Social Democrats’ Bill to protect tenants and stem homelessness

January 17, 2018

The Social Democrats today publish a Bill to help tackle hasty evictions, unfair rent hikes and growing homelessness by strengthening tenants’ rights.

The party is seeking cross-party support for its Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018 which extends the minimum notice period for terminations of tenancies and strengthens tenants’ rights in relation to how rent caps are monitored and applied.

Party co-leader Róisín Shortall TD will introduce the private members’ bill in the Dáil today.

Speaking ahead of its introduction, Deputy Shortall said:

“The very short notice periods that are currently in place for renters – as low as 28 days in some cases – are undoubtedly a factor in driving the surge in homelessness. In the current climate, where there is a severe housing shortage, it is very difficult for tenants and the housing services that support them to find alternative accommodation in such a short space of time.

“Landlords’ rights to end tenancies must be balanced with protections for renters, who can at the moment be asked to vacate their homes almost at the drop of a hat.  This Bill significantly extends the minimum number of weeks’ notice that tenants must be given when landlords are terminating a tenancy. Under the Bill, landlords would have to provide tenants with at least 3 months’ notice before terminating tenancies.”

Deputy Shortall added:

“The Bill also closes off a crucial loophole in our existing laws to prevent unfair rent hikes in areas where caps are supposed to apply.

“It does this by giving new tenants who are taking on leases in designated Rent Pressure Zones the right to know how much rent the previous tenants had been paying. At the minute, while the RPZ rules restrict landlords from increasing rents for new tenants by more than 4 per cent, there is no legal way for incoming tenants to know how much the previous tenants actually paid.”

ENDS

17 January 2017

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Note for Editors:

The Bill has three specific measures to prevent homelessness and strengthen tenants’ rights when it comes to how existing rent certainty measures are applied.

1. Extending minimum notice periods for landlords terminating tenancies

The Bill extends notice periods for termination of tenancies by landlords.

How the Bill will improve notice periods for tenants:

All tenancies of under one year duration would require a 90 day notice period – this is about three times the current minimum notice period of 28 days.

Tenancies of between one year and 5 years would require 120 days’ notice under the Bill.

Many other countries operate a minimum notice period of around 3 months. In France, it’s 3-6 months. In the Netherlands, it’s 3-6 months. In Germany and Sweden it’s 3 months.

The proposed change would amend section 66 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and provide an important extra protection for tenants to prevent homelessness.

Notice periods were improved under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act, 2015 but only for those who were resident for 5 years or more.

2. Curbing unfair and illegal rent hikes in designated Rent Pressure Zones

Under the Bill, new tenants would have access to details of the amount of rent paid under the previous tenancy before theirs began. This would ensure that the maximum rent increases charged in designated Rent Pressure Zones is applied correctly.

Currently, landlords in the country’s 21 Rent Pressure Zones may not increase rents by more than 4% a year. This cap (broadly) applies whether or not there is a change of tenants during those 12 months.

But rents are continuing to rise far in excess of 4%. For instance, despite the supposed 4% cap, Cork rents rose by 11% in the past year and Dublin rents rose by 10%.

At the moment, there is no way in which a new tenant can test whether or not the 4% cap is being applied correctly by the landlord. This is because tenants do not have a legal right to find out how much rent the previous tenants were paying.

There is very little evidence that the 4% cap is being policed adequately. The Bill seeks to address this anomaly by amending section 151 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

3. Increasing fines for breaches of the 2004 Act in relation to minimum notice periods

The Bill raises the maximum fine that may be applied under Section 9 of the 2004 Act from €4,000 to €15,000. The fines relate to offences that come under the Act including rules around the termination of tenancies. With rising rents, the penalty set down in the Act needs to be raised in order to maintain an adequate deterrent.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018