What Period does the Act apply to?
The measures introduced by the Act will apply for the period from 1 August 2020 to 10 January 2021 (Emergency Period).
How can a Tenant Financially Disadvantaged by COVID-19 apply for Protection under the Act?
A tenant may benefit from protections against tenancy terminations and rent increases during the Emergency Period by providing a declaration to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), copying their landlord, declaring that they are unable to pay their rent because, due to COVID-19, they are or were at some time during the Emergency Period:
- incapable of work and their employer was not obliged to pay them; or
- in receipt of public monies to alleviate financial hardship;
and as a consequence of which, there is a significant risk that the tenancy will be terminated.
A tenant who makes a declaration that is false or misleading shall be guilty of an offence.
What are the New Restrictions on Terminations and Rent Increases for Protected Tenants?
Once at tenant has served a declaration on their landlord and the RTB, the landlord cannot, during the Emergency Period:
- increase the rent; or
- serve a notice of termination for non-payment of rent specifying a termination date earlier than 11 January 2021.
In addition, a landlord who serves a termination notice for non-payment of rent on a tenant who has made a declaration, must give at least 90 days’ notice to that tenant.
What New Measures introduced by the Act apply to all tenants?
- Service of a rent arrears warning notice
Before a landlord takes any action for non-payment of rent, it must first serve a rent arrears warning notice on both the tenant and the RTB, giving the tenant at least 28 days to pay the arrears and warning that if the arrears are not paid within that time period, a termination notice will be served.
Previously, a landlord was obliged to serve such a notification on the tenant only and the tenant was given 14 days to pay the arrears.
Any termination of tenancy notice served on a tenant for failure to pay rent will be invalid if the landlord has not first served the rent arrears warning notice.
If the RTB receives a copy of a rent arrears warning notice, it will help the affected tenant to get advice from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) in relation to the arrears.
The Guidance Note on the Act published by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government states that the RTB will also send the tenant a link to the self-declaration form in case it applies to them.
- Service of a termination notice
If the rent arrears are not paid within the 28-day period set down in the warning notice and the tenant has not served a self-declaration form on the landlord, the landlord may proceed to serve a termination notice on the tenant. A copy of the termination notice also must be served on the RTB. This a new requirement.
If the RTB receives a termination notice it will advise the affected tenant of their entitlement to refer any dispute with the landlord to the RTB for adjudication. Any adjudicator appointed by the RTB to resolve the dispute will have regard to any advice given to the tenant by MABS.
COVID-19 continues to have an impact on almost all aspects of life in Ireland, including an ongoing negative financial impact on many people. The protections introduced by the Act are far reaching and must be strictly adhered to by residential landlords. Clearly, both landlords and tenants will benefit from working together to try to seek alternative arrangements, such as payment plans, to address any potential issues that may arise.
For further information on the Act, please contact Conor Treacy, Ruth Sheridan or your usual William Fry contact. For guidance on a range of COVID-19 related, see our dedicated COVID-19 Hub.