Caution urged with changes to nursing home Fair Deal scheme

A Sligo/Leitrim TD says caution is needed in implementing proposed changes to the Fair Deal Scheme concerning the renting out of properties owned by those in nursing homes.

Sligo/Leitrim Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny says it’s important to ensure the changes would not result in those people being taken advantage of or becoming victims of elder abuse.

In a moved that is expected to alleviate the housing shortage, it’s been estimated that up to three thousand homes could become available if families are allowed keep rents in situations where an elderly homeowner is in care under the Fair Deal scheme.

Under the proposal, income raised from family homes being rented out while their owner is in nursing home care would be exempt from contributions to the Fair Deal scheme.

The move would apply to rental income raised from any tenant staying in a person’s principle residence while they are in care.

Legislation which imposed a three-year cap on annual contributions to Fair Deal from the sale of a family home was recently signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.

Now, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is hoping his plan to exclude rental income from the scheme can be introduced as an amendment to existing legislation when the Dáil returns after the summer recess.

This could mean people in the scheme will be able to rent out their main residence while in care – and keep all the revenue raised.

Deputy Kenny says there could be benefits from the proposal.

There are different estimates for how many homes may be vacant because a person is currently in State nursing home care.

A review carried out by the Housing Agency and the Department of Health in 2017 estimated around 9,300 family homes may be lying vacant while their owner is in State care.

Meanwhile, the Revenue Commissioner has said that there were 7,800 claims for an exemption from the Local Property Tax due to illness in 2020.

It has also been suggested within Government that the number of homes which could be freed up by the rent exemption could be closer to 4,800 when other factors such as homes in probate are taken into account.

However, concerns concerns have been raised over the potential for family members to prematurely put older people in care so they can rent out their home.

It’s a concern also raised by Deputy Kenny.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Paul Gallagher is working on the updated Fair Deal legislation with the aim of having the changes introduced before the end of the year.