Political news

Stormont reverses rent cut amendment passed last month 'by mistake'

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

THE Stormont assembly yesterday reversed a proposed rent cut that they had previously supported, seemingly by mistake.

MLAs last month backed an amendment brought by People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll that would have forced private landlords to give tenants a 10 per cent cut in their rent.

Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey had urged MLAs not to support the amendment, but it passed on an oral vote with only the DUP opposing it.

The Private Tenancies Bill aims to strengthen rights of private tenants, by limiting rent increases and capping deposits.

But during the bill's consideration stage last month, MLAs voted for Mr Carroll's rent cut proposal, even though a majority appeared not to support it.

Ms Hargey said yesterday she had been advised that the amendment "put the whole bill outside competence" and that the legislation was at risk of falling.

DUP MLA Paul Frew said initial support for the amendment had not been a mistake and he accused Sinn Féin of "hypocrisy" ahead of the assembly election.

"No-one was asleep at the wheel," he said.

"They (Sinn Féin) were so spooked by this, they got themselves into such a muddle and the minister did one thing but the party did another."

Ms Hargey described the bill as "a good piece of legislation if it goes through".

She said she supported rent controls and was bringing forward legislation to deal with it.

Mr Carroll said he was "disgusted" by what he termed a "u-turn".

"There was a groundswell of support when Stormont backed my amendment for rent controls but minister Hargey's efforts today have scuppered it," the west Belfast MLA said.

"The Stormont establishment have banded together to advantage of landlords and disadvantage struggling tenants."

He claimed "Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and others" had originally allowed the amendment to pass "because they knew it would be too unpopular to vote against".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access