Law to allow quicker eviction of non-paying tenants

Amendments to Residential Tenancies Bill will address overholding issue

An amendment allowing landlords to quicken the eviction of non-rent paying tenants who remain in situ will be introduced in the Oireachtas this week. 
Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The
Irish
Times

An amendment allowing landlords to quicken the eviction of non-rent paying tenants who remain in situ will be introduced in the Oireachtas this week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Mon, May 27, 2013, 01:00

An amendment allowing landlords to quicken the eviction of non-rent paying tenants who remain in situ will be introduced in the Oireachtas this week.

The move is welcomed by landlords who have complained that the process of legally evicting a non-rent paying tenant can take a year.

Measures being brought to the committee stage of the Residential Tenancies Bill this week will “address the issue of overholding, whereby tenants remain in situ while not paying the rent,” a Department of Environment spokesman told The Irish Times.

This would “allow for a quicker process of securing vacant possession of the property for the landlord than is currently the case,” the spokesman said.

An organisation representing landlords said there was a “massive problem” of tenants owing rents but refusing to leave their accommodation.

Margaret McCormick of the Irish Property Owners’ Association outlined how the current “bureaucratic” legal situation means that it can take a year for a non-rent paying tenant to be legally evicted after the tenancy has been terminated by a landlord.

Ms McCormick said the process can take a year between getting a hearing date with the Private Residential Tenancies Board’s dispute resolution service, to a decision, an appeal of a decision by the tenant, an enforcement by the court and the eviction by the sheriff.

The non-payment of rent and delays in vacating property can cause problems for landlords with the banks and their credit rating, especially for the buy-to-let property owners who may only own one or two properties. Ms McCormick claimed that some tenants were strategically using these delays to avoid paying rents

National housing charity Threshold said under no circumstances can a tenant justify not paying rent. Threshold director Bob Jordan said it had not seen the amendment but if a tenant was aggrieved they should continue to pay their rent while the process was with the PRTB.

Problems can arise when disputes are not heard quickly enough, even though the PRTB tries to prioritise overholding , he said. “A small minority of tenants take advantage of that,” he said. “In parallel to introducing an amendment on overholding it is really important that disputes are processed more quickly,” he said. The number of dispute cases heard by the PRTB has grown by 25 per cent since 2008 while staff numbers have decreased by 53 per cent.

Although details of the amendment have not been released, indications are that it would separate the issue of tent payment from other elements of the dispute process. The amendment would “allow the issue of non-payment of rent to be addressed promptly and separately to other elements of a tenant-landlord dispute if necessary,” Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan. said a written answer this month.

Mr Jordan said the State also had responsibility because it paid 30 per cent of all rents throguh social welfare. The Department can sometimes stop paying rent because it becomes aware of a dispute with a landlord, he said. Sometime a landlord can believe the tenant is defaulting when it is actually the department, he added.. “Our advice is always the responsibility of tenants to pay rent...if not they will lose accommodation,” he said.

The amendment on overholding will be among the changes introduced to the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2012 this week. It was first published last July with the main purpose of extending the scope of the tenancies act to the voluntary and co-operative housing sector and simplifying and streamlining the mediation process.