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Threshold disappointed at passage of Residential Tenancies Bill

30 March 2021

newspaper

Threshold warns that over 1,000 termination cases carried over from 2020 are certain to face eviction, while Covid-19 case numbers remain high

 

National housing charity Threshold has expressed disappointment at some elements of the Residential Tenancies Bill 2021, which was passed by the Oireachtas on Monday.

The Bill extends protections until mid-July for renters who have lost income on foot of Covid-19 restrictions and who have declared this to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), but removes protections for all other renters with rent arrears. Threshold points out that the passage of the Bill puts two cohorts of private renters at immediate risk of eviction:

1. Any tenant with arrears who has not lost income as a direct result of Covid-19 restrictions / who is not on a Covid-19-related social welfare payment

2. Any tenant who has lost income on foot of Covid-19 restrictions and is eligible to register as a ‘relevant person’ with the RTB, but does not do so.

Threshold currently has more than 100 cases open for tenants that fall into the first category. Of these cases, nearly two-thirds (63%) have been in rent arrears for less than three months.

Chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden said: “Threshold pointed out, when the process of registering as a ‘relevant person’ with the RTB was first introduced, that it was overly complex and widely inaccessible to tenants. Despite having advised any eligible tenants to register, we know now that uptake has been extremely low. What we are left with is a large number of tenants who do count as ‘relevant persons’ and should be protected, who, with the passage of this Bill, are about to be exposed to an imminent risk of eviction.”

In addition to the exclusion of many renters with arrears from the protection of the moratorium, Threshold highlights that the moratorium itself is tied to the 5-kilometre travel restriction and will end as soon as this restriction is lifted.

“According to recent reports, the 5-kilometre travel restriction is to be lifted imminently, and the blanket moratorium along with it,” said Hayden. “With the exception of the small number who have registered with the RTB, this will leave all other renters exposed. The moratorium was first introduced as a public health measure, to restrict movement during the pandemic and ensure that renters could remain in their homes. Why, then, allow the moratorium to end now, when cases of Covid-19 remain high and instructions to stay at home are very much still in place?”

Threshold has over 1,000 termination cases carried over from 2020. To put this into perspective, 467 of those cases relate to tenants living in Dublin, but a review of Daft.ie shows that there are currently just 653 properties available to rent in Dublin for €1,500 a month or below. Similarly, 246 of the cases relate to tenants in Cork, where there are just 39 rental properties available for €1,000 or below; 150 are from Galway, where there are just 42 rental properties available for €1,000 or below; and 40 in Limerick, where there are currently just 15 rental properties available for €1,000 or below. (The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) limits for a three-child family in Cork, Galway and Limerick are €950, €900 and €750 respectively.)

John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold said: “Any renter in arrears is highly unlikely to be able to afford to move to any of the properties currently available. They are truly at the mercy of a dysfunctional housing market, where at least one month’s rent is required as a deposit and, often, multiples of this. The issue facing these renters is also compounded by the fact that landlords generally require a reference from the tenant’s previous landlord when filtering through tenancy applications. Given the demand in the rental market at present, where are these individuals and families supposed to go, once the moratorium is lifted and their notices of termination come back into effect?

“Now is not the time to restrict supports for renters. Instead of diluting the moratorium on evictions, Threshold recommends it be extended for a minimum of six months, without being dependant on the 5-kilometre travel restriction, and that it be kept under review until we are living post-Covid-19. With rental housing supply remaining low, while the number of Covid-19 cases remains high; not to mention the presence of highly transmissible variants and the gradual reopening of some parts of society – namely schools and, potentially, construction – about to take place, allowing evictions to go ahead now could be disastrous.”

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.