The Covid-19 2020 Act was introduced on 27th March 2020 and banned all rent increases and tenancy terminations, with limited exceptions, during the Covid-19 emergency period. This emergency period expired on 1st August 2020. From 1st August 2020, when the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 came into force, new rental protections applied to tenants who face rent arrears and, as a result, are at risk of their tenancy ending.
This new 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.
The Act seeks to recognise the impact that the rise in unemployment and reduced working hours associated with the pandemic has had on the rental sector, and the challenges that this presents for tenants in meeting their obligation to pay rent. The Act brings in temporary restrictions on ending tenancies when restrictions on travel outside a 5km radius of a person’s home are in place. Currently, this is in place for six weeks from 21st October 2020.
Rent increases already served will be effective on some tenancies but not on others. Tenants whose income was adversely affected by Covid-19 may be protected from increases.
Not that all tenants in arrears are protected by the changes in the legislation, but the Residential Tenancies Act 2020 does set out new protections and obligations for tenants in financial difficulty as a result of Covid-19 and increased obligations on the service of documentation around rent arrears on all tenancies.
A tenant who follows the procedures and provides a landlord with a self-declaration form relating to an inability to pay rent due to Covid-19, cannot be made to leave the rented accommodation before 11th January 2021, and do not have to pay any increases in rent until after 10th January 2021.
Where a self-declaration form is given to a landlord from a tenant highlighting a tenant’s inability to pay rent due to Covid-19, a tenancy cannot be ended before 11th January 2021 and the tenant must be given a minimum 90-day notice period to vacate.
In normal times, a tenant is required to pay rent in full and on time until the tenancy ends even where a dispute arises between the parties. If the rent is not paid it is a breach of a Tenancy Agreement.
If a landlord wants to end a tenancy due to rent arrears, a landlord must issue a tenant and the RTB with a written Rent Arrears Warning Notice providing a minimum of 28 days for the rent arrears to be paid in full. The 28-day warning notice period only begins to count down when both the tenant and the RTB have received the Warning Notice. Warning Notices must always be in writing as a text message or email is not considered suitable.
A Notice of Termination (NoT) is the official document which ends a tenancy. Landlords and tenants can serve a NoT as usual during an Emergency Period, subject to certain exceptions, but the notice period cannot begin to count until an Emergency Period is lifted.
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on jobs and incomes across Ireland. Since March 2020, there have been a series of new rules and requirements regarding tenancy terminations and rent increases that affect both landlords and tenants. Either party misunderstanding their obligations is best avoided.