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cabinet plans

Landlords will not be allowed to demand in excess of two months’ rent upfront under new rules, including from student renters

Covid-19 protections for renters have been extended for another six months until 12 January 2022.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Jun 2021

CABINET HAS SIGNED off on proposals today to ensure that all renters – including students – won’t have to fork out multiples of their monthly rent amounts when signing a tenancy agreement.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien brought a memo Cabinet today that will restrict upfront payment demands made by landlords.

Under the new regulations, which the government plans to have passed into law by the summer, renters will only be required to supply a deposit and a month’s rent in advance, and the total value will not be allowed exceed the value of two months’ rent. 

The measure includes students who are living in student-specific accommodation.

In a statement, Minister O’Brien said that the measures are “the beginning of a suite of rental protections which I hope to bring forward in the autumn to protect all tenants”.

“Having met previously with members of the Union of Students in Ireland, I know they were particularly concerned about students being asked to pay up to a year’s rent in advance and having to provide lengthy termination notices. The measures Cabinet have approved today will go some way towards alleviating the concerns raised,” O’Brien said.

“We do need to increase the availability of accommodation for students – this is the most effective way to provide real choice and options. I will continue to liaise with Minister Harris and the USI on this matter,” he said.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said that “this measure will help lower the financial barriers by removing a significant upfront expense for students attending college”.

He said that it will apply for the upcoming academic year.

There will be an opt-outs to allow students to pay more upfront if they wish to do so, but they cannot be forced into such a move. 

However, Sinn Féin spokesperson for housing Eoin Ó Broin said that the option to pay more should be removed.

“If we’re saying it’s a month’s rent and a month’s rent deposit in advance, that should be it,” Ó Broin said on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One this afternoon.

“This idea that students allegedly who want to pay more than that can do so, that’s a loophole that could be exploited and it should be removed,” he said.

He said the “real congratulations” for the new measure is to the Union of Students in Ireland, who “led the campaign for this change”.

Broader move

While the new regulations have been designed primarily to help students who are seeking college accommodation in advance of the new academic year, the measures will also apply to all renters who are moving into a new home.

As far back as 2017, government has been urged to tackle the rules around deposits and upfront payments, with some examples being highlighted over the years of private landlords asking prospective tenants for two months’ deposit as well as the first month’s rent.

National housing charity Threshold said at the time that it was very concerned that no law exists to ensure that just one month’s rent is sufficient for a deposit, stating that tenants needed to be protected from unscrupulous landlords.

Rent protections for those financially impacted by Covid-19

In addition to tackling the issue of large upfront payments, Cabinet has also extended the current Covid-19 protections for renters. 

Those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic will see their protections extended beyond 12 July.

The protections are being extended for another six months beyond July, until 12 January 2022.

The measure will 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 initial temporary measures, which prevented evictions and rent increases for tenants in financial difficulty during the pandemic.

The protections currently in place only 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 finding 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 in January, under the new measures.

Speaking on the News at One, Minister O’Brien said the “rent pressure zones themselves and the legislation that underpins it is due to expire at the end of this year and I’ll be bringing forward a new suite of rent reform measures”.

“I would hope to have measures to deal with this and other aspects in a very, very short space of time. I’m not in a position to detail them quite yet but I will be doing so,” he said.

In contrast, Ó Broin said that protections are not extended far enough and that we need a “three year ban on rent increases”.

“It is simply not conceivable that any tenant who’s paying for example, €1700 or more, which is the average rent now in Dublin City should be hit with any level of rent increase, let alone a rent increase of 8%,” Ó Broin said.

The average monthly rent in Dublin is currently just under €2,000.

In the capital, the average monthly rent during the first quarter was €1,974, a drop of 6.5% over the past twelve months.

The cost of renting increased in every city outside of Dublin in the twelve months to March, with the capital the only city in the country where rents fell from 2020 to 2021.

But rents outside of Dublin are 7.1% higher than they were in the first quarter of 2020, with renters paying €900 extra per year on average.

With reporting by Lauren Boland

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