Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has told the Dáil that a bill to help tenants who have lost income due to Covid-19 will provide further protections until 10 January 2021.
Mr O'Brien said the bill balances the need to protect those worst affected by the pandemic with the need to respect property rights and the legitimate interests of landlords.
He said the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020 recognises that Covid-19 has been extremely hard on many tenants, adding that many people in the residential rental sector have faced job losses, which has put them at risk of losing their homes.
Mr O’Brien said there was a risk that some renters will have difficulty securing rental accommodation and might end up in overcrowded accommodation when the State is trying to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading.
He said for tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to Covid-19, the bill provides for an increased notice of eviction period for failure to pay rent from 28 days to 90 days.
He said that this relates to terminations served on tenants during the emergency period from the passing of the bill to 10 January next year.
Mr O'Brien said anyone who receives a termination notice cannot be evicted from their property earlier than 11 January 2021.
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Mr O'Brien added that in the longer term the bill provides that before a notice of termination on rent arrears can be served, tenants will have 28 days to pay outstanding rent arrears.
He said the Government has approved the proposals to progress the legislation before the summer recess to better protect tenants who remain vulnerable.
The minister also said that if a tenant cannot pay their rent due to the economic fallout of Covid-19 they must notify the Residential Tenancies Board. Making a false or misleading declaration, he said, would be an offence.
Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin criticised the proposed legislation, describing it as "an attack on renters".
He said it stripped vital protections from the vast majority of tenants at a time when they need them most, adding that if the bill passes, rent increases and existing and new notices to quit are back on the table.
He said the protections for renters whose income have been hit by Covid-19 are weak and overly complex and easy for a small number of rogue landlords to get around.
"It would result in increasing levels of homelessness, particularly for families with children," he said.
Mr Ó Broin added the ban on evictions and rent increases introduced in March gave renters a much needed break and did more than shield tenants from the impact of Covid-19.
"It led to a dramatic drop in the number of people presenting as homeless," he said, adding: "We now have the lowest number of families in emergency accommodation in three years."
Mr Ó Broin said there was widespread expectation that this ban would be extended by this Government, and added that Fianna Fáil's deal for renters looks like Fine Gael's "old bad deal" for renters.
Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin also hit out at the bill saying it had limited protections for those impacted by Covid-19.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said his party would be opposing the bill and would submit a number of amendments to it.
He said it was strange that a measure introduced in March, which worked to keep people out of homelessness, would be changed, adding that the legislation would result in an increase in homelessness in the autumn.
"The Government must prepare for this," he said, adding that the "flawed bill" would not stop people losing their homes.
Mr Ó Ríordáin also said the pandemic ban on evictions worked to stop the increase in homelessness and that under the new bill no-fault evictions, as well as substantial renovation evictions and evictions for the benefit of family members, are back.
He said there was no "beefing up" of staffing of the RTB for inspections and protections of renters.