Residential tenants throughout the country have been financially impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Consequently, rent arrears and evictions have become a daunting prospect for many.
Emergency measures were implemented by the Government in March, 2020 to protect residential tenants from eviction and rent increases during these unprecedented times. These emergency measures temporarily amend the existing legislation, the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.
The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020, which was introduced on 27th of March 2020 banned all rent increases and tenancy terminations throughout the State, with limited exceptions during the first Covid-19 lockdown. The blanket moratorium on evictions expired on 1st of August 2020, meaning that for all tenants not facing rent arrears, the usual protections under the Residential Tenancies Act continued to apply as normal.
Rent Arrears during Covid-19
These emergency measures were then replaced by the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 passed on the 1st of August, 2020. These new rental laws were specifically aimed at supporting tenants who had been economically affected by Covid-19 and at risk of losing their tenancy. Under this legislation, landlords could serve tenants with a notice of termination for normal reasons. However, where tenants were financially impacted and unable to meet their obligations under their tenancy, new laws applied providing for longer notice periods in notices of termination for failure to pay rent served on tenants during the Emergency Period. These measures expired on the 10th of January, 2021 and were replaced with the Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies Act 2020 effective from 11 January 2021 to 12 April 2021. If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and meet the requirements of the Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies Act 2020, your rent cannot be increased before 13 April 2021. The steps landlords and tenants must follow to access these protections changed under the most recent legislation.
Part 3 (Residential Tenancies) of the Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies Act 2020 provides that during the period from the 11th of January 2021 to the 12th of April 2021 inclusive and subject to certain conditions, a 90-day termination notice period applies where a tenant is in rent arrears and at risk of losing their tenancy. Rent increases are also prohibited for relevant tenancies up to and including the 12th of April, 2021. There are specific rules and requirements for both landlords and tenants in order to avail of the various protections and failure to complete each step may mean that the protections will not apply to the tenant or could lead to the notice of termination being deemed invalid. If these rental protections applied to you under the previous legislation that ran from 1st August 2020 to 10 January, you may have to meet additional requirements to benefit from the current legislation that extends these protections until the 13th April, 2021.
Eviction Moratorium during Emergency Periods:
On the 24th of October, 2020, the Government introduced the Residential Tenancies Act, 2020. This legislation introduces temporary restrictions which provide that tenants are not required to vacate their rental properties during an Emergency Period, except in limited circumstances relating to specific breaches of tenant obligations. These temporary restrictions are based on new Emergency Periods, which impose restrictions on travel outside of a 5km radius from a persons place of residence. An eviction moratorium will automatically kick in during any such period. The current Emergency Period applies across the country from the 31st of December 2020 to the 31st of January,2021, and for a ten-day grace period after this. This means that the earliest a tenant can be evicted from their accommodation during this emergency period is the 10th of February, 2021 with limited exceptions.
Exceptions to the Prohibition of Evictions
The temporary moratorium on evictions during an Emergency Period is subject to a number of limited exceptions. If the notice of termination is for one of the four reasons below, an eviction can proceed once the appropriate notice period expires:
- Anti-social behaviour
- Acting in a way that would invalidate a house insurance policy
- Acting in a way that would cause substantial damage to the accommodation
- Using the accommodation for commercial or other non-residential purposes
Notices of Termination
Normally, if your landlord wants you to leave your accommodation, they must serve you with a notice of termination. Landlords and tenants can still serve a Notice of Termination during an Emergency Period, but the Notice of Termination cannot take effect until after the expiry of an Emergency Period. The earliest a tenant can be made to leave their accommodation is 10 days after an Emergency Period is lifted.
Part 4 Tenancies
A Part 4 Tenancy arises where a tenancy has lasted for more than 6 months and can only be ended for specific reasons until the end of a 4 or 6 year period (depending on when the tenancy started).
During COVID-19 emergency periods, a tenant shall not acquire this right and these emergency periods do not count towards the time spent as a tenant for Part 4 or further part 4 tenancies.
Marie Conway, Solicitor