Tenants cannot be forced to pay deposits of more than two months’ rent

Government also extends Covid-19 eviction ban for further six months

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the protections would remove ‘a significant upfront expense for students’, and they would be in force before properties were rented for the coming college year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the protections would remove ‘a significant upfront expense for students’, and they would be in force before properties were rented for the coming college year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Tenants cannot be forced to pay deposits worth more than two months’ rent under new rules by the Government, while the Covid-19 eviction ban will continue for another six months.

Under regulations brought to Cabinet by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, and which should be in force by the summer, renters will be required to pay only a deposit worth a month’s rent, plus a month’s rent.

However, the Irish Property Owners Association, representing largely small private landlords, said the decades-old demand for a month’s deposit was no longer enough.

Tenancy changes made by the State in recent years mean that tenants have to be given three months’ notice after staying in a property for just six months, while they must get six months’ notice after three years.

The changes are necessary, according to the Department of Housing, because there “is anecdotal evidence of a growing practice” among landlords of requiring deposits worth “multiple months’ rent”.

“This is proving discriminatory against lower income groups including those in receipt of social housing supports,” the department said, adding that the protections would cover renting students too.

Mr O’Brien said he was “particularly concerned” that students were being asked to pay up to a year’s rent in advance, but also facing lengthy termination notices. From now on, students will be required to provide 28 days’ notice, and no more.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the protections would remove “a significant upfront expense for students”, and they would be in force before properties were rented for the coming college year.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) welcomed the move, saying the notice periods demanded by landlords had been “a particular issue” during the Covid-19 pandemic when students had to leave, or did not require, accommodation.

“Up to now, students have been expected to pay three, six and nine months in advance. Many have to work while in college to pay their rent and just don’t have access to this kind of money.

“These two decisions will help level the playing field a bit, but there is a lot more to do. Student accommodation is still much too expensive and is a huge burden on many students,” said USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick.

Accommodation should be allocated “on need, or on a first-come basis and not based on how many months’ rent you can hand over upfront” and being able to pay large deposits should not give advantage, she said.

Eviction bans

Extending the eviction ban for all renters until January next, Mr O’Brien said just 500 people across the State had applied for protection because they were in arrears after losing their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to the changes, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin offered a qualified welcome, saying landlords had been able to increase rents in high-demand areas by 8 per cent since April. Rents should be frozen for three years, he said.

Unhappy about the changes, Margaret McCormack of the Irish Property Owners Association told RTÉ’s Today show the new protections were all in favour of the tenants and offered nothing to landlords.

Landlords faced with non-paying tenants could spend 18 months trying to get their property back, while left without income and a mortgage to pay: “The person who loses the most is the landlord,” she said.

In a survey carried out at the end of 2019, 71 per cent of the association’s members who had judgments made in their favour by the Rental Tenancies Board never received any money from former tenants.