchase the property within 90 days, under the government’s First Right of Refusal legislation.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will today update Cabinet on the progression of the legislation, which was promised when the government lifted the eviction ban in March. 

The aim was to have legislation to give tenants first right of refusal to purchase a property when it is put forward for sale by their landlord passed by the time the Dáíl rises this week, but the bill will now not progress until September. 

The opposition has been critical of the delay, describing it as “very serious” and leaving renters vulnerable. 

When the measure was initially announced, the minister suggested that an independent valuation would be sought and if the tenant could pay that asking price, the property would be sold to them.

In France, the tenant has a right of first refusal to buy the property and takes priority over other buyers to buy the house. It is understood that officials investigated such a measure, but have abandoned such an approach. 

It is understood that detailed work has been ongoing in conjunction with the office of the Attorney General with the implementation of the legislation described as a “complex task”. 

Under its new guise, the proposed legislation suggests that if the landlord proceeds to put the house on the market and receives a higher bid, then they would be obliged to invite the tenant to make a further bid equal to the sale price they are willing to agree with the third party. They would also be obliged to accept the matching bid from the tenant.

“The Government are conscious at all times in bringing forward legislation such as this, that it does not want any unintended consequences, for example, causing delays to the conveyancing process.

“The Government is also required to ensure, when formulating legislation, that it can withstand legal challenge. These matters and more have been considered in detail by the Department and the Attorney General,” said a source. 

housing-minister-darragh-obrien-during-the-official-opening-of-118-new-cost-rental-homes-in-west-dublin-some-74-of-the-homes-are-in-the-kilcarbery-grange-scheme-in-clondalkin-and-another-44-are-in-p Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

They stressed that tenants are already availing of opportunities to purchase or indeed to remain as long-term tenants in their home under the current measures which are in place such as the Tenant in Situ Scheme, the Cost Rental Tenant in Situ Scheme and the expanded First Home Scheme for Tenants who receive a Notice to Quit.

Landlords are already choosing to sell homes directly to tenants and Local Authorities, they indicated, adding that there is no impediment to this.

Opposition criticism over delays

Taking to Twitter yesterday, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said it wasn’t surprising that the legislation was being pushed out and not being delivered as promised before the summer break. 

He said it was another “hastily announced scheme” by the minister which is now being delayed as officials work out the details.

“Meanwhile, renters are at ever greater risk of rent hikes, eviction and homelessness,” he said.  

A Sinn Féin motion, to be debated today, calls on government to introduce a three-year ban on rent increases, introduce a refundable tax credit to put a month’s rent back in every private renter’s pocket, and deliver  an emergency response to stem the rise in homelessness.

Ó Broin said the longer this government is in power, the worse things will get. 

“After 12 years of a Fine Gael government, propped up by Fianna Fáil for seven years, people cannot find an affordable place to rent or buy. 

“Rents continue to spiral out of control and every month the record for the number of men, women and children in homelessness is broken.

“It’s time for change. Renters need a break. It is time for a government that is genuinely committed to tackling these issues,” he said. 

Labour leader and housing spokesperson Ivana Bacik has also expressed concern, stating that news that the range of “hastily compiled measures” for renters announced when the eviction ban was lifted will now not be implemented until the autumn is a “very serious delay”.

“It seems now that more than six months will have elapsed between the lifting of the eviction ban and the introduction of measures like a first refusal scheme for renters when their landlord is selling up.

“Indeed, it is deeply concerning to hear that a right to an independent valuation of a property may be abandoned entirely. Without independent, transparent valuations, the first refusal scheme will be doomed to fail. Renters must be assured that any first refusal scheme will be fair,” she said. 

In press conferences, the minister had promised previously that this scheme would be in place before the summer recess, she said. 

“As the final sitting days of the Oireachtas approach us, he has utterly failed in this commitment,” said Bacik. 

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