Thursday, 24 June 2021

Questions (23, 67, 68)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

23. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the further measures he will take to address unaffordable rents, excessive rent increases and unfair evictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33884/21]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

67. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his policy to prevent evictions of tenants in the coming period on economic grounds or other grounds which are unconnected to the Covid-19 crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33805/21]

View answer

Mick Barry

Question:

68. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the measures he will take to minimise the number of evictions due as Covid-19 protections expire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33891/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 67 and 68 together.

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 introduced the Rent Predictability Measure to moderate rent increases in those parts of the country where rents are highest and rising fastest.

The rent increase limit of 4% per annum that applies in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) provides for a modest increase in revenue for accommodation providers to ensure that rental properties are maintained to meet minimum standards.

The Rent Predictability Measure is due to expire on 31 December 2021 and any necessary rent controls from 2022 are currently being examined.

Any proposed measure that impacts on private property rights requires detailed consideration and scrutiny having regard to the provisions of article 43 of the Constitution and the associated legal complexities.

The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2021 regulate the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rented sector and sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. Section 34 of the Acts provides that a landlord must state a reason for the termination in any tenancy termination notice served, and the termination will not be valid unless that reason relates to one of the following:

- the tenant has failed to comply with the obligations (other than the obligation to pay rent) of the tenancy;

- the tenant has failed to comply with the obligation to pay rent under the tenancy;

- the landlord intends to sell the dwelling within the next 9 months;

- the dwelling is no longer suited to the needs of the occupying household;

- the landlord requires the dwelling for own or family member occupation;

- vacant possession is required for substantial refurbishment of the dwelling; and/or

- the landlord intends to change the use of the dwelling.

The Residential Tenancies Act 2020 was enacted and came into operation on 24 October 2020 to temporarily modify the operation of the Residential Tenancies Acts to prevent any notices of termination served by landlords, in all but limited cases, from taking effect in geographical locations and during periods specified by the Minister for Health in Regulations made by him under section 31A of the Health Act 1947 in respect of which a restriction applies on the movement of people outside a 5 km radius of their place of residence. These tenancy protections also apply during the 10 days directly following the period specified by the Minister for Health in the aforementioned Regulations. Once the Minister for Health makes regulations restricting movement outside a 5 km radius of one's place of residence, the moratorium on evictions taking place will automatically apply.

The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 introduced permanent protections to provide new procedures to be followed in the context of rent arrears warnings and associated tenancy terminations.

Any notice of termination grounded on rent arrears must be copied to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and will be invalid if it is not so copied. A notice of termination grounded on rent arrears can only be served by a landlord on the condition that a written rent arrears warning was given to both the tenant and the RTB and that the arrears were not paid within 28 days (doubled from 14 days from 1 August 2020) following receipt of the warning by the tenant or by the RTB, whichever occurs later.

The RTB will acknowledge receipt to the landlord and tenant and provide the tenant with written information to enable them to get advice from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and on the income and other supports available. If the tenant agrees, the RTB can help them to engage with MABS to resolve their rent arrears and sustain their tenancy. The aim of the new procedures is to ensure that early action is taken to address rent arrears, to the benefit of both the tenant and the landlord.

Where a tenancy is to be terminated on grounds of rent arrears on foot of Covid-19, enhanced protections and procedures now apply for tenants and landlords under Part 3 (Residential Tenancies) of the Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies, Act 2020 (the PDRTA). The PDRTA provides for temporary modifications to the operation of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to provide, subject to certain conditions, that during the period from 11 January to 12 July 2021 a 90 day (rather than the usual 28 days) termination notice period applies, where a tenant is in rent arrears due to Covid-19 and is at risk of losing their tenancy. The earliest termination date allowed in such circumstances is 13 July 2021. Rent increases are also prohibited for relevant tenancies until 13 July 2021.

The targeted ban on rent increases under the PDRTA is due to expire on 12 July 2021. The Government published the Residential Tenancies (No. 2) Bill 2021 on 17 June 2021 which, if passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas on or before 12 July 2021, will extend the targeted protections of the PDRTA until 12 January 2022, to afford more time to the most vulnerable tenants to recover their financial stability.

The Residential Tenancies Board displays comprehensive information on its website - www.rtb.ie - including guidance and frequently asked questions documents relating to terminating tenancies during the Covid-19 pandemic.