Protections for renters who have lost income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are to be extended until January, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.
There is currently a blanket ban on evictions as well as a rent freeze in place following the lockdown measures introduced to curb the spread of the virus, but which also forced many people out of work.
Mr O’Brien said there were constitutional concerns surrounding the current protections and concerns at Cabinet they could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.
“I’ve a concern about the legal basis that it’s constructed on and that it could be open to a challenge,” he told Newstalk radio on Sunday
“I didn’t want all the protections just falling by the wayside over the summer. So what I’m bringing forward is the Residential Tenancies Bill 2020 on Friday. That’s going to focus very particularly on those who are most at risk.
“People who have either lost their jobs or had their wages reduced because of Covid, people in receipt of the PUP pandemic payment, the wage support scheme, or HAP [housing assistance payment] or the emergency rent allowance.
“They will be able to self-declare under this Bill and they will get effective protections up to January next year. In all other instances, the normal process will apply.
“The rent freeze will apply to those people who are in that category. Those people who need the protections most. You will get them both in terms of evictions and in terms of the rent freeze.
“I need to make sure that the most vulnerable people during this pandemic are actually protected, balancing that with the rights of property owners too, and I’m pretty happy that this Bill will achieve that.”
Mr O’Brien also said the new Bill would provide new long-term protections for renters, separate from measures related to the pandemic. “It’ll give a lot of certainty to people for the next six months,” he said.
“There are some people who would have been in the process of evictions where eviction notices have been served or time was running out, and we’ll have some short-term measures for them as well.
“There are some permanent measures I’m bringing in as well to help people with rent arrears, which is really important.
“This Bill will achieve other things such as involving the Residential Tenancies Board in rent arrears cases at an earlier stage, and providing assistance through Mabs [Money Advice and Budgeting Service] and the RTB.
“There are some good new processes and protections that will be brought forward as part of this legislation that will endure post-pandemic.”