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Protections for renters impacted by Covid-19 to be extended beyond 12 July

Opposition says government must ensure that all renters – not just those that fall under the Covid-19 protections – are not hit with an 8% rent hike.

RENTERS WHO HAVE been negatively impacted by the pandemic will see their protections extended beyond 12 July.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien intends on bringing a memo to Cabinet to extend this date further, it has been confirmed.

It is understood that the protections could be extended for another six months beyond July, subject to approval by government.

Such a measure would protect “those who are most at risk and the most vulnerable” from possible 8% rent increases, which was raised as a matter of concern last week.

The rent protection legislation brought in last August, replaced the temporary measures, which prevented evictions and rent increases for tenants in financial difficulty in the pandemic.

The protections currently in place apply to renters who have fallen into rent arrears, giving them 28 days to pay owed rent before they can be evicted.

Rent increases for workers who are on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment or Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme are also banned. 

Any tenant financially negatively impacted by the pandemic and find themselves in rent arrears will be protected from eviction, as well as any rent increases up until the legislation end date. 

The measures can be only applied in circumstances where a self-declaration form from the tenant is sent confirming that they cannot pay their rent due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

The landlord can still serve a valid notice of termination (after the 28-day warning notice for rent arrears has expired).

However, the tenant will not have to vacate their accommodation before the new date and the tenant must be given at least 90 days’ notice. Also, the landlord cannot increase the rent until new date, which as stated, could be in December, under the new measures.

Extending protections 

Speaking in the Dail this morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged that these protections have not applied to the majority of tenants since last August. 

However, he told the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that the housing minister will shortly bring forward proposals that will extend the rent protections beyond the July date to “give more time to vulnerable tenants to recover their financial stability”. 

Furthermore, the minister will bring forward new rent reform legislation in the Autumn to replace the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) system which is due to expire at the end of the year.

The way the RPZ legislation was designed in 2016 left it open to landlords to “roll-over” their 4% increase to the next year, with landlords who did not increase rent last year permitted do so this year by more than 4%.

However, this cannot be imposed on tenants who are still in receipt of the protections set out above.

Concerns were raised about the possibility of the 8% increase some renters are facing, with People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy stating last week that a woman contacted him who is “facing almost a 7% increase, which she simply can’t afford to pay”. 

Today, Murphy listed out more stories from renters, with some set to be hit with rent hikes of between 7% to 10%, with some to see a €160 increase per month.

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The Taoiseach said the government is advised that an outright banning of rent increases cannot happen, due to Constitutional issues. He said there were issues in other jurisdictions when this was done.

Mary Lou McDonald said a “whole generation lives in fear of not making the rent”, while the government supports investment funds.

“You have left renters in the lurch,” she said, stating that the government must ensure that all renters – not just those that fall under the Covid-19 protections – are not hit with the 8% rent hike.

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