COVID-19: Update on Emergency Measures to Protect Residential TenantsFriday, 03 April 2020
As mentioned in our last update, the Government approved a series of emergency measures to protect residential tenants in light of the Covid-19 pandemic (see here). The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (the “Act”) has now been signed into law. The Act covers a range of emergency measures in an attempt to deal with the pandemic, including amending the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (the “2004 Act”), with the aim of protecting residential tenants. The proposals also cover licensees in student accommodation.
Pursuant to the Act, a landlord is prohibited from serving a notice of termination during a three month period, commencing upon the enactment of the Act, being 27 March 2020 (the “Emergency Period”). This Emergency Period can be extended by Government, if in the public interest, having regard to the threat of Covid-19, the highly contagious nature of the disease, and the need to restrict movement to prevent its spread.
Where a notice of termination was served prior to the Emergency Period, and specifies a termination date that falls during or after the Emergency Period, the termination date is deemed to be a revised termination date, which includes the addition of the Emergency Period (i.e. three months, unless extended by Government).
In relation to a warning notice served on a tenant due to non-payment of rent, this notice should now provide a minimum of 28, as opposed to 14 days.
The Act also provides that "all proposed evictions in all tenancies in the State, including those not covered by the Act of 2004, are prohibited during the operation of the” Act. This applies to all local authority and approved housing body dwellings. Although this amendment is intended to cover tenancies not falling within the 2004 Act, such as “rent-a-room style arrangements”, the broad nature of the amendment means that it might be interpreted as also applying to commercial tenants.
The Act also provides that “all Travellers who are currently resident in any location should not during this crisis be evicted from that location except where movement is required to ameliorate hardship and provide protection and subject to consultation with the Travellers involved”.
Entitlement to remain in occupation
The Act provides that where a tenant has not vacated on foot of a notice of termination which expires prior to the commencement of the Emergency Period, then the tenant shall be entitled to remain in occupation until the expiration of the Emergency Period. This applies regardless of whether the tenant had landlord consent to remain in the dwelling after the initial termination date.
However, it is worth noting that tenants required to vacate in accordance with a determination of the Residential Tenancies Board, either at Adjudication or Tribunal stage, are specifically excluded from this protection.
The Act also provides that any rent increases due to take effect during the Emergency Period shall now not take effect, and any increase shall not be payable in respect of any period falling during the Emergency Period.
For further information or advice, please contact Valerie Hourigan or James Roche in the ByrneWallace Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team.
Please note that the content of this summary does not amount to professional advice. Legal and tax advice should be sought in respect of specific queries. The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly and this update is provided on the basis of information available as at 3 April 2020.