Tenancy Bill Q&A: Will my rent go up and can I be evicted now?
New legislation will change previous emergency law due to end in August
People Before Profit said the Bill would “immediately open the door to new evictions into homelessness on the grounds of sale, use or refurbishment”. Photograph: iStock
Why is the Government putting forward a law now?
Because the previous emergency ban on evictions and rent increases was due to end on August 2nd. The new Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, said those rules could not continue indefinitely.
When do the changes come into effect?
The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020, debated on Tuesday in the Houses of the Oireachtas, will ensure that existing laws stay in place until August 1st, when they will be replaced.
So it’s really just a continuation of what was there?
No, and what the replacement means depends on who you ask. The new laws effectively spell the end of a blanket ban on evictions and rent hikes. However, the Minister said the measures outlined on Tuesday would protect vulnerable tenants. The Opposition has called it an “attack on renters” with rent hikes and evictions now inevitable.
But I have been financially affected by Covid-19. Could I lose my tenancy?
Potentially yes. But there are some caveats. The law states that if you formally declare to the Residential Tenancies Board that Covid-19 has made you unable to pay the rent, landlords will have to give you 90 days’ notice before eviction. Also, tenants being evicted on these grounds cannot be evicted before January 11th next year. And there will be an opportunity to pay the arrears.
Well I might be able to pay my rent but not if it goes up. Is that likely?
Again, if you declare Covid affects your ability to pay, rent cannot be increased until January 10th next. Those on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment or the temporary wage subsidy scheme are also insulated. Otherwise, things are back to pre-Covid rules.
So this Bill is all about the tenant then?
No, not according to the Minister who said it was to protect both tenants and landlords. Regarding the latter, he said it would ensure early and active engagement by tenants with State support structures. From August 2nd, things return to normal. Only where rent arrears is a problem during the new emergency period will the temporary prohibition on rent increases and tenancy terminations apply.
Anything else in this for the property owners?
Among the critics is People Before Profit, which pointed out that the Bill would “immediately open the door to new evictions into homelessness on the grounds of sale, use or refurbishment”. These former aspects of rental laws will now return. Homelessness figures have fallen each month throughout the pandemic, with Opposition politicians crediting the Covid eviction laws for this development.
How long more are we going to be dealing with these emergency laws?
As with all things Covid-19, who knows? The Government has said that any extension to the Covid-19 emergency period hinges on the need to restrict the movement of persons to prevent the spread of the virus. That is anybody’s guess.