The speed with which the pandemic has struck left our policy makers with no option but to implement extraordinary legislative measures to somehow contain the impact on housing provision.
Self-isolation confirmed medical diagnosis and/or a reduction in working hours or loss of employment are likely to present significant financial challenges for both landlords and tenants over the coming months.
With effect from 27 March 2020, emergency measures were introduced into law, to protect tenants during the COVID-19 emergency period. The Act provides for amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 – 2019 that are expected to last for a period of 3 months but may be extended if the Government considers it necessary.
The legislation ensures that tenants cannot be forced to leave their rental accommodation, other than in exceptional circumstances, during the emergency period. A notice of termination cannot be served and where a notice of termination was served before the 27/03/2020, it cannot take effect until the emergency period has ended. For tenancies of less than 6 months duration, a tenant now has 28 days, increased from 14 days, to pay rent arrears due. If the tenant and landlord are unable to agree an approach to arrears, the landlord cannot issue a notice of termination during the emergency period. Rent increases are prohibited during the period but rent decreases can be implemented.
Landlord obligations in relation to the property and the tenant remain unchanged and tenants are obliged to continue to pay rent during the emergency period.
Some of the country's largest landlords and institutional property investors have said they will support government efforts to protect tenants who are impacted by the disruption caused by the pandemic through measures such as deferral of rent payments and payment plans.
The trickle-down effect of rents not being paid would be devastating leaving some landlords unable to make mortgage payments, meet insurance costs and pay their own bills.
Smaller landlords facing potential difficulties in making loan repayments are being advised that certain banks, retail credit and credit servicing firms have introduced 3-month payment breaks on mortgages.
While tenants are expected to pay rent during this period, income support and rent supplement provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is available to those struggling to do so. Any rent arrears built up during the period will be payable.
Tenants are advised to contact their landlords as soon as they can to talk through delayed or partial payment options.
The legislative changes are temporary in nature, lasting for the duration of the COVID 19 crisis, after which point residential tenancies will revert to the current legislative arrangements.