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Attention Residential Landlords and Tenants - New Laws on Rent Freezes and Evictions

04 August 2020

The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 (the “Act”) was signed by the President of Ireland and came into force on 1 August 2020. The Act replaces the residential tenancy measures in a pre-existing law that was passed at the commencement of the COVID crisis (the “Emergency Measures Act”). We assessed the effects of that law in a previous insight available here

The Act extends restrictions on rent increases and evictions up to 10 January 2021 but only in limited circumstances and only for tenants financially impacted by COVID-19.

Summary

The Act provides protections to tenants who are in receipt of Government COVID-19 related payments and unable to pay their rent, including:

  • Longer termination notice periods for termination of tenancies based on rent arrears (90 days but no earlier than 11 January 2021) 

  • A rent freeze until 10 January 2021

The Act also repeals the blanket ban on ‘evictions’ contained in the Emergency Measures Act and replaces it with more limited restrictions. It was unclear if this blanket ban extended to commercial tenancies but the repeal of the law makes it clear that there is now no ban on evictions in the context of commercial property.

Who is protected?

The Act provides protections to tenants (including student licensees[1]), defined as “relevant person” who:

  • Are or have been on COVID-19 illness benefit at any time between 9 March 2020 and 10 January 2021, or

  • Have received the temporary wage subsidy or any other Government payment related to COVID-19 during any part of that period, including rent supplement or a supplementary welfare allowance, and 

  • As a result are unable to pay the rent due

To be protected, tenants must serve a declaration on the RTB declaring that they are a ‘relevant person’ and as a consequence there is a significant risk that the tenancy of the dwelling will be terminated by the landlord. The tenant must also send a true copy of this declaration to their landlord. It will be a criminal offence for a tenant to make a false declaration.

Longer termination notice period where termination based on rent arrears

For any tenancy where a tenant is a ‘relevant person’ and has made the ‘relevant person’ declaration, longer termination notice periods for termination on the grounds of rent arrears will apply during the ‘emergency period’ (from 1 August 2020 to 10 January 2021).

Before a termination notice is served by a landlord due to rent arrears, 28 days must be given to the tenant to pay the arrears. A 90 day termination notice period will then apply (as opposed to the current 28 days’ notice) where a tenancy is being terminated due to rent arrears. In addition, no termination date earlier than 11 January 2021 may be specified.  In other words, once a tenant who is a ‘relevant person’ has made the declaration they will be protected from eviction on the grounds of rent arrears until at least 11 January 2021.

Restrictions on terminations based on rent arrears

Unlike the blanket ban on evictions provided for in the Emergency Measures Act, the restriction on evictions under the Act is limited to terminations of residential tenancies based on rent arrears. Only tenants who are ‘relevant persons’ and who have served the relevant declaration will be protected.

Tenants can be evicted on all of the other grounds with no changes made by the Act to termination notice periods relating to the other grounds.

Termination dates

The Act extends the ‘revised termination date’ introduced by the Emergency Measures Act so that the earliest possible termination date for any notice of termination served before the Emergency Measures Act came into force on 27 March 2020 is 10 August 2020.

Rent freeze

Like the restrictions on terminations based on rent arrears, the rent freeze provisions will only apply to and protect tenants who are a ‘relevant person’ and have made the ‘relevant person’ declaration.                                                              

For such tenancies, no increase in rent can take effect until after 10 January 2021.

Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004

In addition to amending the Emergency Measures Act, the Act also amends the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. These amendments apply to all tenancies and include:

Notice of termination

In the case of termination on the grounds of rent arrears, landlords will now be required to serve a copy of the notice to terminate on the RTB on the same day that they serve the notice on the tenant. The RTB must then notify the tenant of their entitlement to make a dispute resolution application to the RTB in connection with the notice.

Rent arrears notice

Before a termination notice for rent arrears is served, a rent arrears notice must be served by a landlord on a tenant and on the RTB giving the tenant 28 days from service of the notice on the tenant and the RTB (whichever is the later) to pay the arrears. The 2004 Act previously required only a 14 day notice to be given and it was only required to be served on the tenant.

Comment

The Act is not as far reaching as the Emergency Measures Act and is designed mainly to protect tenants financially impacted by COVID-19 until 10 January 2021.

That said, the impact of the Act will be substantial, with some provisions applying to all tenancies. It will therefore be important for landlords and tenants who may be affected to scrutinise the new Act carefully.

Landlords of commercial property will welcome the clarity that the Act brings regarding  terminations of commercial tenancies.

For more information, contact a member of our Real Estate team. 


The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.


[1] Section 3(2) provides that “tenant” shall include “licensee” within the meaning of s37 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019.

Discuss your related queries with Jamie Fitzmaurice.


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