'Grossly unfair': Landlords aren't happy about plans to penalise owners of vacant homes

The government has flagged a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to making more houses available.

By Fora Staff

NEW PLANS TARGETING owners of vacant properties will be met with resistance from landlords, with one group warning the government to be “very cautious and wary” about interfering 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 has previously clashed with the government over rent controls, with the group threatening to hit tenants with new fees following that announcement – a move which earned it a dressing down for potential anti-competitive conduct.

The group’s latest comments come after Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy earlier this week said that the owners of properties left vacant for extended periods could be penalised in the future.

He said there would be a “carrot and stick” approach, with incentives also in place for those with second homes lying idle. Murphy also wants his department to be given increased compulsory purchase order powers.

Response 

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

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

McNamara said there are many reasons why a person might not want to let out a vacant property and that incentives should be tried first to get homes into use.

However he agreed there should be penalties for owners who left properties vacant and not cared for over long periods of time.

Vacant stock

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 that the figure could be closer to 25,000.

Charity officials and opposition politicians strongly criticised Fine Gael last week after census 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 last year. Latest Housing Department figures show that total had risen to 4,972 adults and 2,708 children staying in state-funded homeless accommodation across the country in June.

Written by Cormac Fitzgerald and Peter Bodkin.

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