The Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) was signed into law on the 1st of August 2020.
The 2020 Act was introduced following the expiry of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (the Covid-19 Act 2020). Under the Covid-19 Act 2020 all rent increases and termination of tenancies were banned, with very few exceptions, during the emergency period of 27th of March to 1st of August 2020.
The 2020 Act has removed this ban on rent increases and termination of tenancies, offering clarity, but it still provides protection for tenants whose livelihoods have been affected by Covid-19 and who as a result face rent arrears and the possibility of losing their tenancy. Outlined below are the key implications of the 2020 Act for landlords and tenants.
If a tenant’s ability to pay rent has been impacted by Covid-19 and the tenant meets specific criteria, new procedures and protections apply.
In order for these tenants to be afforded protection under the 2020 Act, the tenant must qualify as a ‘relevant person’. A relevant person is on who satisfies the following criteria:
Criteria A: The inability to meet rent requirements due to the pandemic. Specifically;
- they are out of work because they contracted Covid-19 or were a probable source of Covid-19 infection and as a result are in receipt of a disability benefit or,
- they are receiving/entitled to receive any form of social welfare payment or State support paid as a result of loss of earnings due to Covid-19 (this includes the rent supplement or a supplementary welfare allowance) ; and
Criteria B: They are at risk of losing their tenancy.
Provided the tenant meets the above criteria and fills out a Self-Declaration form (which must be submitted it to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)) the tenant cannot, before the 10 January 2021;
- be removed from his/her rental accommodation, or
- be subject to any rent increase.
Under the new rules and requirements there are procedures that landlords must meet in order to affect a valid termination notice. The stated procedure is as follows;
- Step 1: The landlord must issue a warning notice to the tenant to pay back the rent arrears (the written rent arrears warning notice). The landlord must warn the tenant that she or he are due to pay rent due within 28 days. The warning notice must set out all the rent monies due and owing. The notice must explain to the tenant that failure to pay all the rent monies owing will result in a notice for termination being served on the tenant. The landlord must issue a written warning notice (an email or text will not suffice).
- Step 2: The landlord must serve a copy of the written rent arrears warning notice to the RTB. The 28-day warning period will not kick in until the written rent arrears warning notice has been served on the tenant and a copy has been provided to the RTB
- Step 3: The RTB will write to the landlord and tenant upon receipt of the warning notice.
- Step 4: The tenant provides consent to the RTB to assist them in obtaining MABS Advice.
- Step 5: Where applicable, the tenant completes and submits a Self-Declaration form to the RTB and sends a copy to the landlord.
- Step 6: Service of notice of termination. So long as the landlord has not received a Self-Declaration form from the tenant confirming the rent arrears are as a result of the impact of covid on the tenant’s earnings, then the landlord is entitled to serve a notice of termination. The 28-day period associated with the written arrears warning notice must have expired and the landlord must give an additional 28-day notice period with the notice of termination.
- Step 7: The landlord must serve a copy of the notice of termination to the RTB. This must be sent to the RTB on the same day as the notice was served on the tenant.
- Step 8: The RTB will contact the tenant, notifying the tenant of their right to apply for dispute resolution. The RTB will also highlight their rights and responsibilities as tenants.
Under the the Covid-19 Act 2020 there was a certain level of confusion on whether the rent freeze and eviction ban could be applied to commercial tenancies as well as residential tenancies, due to the wording at 5(7)(a) banning
“all proposed evictions in all tenancies in the State”.
This wording has now been removed under the 2020 Act and as such clarifies that the 2020 Act is only to apply to residential tenancies and not commercial tenancies.
The restrictions the 2020 Act provide will certainly be of some comfort to those tenants facing financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic. But those tenants need to ensure they understand the criteria to qualify as a ‘relevant person’ and that they adhere to the procedures in place.
Landlords, even more so, will need to ensure they understand the implications of the 2020 Act and the updated procedure outlined above.
For more information on the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020, or on any other landlord and tenant or property queries, please contact Head of Property, Nicola Walsh at [email protected] or call 01 644 5800.