Community Law & Mediation has submitted its observations on the draft Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill to TDs, ahead of the Dail debate on Thursday 26th March:
Many of the measures outlined in the Bill are to be welcomed. However, we are concerned that there are gaps in the protections offered which could affect the most vulnerable in society and could further exacerbate the housing crisis which existed prior to the current emergency.
A particular concern is that the Bill makes no provision for licensees in owner-occupied accommodation. CLM recommends that the protections in this Bill be extended to those in owner occupied accommodation. This would require an amendment to section 3 (2) of the Bill.
Those who rent rooms in the property owners’ home are already in an extremely precarious situation. They are generally considered licensees and are in the property on the owner`s consent or invitation. It is vital that this category of renters be afforded protection from evictions.
There are reports of evictions from owner-occupied accommodation with little or no notice. This practice constitutes a significant public health risk and will place undue pressure on the country`s homeless services.
While the ban on evictions is to be welcomed, CLM is concerned that renters may accrue rent arrears due to job losses, which could trigger evictions after the emergency period.
CLM would recommend that tenants be granted additional time to address any rent arrears arising out of this emergency period. Furthermore, a positive obligation should be placed on landlords to demonstrate that prior to an eviction related to rent arrears accrued during the emergency period, reasonable efforts are made to agree a reasonable repayment schedule before a notice of termination is issued. These measures would require an amendment to section 5 (5) of the Bill.
In addition, CLM recommends that the following provisions of the Bill be removed or amended:
- Section 5(1)(b) should be removed as it may impede new tenants acquiring their Part 4 rights.
- Section 8(1) should be amended so as to ensure that tenants who are over-holding in their accommodation following Tribunal determination or Court order are not evicted from their accommodation during the emergency period.
- Section 5(6) should also be amended to provide further additional time to renters after the emergency period has ceased. Under the proposed Bill, tenants who have already received a notice of termination will have their notice period extended to the duration of the emergency period plus their remaining notice (the Revised Termination Date). The remaining notice period for some renters could be as little as a few days. CLM recommends that an additional four weeks be added to the definition of Revised Termination Date to ensure that all tenants have adequate time to find alternative accommodation where necessary.