COVID-19: Update on Residential TenanciesMonday, 17 August 2020
At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government introduced the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (the “Emergency Measures Act”). The Emergency Measures Act introduced a number of measures to protect tenants including a rent freeze and a blanket prohibition on evictions for any reason for an initial period of three months. This period was extended to 1 August 2020. See our previous update here.
The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 (the “Act”) has now been passed to replace the initial measures and to provide continued protection to certain tenants who are financially impacted by Covid-19. The emergency period as defined in the Act lasts until 10 January 2021.
The Act limits the prohibition on evictions to situations where a tenant cannot pay rent due to the effects of Covid-19. This will include, for example, individuals in receipt of the temporary wage subsidy or the pandemic unemployment payment and those who cannot work due to being diagnosed with Covid-19 (and who are not being paid).
A tenant must make a written declaration that he or she cannot comply with obligations to pay rent due to the effects of Covid-19 and that there is a significant risk the tenancy will be terminated by the landlord due to the failure to pay rent. This declaration must be served on the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and copied to the landlord. A person who makes a declaration that is false or misleading in any material respect shall be guilty of an offence.
Tenancies of tenants who fall into this category cannot be terminated earlier than 11 January 2021 and at least 90 days’ notice must be provided to the tenant.
Before issuing a notice of termination due to non-payment of rent a landlord must first serve a notice allowing a tenant 28 days to discharge the arrears. Both the tenant and the RTB must be served with such notice.
A landlord can now proceed to serve a tenant with notice of termination for reasons other than non-payment of rent.
The blanket ban on rent increases brought in by the Emergency Measures Act no longer applies. Rent increases are prohibited in relation to tenants who cannot pay rent due to the effects of Covid-19 and who have served the written declaration on the RTB.
The Emergency Measures Act included a blanket ban on evictions at section 5(7) which was interpreted by some as also applying to commercial tenancies. This provision has been deleted by section 13(b) of the Act and any uncertainty is now removed. It is clear that the provisions in the Act relating to tenancy termination have no applicability to the termination of commercial tenancies.
For further information please contact Valerie Hourigan, James Roche or Aislinn Cullen in the ByrneWallace Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team.