Renting and COVID-19

Introduction

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on jobs and incomes across Ireland.

Since March 2020, there have been a number of different protections put in place to support tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of which have expired and others which overlap, see below.

At midnight on 21 October 2020, Ireland moved to Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19 for 6 weeks. A ban on evictions is planned for this period, but this is not yet in effect, as legislation is needed to enact the temporary ban.

When this temporary ban on evictions comes into effect, it will replace the current rental laws for the period of the temporary ban. The current rental laws are designed to protect tenants economically affected by COVID-19 who have fallen into rent arrears and who are at risk of losing their tenancy. These provisions came into effect on 2 August 2020 and were due to apply until 10 January 2021. The RTB has a summary of these current rental laws (pdf).

In March 2020, a range of protections were put in place for people affected by the pandemic under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020. The rental protections during this initial emergency period ran from 27 March to 1 August 2020 and included a ban on eviction notices and rent increases. These protections still have an effect on notice periods and the calculation of Part 4 tenancies, see below.

Termination of tenancy

Normally, if your landlord wants you to leave your accommodation, they must serve you with a notice of termination. This can be for a number of reasons.

However, a temporary ban on evictions is due to come into effect while the country is at Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19. Legislation is needed to enact this ban, so it is not yet in effect. But, the draft legislation intends to backdate the ban to cover the new emergency period which started at midnight on 21 October 2020. When the legislation comes into effect your landlord cannot issue you with a notice of termination. This applies to all types of tenancies, including license arrangements and where you live with your landlord.

Before the upcoming ban on evictions comes into effect, your tenant’s rights had mainly returned to those you had before the pandemic, if you had not been impacted financially by COVID-19. Until the eviction ban comes in, landlords can serve tenants with a notice of termination for the normal reasons or if a tenant has fallen into rent arrears for reasons other than COVID-19 and the issue of the arrears cannot be resolved. However, the upcoming eviction ban will replace these provisions from the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 for the emergency period that the country is at Level 5 restrictions.

Part 4 tenancies

When a tenancy has lasted more than 6 months, the tenancy becomes a part 4 tenancy. This means the tenancy can only be ended for specific reasons until the end of a 4 or 6 year period (depending on when the tenancy started).

During the initial COVID-19 emergency period, Part 4 tenancies and further part 4 tenancies could not start and the emergency period does not count towards the time spent as a tenant for part 4 or further part 4 tenancies. However, after 2 August 2020, the normal rules for these tenancies apply.

You can read more about part 4 tenancies.

If you want to leave

The initial emergency legislation did not affect your right to end your tenancy. You should read your lease agreement or tenancy agreement for information on how to end your tenancy. If you are in a fixed term lease, you may lose your deposit if you leave your accommodation before the end of the fixed period.

Evictions

Ireland moved to Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19 for 6 weeks on midnight 21 October 2020. A ban on evictions is planned for this period, but is not yet in effect, as legislation is needed to enact the temporary ban.

Until this proposed legislation takes effect, evictions are covered by current tenancy legislation and the process outlined below.

Your landlord must give a copy of the notice of termination due to non-payment of rent to both you and the RTB at the same time. The notice period will only start once this has been done.

If you have fallen into rent arrears that were not caused by COVID-19, you have 28 days from the date specified in the rent arrears notice to pay any rent you owe before you can be evicted.

If you have declared yourself to be economically affected by COVID-19, you can only be evicted if the necessary 90 day notice of termination is served. The emergency period between 27 March 2020 and 1 August 2020 is not counted for this purpose.

If you are threatened with eviction, you should call Threshold for advice. See 'Further information and contacts' below for other organisations that might be able to help you.

Rent freezes

From 2 August 2020, rent increases can take effect for tenants who have not been financially impacted by COVID-19. They must follow the usual rent setting and review rules inside and outside a Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ). If your rent is increased, no backdating is allowed.

If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19, your rent cannot be increased before 10 January 2021.

Rent decreases continue to be allowed.

This applies to all types of tenancies

Difficulty paying rent

If you cannot afford to pay rent, you should discuss this with your landlord. Your landlord may agree to allow you to pay a reduced amount until your situation improves. You should not stop paying rent completely, and if you cannot pay the full amount of rent due, you should talk to your landlord or agent before you start paying a reduced amount.

You can read our document on social welfare and COVID-19 for information on the social welfare payments available. You can also find out more about the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Supplement.

To qualify for Rent Supplement you must:

  • Be working (or self-employed) less than 30 hours per week
  • Be habitually resident in Ireland
  • Be renting for 6 out of the past 12 months (or in receipt of Rent Supplement in the past 12 months)
  • Have been able to afford the rent when you took up the tenancy
  • Be in a bona fide tenancy
  • Pass a means test

A bona fide tenancy is where a genuine tenancy is in place and was in place before your claim for Rent Supplement. For example, if the house you live in is owned by a close relative and you have been living there without paying rent, you will not qualify for Rent Supplement for that accommodation.

If your spouse or partner is working or self-employed for over 30 hours per week, you will not be eligible for Rent Supplement.

You can read more about the habitual residence condition and how Rent Supplement is calculated.

If you are a HAP tenant and you have lost some or all of your self-employment, you should contact your local authority. Make sure that you have applied for any social welfare payment you might be entitled to before contacting your local authority. If your income has decreased, the local authority will re-assess your contribution to your rent.

Rent arrears due to the financial impact of COVID-19

It has been announced that a 6-week ban on evictions is planned for the period that the country is at Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19. However, this is not yet in effect, as legislation is needed to enact the temporary ban. When the legislation comes into effect tenants cannot be evicted from their homes.

Until this temporary ban takes effect, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 sets out current protections for tenants who have fallen into rent arrears due to COVID-19, and as a result, are at risk of losing their tenancy.

The rental protections may apply to you if you are:

  • In receipt of Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absence, or
  • Getting (or entitled to get) the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme or the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme or any social welfare payment or State support to help with loss of earnings caused by COVID-19 (including Rent Supplement or Supplementary Welfare Allowance)

AND

  • at risk of losing your tenancy

Rules and requirements for landlords and tenants facing rent arrears due to COVID-19

There are new rules and requirements for both landlords and tenants. The process is broken down into in 8 steps starting from the point where a tenant has fallen into rent arrears. It is important to know that failure to complete each step as required may lead to a notice of termination being deemed invalid. Go to the RTB website for full details of each step.

Step 1: Landlord issues a written rent arrears warning notice to the tenant to pay the rent arrears. Tenants must be given at least 28 days to pay the arrears. The RTB has a sample warning notice for rent arrears (pdf) on its website.

Step 2: There is a new responsibility of landlords to give a copy of the written rent arrears warning notice to the RTB. The 28-day period will begin from the date when both the tenant and RTB have received the written warning notice.

Step 3: RTB will write to the landlord and tenant confirming it has received a copy of the rent arrears warning notice. It will also provide the tenant with information on income supports, how they can get advice from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), and a link to the Self-Declaration form (pdf) should the tenant need to use it. The RTB will ask the tenant to allow the RTB to contact MABS in relation to the arrears and for information and advice on how the issue can be resolved.

Step 4 (optional): Tenant allows RTB to assist them to get advice from MABS.

Step 5: A tenant who is unable to pay their rent anytime between 9 March 2020 and 10 January 2021 due to COVID-19 can avail of the new protections to prevent them having to leave their accommodation before 10 January 2021.

In this case, the tenant should fill in, sign and submit a Self-Declaration form (pdf) to the RTB. They must also send a true copy (in order for the document to be a true copy, it must also be signed, dated and state that the document is a true copy) to their landlord.

However, to qualify for these protections, a tenant must also be:

  • In receipt of Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absence, or
  • Getting (or entitled to get) the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme or the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme or any social welfare payment or State support to help with loss of earnings caused by COVID-19 (including Rent Supplement or Supplementary Welfare Allowance)

AND

  • at risk of losing your tenancy

It is a criminal offence not to tell the truth on this self-declaration form.

Step 6: Notice of Termination

If a landlord does not receive a Self-Declaration form from the tenant, the landlord can proceed to serve a notice of termination for rent arrears giving 28 days’ notice once the 28-day warning notice for rent arrears has expired.

If a landlord does receive a true copy of a Self-Declaration form from the tenant 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), but the tenant is not required to vacate their accommodation before 11 January 2021 and the tenant must be given at least 90 days’ notice. Also, the landlord cannot increase the rent until or after 11 January 2021.

Step 7: Landlord must send a copy of the Notice of Termination to the RTB

The landlord must send the RTB a copy of the Notice of Termination they have sent to the tenant for rent arrears on the same day. This is a new requirement of landlords and only applies to notices of termination based on rent arrears.

Step 8: RTB will contact the tenant with information on the dispute resolution options available to them

The RTB will notify the tenant of their right to refer a tenancy termination dispute to the RTB within 28 days of receiving the notice of termination.

Tenants and landlords should keep copies of all notices served and received, all documentation proving when documents were issued and sent, and any relevant MABS advice.

For more detail, information and support regarding these steps, contact the RTB.

Disputes

RTB adjudication hearings have recommenced though the volume of face to face hearings is currently not at pre-pandemic levels. The RTB is also in the process of piloting virtual hearings, and it continues to provide a paper-based dispute resolution process. Face to face hearings will be offered wherever a case is not suitable for paper-based adjudications or virtual hearings. If you are having difficulties with your tenancy, contact the RTB for details of the dispute resolution process, which includes mediation by telephone.

Threshold’s Tenancy Protection Service provides advice and support to tenants where there is a tenancy problem or where a tenancy is at risk. Threshold advisors can mediate with landlords and also help with applications for rent supplement. Call 1800 454 454, 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday for more information.

Further information and contacts

Residential Tenancies Board

PO Box 47
Clonakilty
Co. Cork
Ireland

Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm
Tel: 0818 303 037 or 01 702 8100
Fax: 0818 303 039

Tenancy Protection Service (Threshold)

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm
Locall: 1800 454 454
Page edited: 22 October 2020