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Rent freeze and eviction ban extended to 1 August

The emergency measure mean tenants cannot be forced to leave a property, and rent increases are prohibited.

The time period for the extension is expected to be short.
The time period for the extension is expected to be short.
Image: Sam Boal

Updated Jul 20th 2020, 9:07 PM

THE TEMPORARY RENT freeze and ban on evictions has been extended until 1 August, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.

The minister said he had recommended “a short extension under the existing emergency legislation to afford [him] the time to bring forward robust legislation that will provide real protection to tenants and property owners alike”.

Yesterday, the Cabinet meeting which was due to sign off on this rent freeze extension and the country’s travel ‘green list’ was deferred, due to ongoing negotiations in Brussels.

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin remains at the EU Council meeting, where leaders last night failed to agree on €750 billion rescue package.

The temporary rent freeze had been due to lapse today – 20 July.

Under the emergency laws introduced at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the minister said tenants cannot be forced to leave a property, and rent increases are prohibited for the duration of the crisis.

The housing minister said this evening: “The rent freeze and eviction moratorium were brought in under emergency legislation targeting all tenancies regardless of individual tenants’ circumstances.

It is well known that they could not be extended indefinitely so it is important we have strong legislation, which combines targeting those who are most vulnerable with longer term measures to address rent arrears, in place prior to the Dáil recess. This legislation will be brought to cabinet on Thursday.

He said anyone who has lost their job due to Covid-19 and may be struggling to pay rent may be eligible to apply for rent supplement and urged them to do so.

O’Brien confirmed last week that the eviction ban and rent freeze would continue past today, though he warned it would not be a permanent measure.

It is understood the Attorney General has raised legal concerns in relation to the freeze and personal property rights, and the minister confirmed his decision to extend to 1 August came following discussions with the AG.

The housing minister has drafted legislation aimed at protecting renters, which will be brought to another Cabinet meeting which is expected to be held at Dublin Castle tomorrow, if the Taoiseach Micheál Martin returns from Brussels on time.

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett and Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin have called for the rent freeze and the eviction ban to be extended long-term, stating that now is not a safe time for tenants to be forced into homelessness.

Ó Broin was critical of Minister O’Brien in a statement this evening.

He said: “It beggars belief that this matter couldn’t have been satisfactorily resolved in advance of the deadline expiring on Monday. Renters need support and clarity now.

“It appears the government is blaming a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution by the Attorney General for its failure to provide real protections for renters. They cannot hide behind this as an excuse for not doing the right thing.

“At a minimum, they should have extended the ban until October. However, in reality, many renters need this protection until at least the end of the year.”

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People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that today’s announcement is “next to useless”. “Saying it’s going to be 1 August – that is only a week or two away, and in the one day where there was a hiatus with the government not making clear what was happening with the eviction ban there were already moves happening to evict people,” he said.

He said that he feared “an avalanche of evictions if they don’t extend the eviction ban until at least the end of the year, or Covid-19 is eliminated”.

Boyd Barrett described it as “totally unthinkable that there would be evictions in the midst of a pandemic”, but that there are “unscrupulous landlords out there who are willing to move ruthlessly as soon as an eviction ban is lifted”.

He said he had been contacted earlier today by a man who had received an email from his landlord telling him he needed to vacate his apartment today. Boyd Barrett said he feared that there are vulture funds who are ready to evict people once the ban is lifted. 

Added Boyd Barrett: 

“I am now calling on the government to extend the ban without further delay. We also reject any suggestion that there are legal problems with extending the ban. Protecting public health is the definition of ‘the common good’ as set out in the Constitution and the government has every right and more importantly the responsibility to protect public health by ensuring that people are not evicted in the midst of a public health pandemic.

“If there are any longer-term legal problems with extending the ban, all the more reason the government should move quickly to hold a referendum to enshrine the Right to Housing in the constitution.” 

With reporting from Sean Murray

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