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Threshold welcomes proposed protections for vulnerable tenants

23 January 2019

An analysis of the Residential Tenancies Bill 2018

Housing charity to seek amendments to new Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill

Threshold, the National Housing Charity, has broadly welcomed the publication of the new Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill, which is due for debate in the Oireachtas today. The Bill promises to strengthen Rent Pressure Zone enforcement, enhance notice periods for tenants, and empower the Residential Tenancies Board to investigate some breaches of the law.

However Threshold says the proposals fall short in some respect and is particularly disappointed at the absence of provision for a dwelling specific rent register. “The bill is a missed opportunity to make some additional small but significant legislative changes which would bring certainty to the Private Rented Sector for both landlords and tenants.” said Aideen Hayden, Chair of Threshold.

 “This Bill does contain some important advances for the sector at a time of great tenant insecurity and huge rent increases”, said  Ms Hayden.  “In the depths of this housing crisis, the giving of protection to vulnerable tenants through the new investigation and enforcement powers for the Rent Pressure Zones, and the increase in notice periods, are Threshold priorities and so we would urge that this legislation is passed speedily through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

In Threshold’s opinion an open and transparent rent register would support proper enforcement of the RPZ legislation and is consistent with other registers such as the residential property register for house purchases, and the commercial leases register.

 “The law covering residential tenancies is becoming more and more complex.  While the residential tenancies legislation is intended to be used by landlords and tenants to regulate their relationships without recourse to expert legal advice, in reality it is now so complex that it can only be understood by specialists.  It should be completely revised to ensure it can be easily understood”, Aideen Hayden added.

The amended legislation will mean landlords must register a tenancy annually.  This will give the Residential Tenancies Board more up to date and transparent information, including details of any changes in rent during a tenancy, thus guarding against illegal rent increases.

The amended legislation would also increase the “notice to quit” period for tenancies lasting for more than 6 months and less than 5 years.  For example the notice period for a tenancy of 6-12 months would rise from 35 days to 90 days, while the notice period for a 3-4 year tenancy would rise from 84 days to 120 days.  “We welcome this increase in notice periods at a time when finding alternative accommodation can be exceptionally difficult. These longer notice periods will reduce the risk of homelessness associated with tenancy terminations”, said John-Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive Officer of Threshold.

Threshold welcomed a number of other changes but said they remain concerned about the level of rent transparency, and also the very broad criteria landlords can use to end tenancies or increase rents, such as in circumstances in which relatively modest renovations are taking place. This is an opportunity to create real security of tenure and fulfil the commitment made in Rebuilding Ireland by the introduction of indefinite tenancies. “’No reason’ evictions have no place in a modern, fit for purpose, rental sector”, said Mr McCafferty.

 “We will now seek to meet representatives of the political parties in the Oireachtas to look for constructive amendments to this legislation to further enhance the security of tenants and to protect those at risk of homelessness”, said Mr McCafferty.

Threshold's Analysis to the Bill is available here