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Threshold welcomes new emergency measures for renters

19 March 2020

Legislation must be retrospective to ensure no last minute hardships are inflicted on tenants

The national housing charity Threshold has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, that he is to introduce legislation to place a moratorium on rent increases and evictions for the duration of the COVID19 emergency.

This will provide some relief to renters during the Covid-19 crisis. However it is important to ensure that the legislation has retrospective effect, so that no landlord can now front load rent increases or evict tenants in advance of the legislation. Clarity will be needed for those tenants who may have already received a notice of termination prior to the emergency.

“These are just some of the measures that will be required to protect renters in these unprecedented times,” said John-Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of Threshold. “The private rented sector is a precarious space to begin with, so this crisis has thrown a lot of tenants into further unstable situations.

“At Threshold we have received a swell of calls to our helpline in recent days, primarily from tenants who are unsure as to how they will meet their rent payments, with thousands losing their jobs overnight. Our advisors have been working non-stop to identify measures that renters can take to supplement their rent payments without delay, to ensure arrears don’t build up.

“Particularly worrying is a small number of cases in which renters are being told to leave their homes because they have returned to Ireland from affected areas – even when they are not showing any symptoms. This has happened in rent-a-room scenarios in particular. This group of licensees have few protections. This will need to change through a limited range of new rights and protections.

“While we have already heard of many incidents of landlords showing flexibility and understanding during this unprecedented situation, only legislative measures will offer concrete protection to tenants, providing them with peace of mind and allowing many to self-isolate safely. Above all, it will stop people from losing their homes in this already extremely distressing time.

“A moratorium on evictions and rent increase will only go so far- many will not be able to make their current rent payment without their regular income. The Minister has stated that rent supplement supports will be available for those whose incomes have been lost or severely reduced.  We would urge the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to simplify the application process for rent supplement as was done for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, and to ensure there are sufficient staff and resources to process claims.

“In these times, it will need to be streamlined to provide immediate relief to tenants and give reassurance to landlords. The caps on both rent supplement and HAP will need to be disregarded for those whose regular incomes have been compromised and will now rely entirely on these payments to keep their home.”

He also urged against landlords issuing any immediate notices to quit or rent increases as a knee jerk response to possible legislative changes. "We see some landlords, who face financial pressure themselves, being flexible and we would urge all to conduct themselves in this spirit of social solidarity given that we are all in this together,” said Mr McCafferty.

Threshold’s helpline remains available Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm at 1800 454454, and via advice@threshold.ie for any renter in need of advice or support.