Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice, Deputy Jim O’Callaghan has proposed a deposit secure scheme to protect tenants from fraudulent lettings. Deputy O’Callaghan said the proposal was particularly timely given the huge numbers of students seeking accommodation ahead of the 2019/20 academic year.

Deputy O’Callaghan explained, “At the crux of this proposal is the need to ensure tenants are protected from fraudsters who want to swindle them out of their hard-earned deposits. This matter has been raised by Fianna Fáil for over a year now and our Housing Spokesperson has called for a deposit protection scheme at the Oireachtas Housing Committee. Yet the Government still turns a blind eye.

“The deposit secure scheme will allow tenants to pay their security deposits using pre-paid money orders. The money orders cannot be cashed by landlords for a period of seven days. Where a letting turns out to be a fraudulent letting, the tenant can cancel the order and get their money back. If the letting is genuine, the money order can be cashed by the landlord after seven days.

“I represent a constituency with many people in rented accommodation, including both students and working people. In recent years, one consequence of the Government’s failing housing policy has been that tenants face a desperate struggle to find accommodation. This is most acute for student tenants when CAO first-round offers are made. The extreme shortage in rental accommodation has led to them being exposed to fraud by people who are falsely posing as landlords.

“In some instances, fraudsters obtain access to a property for a short period, then pose as the landlord and advertise the property as being available for rent. They collect multiple deposits from desperate tenants and then disappear.

“This is a serious criminal offence which I know the Gardaí are trying to address. What I am proposing is a way to stop the fraud in the first place. The fraudsters depend on collecting cash fast and then disappearing immediately. In cases where a letting turns out to be fraudulent, the deposit secure scheme will allow a tenant to stop the payment and recover the money. The scheme will also protect genuine landlords because a money order is a more secure method of receiving payment than a cheque.

“Should any disputes arise in relation to the halting of a transaction, this can be referred to the dispute-resolution mechanisms of the Residential Tenancies Board.

“I have written to the Union of Students in Ireland and Banking and Payments Federation Ireland to seek their views on the proposal. I have the support of my Fianna Fáil Party colleagues and intend to publish the necessary legislation during the Dáil autumn session.

“The best kind of criminal justice measure is one that stops crime before it happens. The deposit secure scheme will stop deposit fraud and protect tenants,” concluded Deputy O’Callaghan.