Caitríona Harte: Temporary moratorium on residential evictions for duration of level 5 restrictions
The Residential Tenancies Act 2020 (the “RTA 20”) temporarily prevents the eviction of residential tenants (in all but exceptional cases) from taking place during Level 5 restrictions. The RTA 20, which was signed into law Saturday 24 October, is the latest in a number of temporary measures taken by the government since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic aimed at mitigating the impact of the pandemic and restrictions on residential tenants.
The effect of the RTA 20 is to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004-2020, in order to prevent residential notices of termination from taking effect during:
- the 6 week period of Level 5 restrictions which commenced at midnight 21 October 2020; and
- any other period during which a 5 kilometre restriction on movement is in place (i.e. future level 5 restrictions),
plus a further 10 day period following the lifting of restrictions.
This additional 10 day “grace period” was included in the RTA 20 to give residential tenants time to find alternative accommodation. So, while residential landlords may still serve a notice of termination during Level 5 restrictions, the “termination date” (i.e. the date upon which tenants must vacate the residential premises) will be suspended by law for the duration of Level 5 restrictions and an additional ten days following the lifting of Level 5 restrictions. Therefore, where a residential notice of termination has been served before or during Level 5 restrictions, the termination date thereunder may be calculated as follows:
The amount of time left to run on the termination notice + the period of Level 5 restrictions + 10 days = revised termination date.
Part 4 tenancies
It is worth noting that the accrual of all Part 4 tenancy rights and protections are suspended during the application of Level 5 restrictions. This appears to affect all residential tenancies and not just those in respect of which a notice of termination has been served.
To whom do these temporary protections apply?
This temporary moratorium on evictions applies to almost all residential tenants and licencees, including students living in student accommodation. However, this is not a universal ban on residential evictions and there are a number of exceptional circumstances in which a residential landlord may serve a valid and operable notice of termination on tenants during Level 5. These are in circumstances of:
- anti-social behaviour;
- a tenant acting in a way that would invalidate a house insurance policy;
- a tenant acting in a way that would cause substantial damage to the accommodation; and/or
- a tenant using the accommodation for commercial or other non-residential purposes.
If any of the above four reasons apply, the date of termination will not be suspended and the eviction can proceed in the normal way, at the end of the termination notice period. As a matter of public interest, it is unlikely that working from home would be considered sufficient evidence that a residential tenant has been using the accommodation for commercial or other non-residential purposes. Rather, this exception is designed to capture residential tenants using their rented accommodation as a primary place of business and/or seeing clients or customers there.
How do these new protections interact with previous and overlapping protections for residential tenants introduced since the start of the pandemic?
As mentioned above, a range of temporary protections for residential tenants have been introduced since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.
In March 2020, the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (the “Emergency Measures Act”) introduced a temporary moratorium on eviction notices and rent increases aimed at protecting residential tenants. This moratorium was then extended in July until 1 August when they ended. See our full article on the tenant protections under the Emergency Measures Act here.
The protections under the Emergency Measures Act were then replaced on 2 August 2020 by the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 (the “RTV Act”), aimed at protecting tenants, economically affected by Covid-19 and whom have fallen into rent arrears, from losing their tenancy. The RTV Act provides for new time periods and processes in relation to serving of a notice of termination for rent arrears and also extends the prohibition on rent increases. These provisions of the RTV Act currently operate from 2 August 2020 until 10 January 2021 and so, residential tenants continue to be protected in respect of notices of termination for rent arrears and rent increases. See our full article on the tenant protections in the RTV Act here.
Caitríona Harte is a solicitor at Ronan Daly Jermyn.