In light of the on-going pandemic, additional temporary legislative measures have been introduced in the residential tenancy sector. The Residential Tenancies Act 2020 (the RTA 2020) provides that tenants cannot be required to vacate their rental properties during an “Emergency Period”.
The RTA 2020 applies to residential tenancies and student accommodation licenses.
The “Emergency Period”
The “Emergency Period” is linked to the period during which travel outside a 5km radius of a person’s home is in place.
The current “Emergency Period” is country wide from 22 October 2020 to 1 December 2020,ie the currency of the current Level 5 restrictions. However, the RTA 2020 does provide for multiple “Emergency Periods”.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has commented as follows:
“Effectively, Covid-19 public health restrictions will determine when and where the usual operation of the RTA 2004 (the legislation that normally guides the rental sector) will be modified by the RTA 2020.”
Notices of Termination
Notices of termination can be served during the “Emergency Period”. However, the following apply:
The notice cannot take effect during the “Emergency Period”
The duration of the “Emergency Period” will not count as part of any termination notice period i.e. the notice is paused for the duration of the “Emergency Period”.
The “revised” termination date will be the sum of the “Emergency Period”, a 10 day grace period and the balance of notice left to run as at 22 October 2020, if any, i.e. the date on which the current level 5 restrictions were imposed.
By way of example:
Where at the beginning of the “Emergency Period” a tenant had two months left to run on a notice of termination, that tenant will have 2 months and 10 days left to run at the end of the Emergency Period.
Where a tenant is overholding on foot of an expired notice of termination, either with or without the landlord’s consent, at the commencement of the “Emergency Period”, he will be entitled to validly remain in occupation until 10 days after the expiration of the “Emergency Period”. During that time, the tenant is obliged to honour his tenancy obligations.
Part IV Tenancies
A tenant will not acquire Part IV rights by reason of the pausing of notices of termination during the “Emergency Period”.
There are a number of exceptions to the general ban on tenancy terminations during the “Emergency Period”. The exceptions apply where a tenant has failed to comply with their tenancy obligations in the following instances:
Behaviour that invalidates a landlord’s insurance
Use of the dwelling other than as a residential accommodation unit, without the landlord’s written consent
Behaviour that threatens the dwelling
In the above scenarios, a landlord can serve the relevant warning and termination notices in the usual way with a termination date falling in the currency of the “Emergency Period”.
The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020
The RTA 2020 does not impact on The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020. The Valuation Act deals with tenants who are unable to meet their rental obligations due to COVID 19. A note on that act can be found here.
While the current ban on terminations may not be welcomed by landlords, the exceptions will be. The original ban introduced in March 2020 and which had effect until 1 August 2020 did not provide for such exceptions. A note on the original ban can be found here.
Unlike that original ban, there is no question that the current ban also covers commercial premises.
As we have seen in recent weeks, it is possible for different counties to be at varying levels of restriction and this will have a direct impact on the definition of “Emergency Period”. Accordingly, the “Emergency Period” can be both area and time specific thereby requiring landlords to consider the location of the property in question and whether a travel ban applies at the relevant time.
As always, landlords should ensure that they apply the current legislation when issuing notices to tenants.
For more information on the continuing impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your business and operations, 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.