Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle, Ciara Ferguson, says the Bill "has the potential to improve the quality, safety and lives of tenants living within our private rented sector"
Two Foyle MLAs have welcomed progress on legislation that could improve the lives and rights of tenants in Derry living privately-rented accommodation.
Sinn Féin's Ciara Ferguson and the SDLP's Mark H Durkan were commenting after the Private Tenancies Bill passed its second stage on the Assembly floor at Stormont.
The Bill was brought forward by Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, and within it includes proposals to set a limited on tenancy deposits, limit rent increases to one every 12 months, extend the notice period given by a landlord to tenants and make landlords provide smoke and carbon dioxide detectors as well as making regular electrical checks.
Ms Ferguson said: “This legislation has the potential to improve the quality, safety and lives of tenants living within our private rented sector.
“It was a privilege to give my maiden speech on behalf of the Foyle constituency on this important piece of legislation, which will seek to better the quality of life of citizens living in what is now the second largest housing sector in the north.
“This bill aims to extend protection from evictions, improve electrical safety standards, provide for fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and better energy efficiency and insulation which will result in lower fuel costs for tenants.
“It will also tackle extortionate rental deposits and to outlaw hikes in rent prices throughout 12-month tenancy agreements.
“This is crucial work because housing is a fundamental human right which ultimately provides the building blocks for people’s health, educational and work opportunities, security, stability and relationships alongside social cohesion within our communities, and so much more.”
SDLP Housing Spokesperson Mark H Durkan was pleased with the Bill's progress and said the protection was needed now more than ever given the financial fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and continued pressures on the housing sector.
He said: “The past 18 months have underscored the value of housing and the central role that it plays for all of us.
“It is the starting point from which people and families build their lives; making for happy, thriving communities. It’s essential therefore that action is taken to ensure all types of tenancies are protected.
“The Private Rented Sector across these islands has grown exponentially in recent years with the North experiencing the greatest level growth.
“To date there has been no specific legislation in place to protect private renters, many of whom have been pushed into the sector given the lack of social housing stock.
“The bulk of the Private Rented Sector consists of young families mostly lone parent households.
“Having spoken with Housing Rights in recent weeks, they have attested to the fact that a disproportionate number of calls to their helpline is from private renters experiencing housing stress.
“While I welcome emergency housing legislation introduced by the Minister, it’s clear that such provisions must be made permanent.
“Protections such as this will play an important role in the months ahead as the economic fallout of the pandemic unfolds and we come to terms with the pressures being placed on an already struggling sector.
“This is a much-needed piece of legislation- not before time, affording individuals and families who rent privately with safeguards and security of tenure. It will provide a first step of many needed to improve the safety, security and overall quality within the Private Rented Sector.
“I look forward to informing the progress of this vital piece of work.”
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