Safeguards needed to ensure landlords don’t use retrofitting to end tenancies - Threshold

Residential Tenancies Board told Oireachtas committee that it could be a ‘problem’

Safeguards are needed for renters to ensure landlords don't use the Government's new retrofitting scheme as a reason to end tenancies according to housing charity Threshold.

It comes after a representative of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) told an Oireachtas committee that is was possible this could become a "problem".

The Government’s Home Energy Upgrade Scheme will provide people with grants to improve the energy efficiency of their homes as part of the State strategy to combat climate change.

One of the criteria landlords can cite to end a tenancy is carrying out a “substantial refurbishment” of the property.

There is also an exemption available from the rules limiting rent increases in rent pressure zones (RPZ) if the landlord plans to make a “substantial change” to the property, including substantially improving its Building Energy Rating.

Threshold’s chief executive John-Mark McCafferty has called for a working group to be established to find solutions to the risk of landlords using the retrofitting scheme to end tenancies.

He suggested further incentives could be offered to landlords seeking to upgrade their properties but that eligibility for any such supports should be linked to protecting tenancies and undertakings not to increase rent as a result of the refurbishment.

Safeguards

Mr McCafferty said there must be “safeguards and protections” for tenants and that the energy poverty which may be experienced by tenants in poorly insulated homes should not be replaced with hardship from rent increases.

He said Threshold would be raising the matter in their next meeting with Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien.

A Department of Housing statement said that under existing legislation where a landlord terminates a tenancy due to substantial renovations “that property must be offered back to the former tenant... upon completion of the works”.

It said such termination notices must contain or be accompanied by a written certificate of a registered professional such as an architect or surveyor stating that the proposed renovation works would pose a safety risk for at least three weeks necessitating vacation by the tenants.

The Department said the existing tenancy protections are not impacted by the funding stream used by landlords for such works and disputes can be referred to the RTB for resolution.

Landlords found to be engaging in improper conduct including non-compliance with the tenancy termination provisions can potentially face fines of up to €15,000.

The statement said it is “important to note” that of the notices of termination received by the RTB between quarter two of 2019 and quarter four of 2021 “just 2 per cent were due to a landlord intending to substantially refurbish/renovate the property.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

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