The Landlords, and the Vultures, in Dail Rental Eireann? What a Shower?

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FactFind: How many current TDs own houses that they rent out?

 17th September 2022

THERE ARE 160 TDs in Dáil Éireann, all of whom are required to declare the land and properties they own, as well as any sources of income more than €2,600 that is derived from a source other than their political office.

FactFind: How many current TDs own houses that they rent out?

Public scrutiny of politicians’ ownership of housing recently ramped up after it was discovered that Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy failed to declare several of his properties on the Dáil’s register of members’ interests, leading to his resignation.

It was also discovered that others, including Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Féin TD Johnny Guirke, had failed to properly register their rental properties with the Residential Tenancies Board.

Politicians’ ownership of rental accommodation is supposed to be declared on the Dáil’s register of interests, which all TDs are legally required to fill out annually.

The last disclosure of these interests was for the entire year of 2021, and TDs were required to submit them in January of this year, before they were published in February

As such, figuring out the number of landlords who rent out houses should be easy.

However, it is not actually that straightforward and The Journal has delved into the register to determine the actual figure.

Let’s take a look.

Methodology

By collating public information, mandatory disclosures, responses from TDs and their representatives, as well as consulting Google Maps Street View images of properties, we sought to find out how many deputies in the Dáil are housing landlords.

Some deputies declared ownership of rental (or “letting”) properties, though they did not declare income from these in their interests, as required by guidelines issued to both office holders and non-office holders.

It was unclear whether this was because they were charging tenants less than €2,600 a year, or because the rental property was vacant for the year in question.

Other entries were ambiguous, and with income declared potentially referring to a property from renting it (possibly to another landlord or a commercial enterprise) or from farming it.

We cross-referenced both sections on the Dáil’s register of interests – the one declaring property interests and the one declaring rental income – and noted ambiguous entries and discrepancies.

In total, 16 TDs declared a rental property and/or rental income relating to housing for the year 2021. 

We then sent emails to 144 TDs (ie all 160 TDs minus those who declared ownership of a rental property as well as saying they had an income from being a landlord).

The 144 TDs included all those who said they had no rental property interests or income as a landlord whatsoever, as we sought to confirm that the details on their disclosures were correct.

We also sent follow-up messages to all of those who did not respond. When we received no response at all, and there was no information to determine a TD’s landlord status, we worked off the assumption that the declaration was correct.

We ultimately received many responses which allowed us to determine just how many of the Dáil’s TDs own and rent houses in Ireland.

Landlords

As mentioned above, there are a number of TDs who it can be definitively said are housing landlords from a first glance at the register of interests. 

In total, 16 TDs declared rental income relating to housing for the year 2021. 

These are: Thomas Byrne (FF), Michael Creed (FG), Pa Daly (SF), Noel Grealish (Ind), Seán Haughey (FF), Paul Kehoe (FG), Alan Kelly (LAB, lets his holiday home), James Lawless (FF), Brian Leddin (Green), Charlie McConalogue (FF), Michael Moynihan (FF), Ruairí Ó Murchú (SF, lets under the Rent-a-Room scheme), Carol Nolan (Ind), John Paul Phelan (FG), Brendan Smith (FF), and Robert Troy (FF).

A number of TDs also stated that they owned rental properties, but they didn’t declare any rental income from housing on their register of interests.

In the course of comparing declarations of rental income and ownership of properties, The Journal found eight TDs where there was a discrepancy.

On the register of interests, these eight TDs declared that they owned rental properties, but did not declare an annual income over €2,600 for these houses for 2021.

These eight TDs are: Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly (FF), the Minister for Education, Norma Foley (FF), the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF), Seán Canney (Ind), Alan Dillon (FG), Johnny Guirke (SF), Michael Healy-Rae (Ind), Matt Shanahan (Ind).

Peter Fitzpatrick (Ind) declared a house in his return that is described as “renting”, though no income above €2,600 was declared. Fitzpatrick did not respond to emails requesting clarification on his statement.

Richard Bruton’s (FG) entry on the register also lists income from “setting farmland and house”. Again, it is unclear if ‘setting’ is a typo for “letting”, but the same term is used in his previous declarations. Bruton did not respond to emails requesting clarification.

Fifteen more TDs made clear, either through their declarations or in communications with The Journal, that they owned properties which were used by themselves or their family members. These properties include second homes which are not rented out.

These are: Chris Andrews (SF), Matt Carthy (SF), Ciarán Cannon (FG), Catherine Connolly (Ind), Barry Cowen (FF), Pearse Doherty (SF), Bernard Durkan (FG), Damien English (FG), Frank Feighan (FG), Joe Flaherty (FF) – who declared he had inherited a “derelict school property” – Emer Higgins (FG), John Lahart (FF), Paul McAuliffe (FF), Imelda Munster (SF), and Leo Varadkar (FG) – who declared “private home” under the section on land.

Another twelve TDs mentioned owning just land or farmland without collecting rents: Peter Burke (FG), Jackie Cahill (FF), Michael Collins (Ind), Rose Conway-Walsh (SF), Bernard Durkan (FG), Michael Fitzmaurice (Ind), Danny Healy-Rae (Ind), Martin Heydon (FG), Claire Kerrane (SF), Michael Lowry (Ind), Michael McNamara (Ind), and Richard O’Donoghue (Ind).

Another seven only declared a constituency office they owned: James Browne (FF), Seán Fleming (FF), Micheál Martin (FF), Denis Naughten (Ind), Willie O’Dea (FF), Thomas Pringle (Ind), and David Stanton (FG).

And a further two owned some combination of the above: Cathal Crowe (FF) and Heather Humphreys (FG).

Charlie Flanagan (FG) declared a house, a constituency office, and a law office, but told The Journal he collected no rental income from these and has no declared income from sources other than political office.

Colm Burke (FG) confirmed to The Journal that he collects money for a commercial property, while Mattie McGrath (Ind) said he leases out farmland to a relative for less than €2,600.

According to their disclosures, the remaining 98 TDs do not have any or rental income or property declared (some property is exempt from this requirement, such as a primary home).

All of those who responded to The Journal’s requests for more information confirmed that their declaration was correct. None have published amendments to their disclosures.

Analysis

As you can see, it is somewhat tricky to determine what exactly constitutes a landlord: some may define it as ownership of multiple properties, while others could argue that the term only refers to those who derive a rental income from a house.

Even the process of attempting finding out TDs who do derive a rental income from ownership of a house is not that straightforward.

Some TDs say on their declarations that they own letting properties, but have not declared any rental income from these homes.

This may be down to error, or because the TD is making less than €2,600 a year, or because the house is being leased to a relative for free.

From our analysis, based only on public declarations and responses to our inquiries, there are between 24 and 26 TDs who directly own residential property for renting in the Dáil:

  • Eight declared that they owned rental properties, but did not declare an annual income over €2,600;
  • One declared ownership of a house that was “for renting” but did not declare an annual income of over €2,600;
  • One declared income from a “setting farmland and house”.

This amounts to 15% of all TDs.

Another 15 TDs listed properties that were second homes, used by themselves or their family members, while several others listed constituency offices, commercial property, holiday homes and farmland.

A further 98 TDs, including many of those who own family homes (which do not need to be declared), did not list ownership of any properties.

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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