The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 (the Act) was enacted on 1 August 2020. The Act was introduced in response to the difficulties encountered by both landlords and tenants of residential properties during the Covid-19 crisis and aims to balance the conflicting rights of both parties during these times.
The Act alters the position previously introduced under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2020, which created a blanket ban on evictions and rent increases during the emergency period from 27 March 2020 to 1 August 2020. While the prohibition on rent increases is provided for in the new Act, the blank ban on terminating tenancies is not and landlords can now terminate a tenancy from the 10 August 2020 where they have followed all procedures to do so.
Protection for ‘Relevant Persons’:
The Act introduces a system where certain tenants who qualify as ‘relevant persons’ under the Act will be protected from evictions and rent increases while landlords will have the right to enforce such rights in respect of other tenants who do not qualify as a ‘relevant person’.
Section 4(6) of the Act defines a ‘relevant person’ as a person who is not able to comply with his or her obligations to pay the rent due by reason of them receiving or having received the Temporary Wage Subsidy, supplementary welfare allowance or any other payment out of public moneys paid for the purpose of alleviating financial hardship resulting from the loss of employment during the Covid-19 crisis.
To receive protection under the Act as a ‘relevant person’ such persons must notify both the Residential Tenancies Board and their landlord that there is a significant risk that their landlord will terminate their tenancy as a result of non-payment of rent. They will then be protected from evictions and rent increases during the new ‘emergency period’ and will be entitled to receive advice and support from the Residential Tenancies Board. The ‘emergency period’ commenced on 1 August 2020 and will last until 10 January 2021.
Increased Notice Periods:
Section 5 of the Act provides that any notice of termination served on a ‘relevant person’ for non-payment of rent during the emergency period must provide for a 90-day notice period. It further prohibits landlords serving a notice of termination on a tenant where the termination date falls earlier than 11 January 2021.
In addition to this increased notice period, Section 12 of the Act requires landlords to notify their tenant that they have 28 days’ notice to discharge any rent arrears before they serve a notice of termination. The landlord must also serve this 28-day notice on the Residential Tenancies Board who will then liaise with the tenant and offer them advice and support. If the tenant fails to pay the arrears in 28 days, the landlord is entitled to serve a notice of termination on the tenant, which must also be served on the Residential Tenancies Board at the same time. Failure to serve the Residential Tenancies Board will render the 28-day notice and any subsequent Notice of Termination invalid.
Prohibition on Rent Increases:
Section 6 of the Act prohibits landlords giving effect to any rent increases that would otherwise take effect during the emergency period and landlords may not increase the rent retrospectively in respect of the emergency period. Effectively, landlords are prohibited from giving effect to any rent increase until at least 11 January 2021.
The Act strives to balance the rights and interests of both landlords and tenants effectively and aims to ensure that the most vulnerable tenants have increased protection while ensuring that the constitutional property rights of landlords are still recognised.
J.W. O’Donovan LLP is constantly monitoring updates in this area and if you would like further information in relation to any of the above, please contact Colm Tobin, Associate Solicitor of J.W. O’Donovan LLP, Solicitors, 53 South Mall, Cork or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org