The COVID-19 pandemic has of course affected all areas of life, and Residential tenancies are no exception. It is very important for Landlords (and tenants) to be aware of the significant changes in the rules relating to rent arrears in particular.
From 27 March to 27 June 2020 the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 put a range of protections in place for tenants affected by the pandemic. Most significantly there was a ban on eviction notices and rent increases. This was extended twice by the Government and expired on the 2nd of August 2020.
However, new rental laws in the form of the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 have replaced the emergency measures from the 2nd of August and these will apply until the 10th of January 2021.
The new laws are in place to protect any tenants who can show that they have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and who, without these measures, would be at risk of losing their tenancy. Under the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020, landlords can now serve tenants with a notice of termination for the normal reasons but not for rent arrears caused by COVID-19.
From a Landlord and a Tenant point of view, it is important to be aware that the Tenant must be able to show that he/she has been economically affected by COVID-19. According to the legislation, a tenant is considered to be affected if he/she is:
1. Temporarily out of work as a result of having contracted COVID-19, and the employer did not pay them;
2. In receipt of (or entitled to be in receipt of) the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme or any other Social Welfare payment in relation to a loss of earnings caused by COVID-19.
If a Tenant cannot pay their rent as a result of either of the above, they must write to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and the Landlord with a Self-Declaration Form. If the Tenant has done this then the notice period for termination in relation to rent arrears will be increased from 28 days to 90 days until 10 January 2021 and no rent increase is allowed until this date.
If the tenant has not been affected by the pandemic, or has not written to the Landlord and the RTB, their rights more or less return to the position pre-March 27th with a few exceptions, namely:
1. The rent arrears notice period has been increased from 14 to 28 days;
2. A copy of the Notice must be served on the RTB at the same time it is served on the tenant or it will be deemed to be invalid.
3. During the emergency period, time was paused in relation to Part 4 tenancies i.e. the emergency period does not count towards the time spent as a tenant for part 4 or further part 4 tenancies. However, after 2 August 2020, the normal rules for these tenancies apply.
These important changes need to be borne in mind by all Landlords, particularly in relation to rent arrears. As usual, any disputes can be referred to the Residential Tenancies Board.
Article by: Naomi Gardiner, Associate Solicitor at Augustus Cullen Law LLP. Augustus Cullen Law LLP is based at 7 Wentworth Place, Wicklow. If you would like more information on this topic, call +353 404 67412 or email email@example.com
20 August 2020