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Hundreds of tenants in rent arrears sent removal notices before Christmas despite Covid-19 eviction ban

An eviction ban for those in arrears has been in place across the country since late October,
Feb 3rd 2021, 12:05 AM 30,294 50

HUNDREDS OF TENANTS across the country received warnings or eviction notices over rent arrears in the run-up to Christmas despite a nationwide eviction ban being in place.

Preliminary data from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) shows that 203 tenants in rent arrears sought help from the authority during November and December after being told by their landlord that their tenancy was to be ended.

New rental laws, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020, designed to protect tenants financially impacted by the pandemic, commenced on 1 August last.

Under the laws, those who are affected financially as a result of Covid-19 are not allowed to have rent increases while the laws are in operation.

The laws followed protections given to renters at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in spring, including a ban on eviction notices and rent increases, which ended on 1 August.

However, a new eviction ban was implemented during the introduction of nationwide Level 5 restrictions in late October, and is currently in place until 12 April.

Those in arrears currently cannot be evicted unless the notice is due to one of four reasons, which include anti-social behaviour.

Figures provided to Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin and seen by show that between August and December last, 573 tenants sought the RTB’s protection after falling into rent arrears and receiving an eviction notice.

A further 1,719 tenants sought protection after falling into arrears and receiving a warning letter from their landlord, with 566 of these coming during November and December. 

Meanwhile, further data from the RTB shows that the board launched investigations into over 300 landlords for suspected breaches of rental laws in the past year-and-a-half.

The board was given powers to investigate and sanction landlords for ‘improper conduct’ under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act from 1 July 2019.

Landlords found guilty of ‘improper conduct’ by the RTB can receive a written caution, along with a possible fine of up to €15,000 and a requirement to pay costs up to €15,000.

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According to the board, 90% of the investigations it commenced since July 2019 relate to suspected breaches of landlords’ legal requirements under Rent Pressure Zone laws.

The board can investigate when a landlord operating in an RPZ, which are currently in place in 16 different counties, increases rent by more than 4% over a 12-month period.

Landlords can also be investigated for falsely claiming an exemption from RPZ requirements, such as a ‘substantial change’ in the nature of accommodation (e.g. doing construction work) or claiming that no-one rented the dwelling two years beforehand. 

The next-highest number of investigations were carried out over suspected failures to register tenancies, followed by suspected failures by landlords to re-offer a tenant their accommodation after an attempted sale, renovation or moving a family member in.

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Stephen McDermott


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