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Rent freeze is constitutional according to past legal advice, says Alan Kelly

Labour leadership candidate Alan Kelly said that he received the advice when he was housing minister.

Alan Kelly is standing to be Labour leader.
Alan Kelly is standing to be Labour leader.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP candidate Alan Kelly has published legal advice he received in 2015 which he claims shows that a rent freeze could be constitutional. 

Tipperary TD Kelly received the advice as Minister for Housing, a position he held from 2014 to 2016. 

“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,” he said today. 

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

As housing minister, Kelly introduced measures that barred landlords from increasing residential rents for two years.

The feasibility – both practically and constitutionality – of a rent freeze was a recurring issue during the general election campaign. 

Backed by Labour, alongside Sinn Féin and the smaller left-wing parties, the issue proved contentious for Fianna Fáil – it was accused of u-turning on a rent freeze after Micheál Martin said that he had received legal advice that such a measure could be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts. 

The advice, published today and approved – according to Kelly – by the then-Attorney General states that the “length of interference with protected property rights can be a factor in determining whether such interference is justifiable”. 

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. 

“If the length selected can be objectively justified and supported by cogent evidence, then it should be defensible as a proportionate measure,” the advice continues. 

Kelly, who is standing against Aodhán Ó Ríordáin to replace Brendan Howlin as leader, accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of lying about the legal obstacles to a rent freeze.

“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,” he said.

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

Kelly is calling for a Select Committee on the Housing Crisis to be formed when the Dáil meetings on Thursday so a cross-party report on immediate measures to tackle the housing crisis can be compiled. 

“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,” Kelly said. 

“There is no need for a referendum,” he added

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