Renters need protection over the Christmas period, charity says
National housing charity Threshold has broadly welcomed the content of the Residential Tenancies Bill 2020, which will see the blanket ban on rental evictions reinstated for a period of just over seven weeks, in line with the reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions on movement. The charity however has some reservations about the detail of the Bill.
CEO of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty said: “We are relieved that the moratorium on evictions is to be reinstated in line with the new restrictions. The ban – which was in place from March to August this year – can only be said to have had a positive impact for those experiencing homelessness, those at risk of homelessness, for all people renting and worrying about losing their home and for the public purse. At the very least, this measure is necessary as long as people’s movements are restricted.”
While the Cabinet’s decision to move the entire country into Level 5 restrictions has led to the moratorium being reintroduced, Threshold believes that these are not the only circumstances under which the ban should be in place.
McCafferty continued: “The move to Level 5 has triggered the reintroduction of the moratorium, but renters continued to face difficulty over the last three months after it was first lifted. We believe that there should be a lower threshold for enacting a ban on evictions – it shouldn’t only come in at the highest level of restrictions. At Levels 2 and 3, for example, employment in certain sectors remained precarious, and will be so again when the country emerges from this renewed lockdown. When the ban was lifted in August, many renters found themselves at risk of eviction through no fault of their own.
“We would also like to see licensees or subletters included in this moratorium – this category of renters was omitted from protections the last time there was a moratorium on evictions, and they were arguably the biggest losers of the first lockdown. All renters need to be protected – a technical difference in someone’s status shouldn’t lead to them losing their home.”
Chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden said: “It is imperative that the evictions moratorium not be tied to simply the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions and that it is kept in place when the country does emerge from Level 5 – this would provide much-needed security to renters over the Christmas period. As soon as the original moratorium came to an end in August this year, the number of tenants requiring Threshold’s assistance with notices of termination went back almost to 2019 levels. Extending the ban into January, at the least, would provide some certainty to tenants who have faced a difficult enough year.
“It would also be prudent for the Residential Tenancies Board’s Investigations and Sanctions unit to be specifically empowered to investigate forced evictions during a moratorium period. While the majority of landlords have shown great forbearance and understanding during what has been a difficult period for all, tenants reported to us that some illegal evictions did occur while the ban was in place earlier in the year. It is key that this new legislation is supported by robust regulation.”
Threshold’s helpline remains available Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm at 1800 454 454, and via its website at https://www.threshold.ie/advice/help for any renter in need of advice or support.