Residential Tenancies Bill to be signed into law

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly and Minister with Responsibility for Housing, Planning and Coordination of the Construction 2020 Strategy, Paudie Coffey, have  welcomed the completion of the Residential Tenancies Bill. The Bill has now passed all stages in both houses and will be signed into law by the president as soon as possible.   The Bill provides for a series of major reforms to the private rental sector in Ireland to provide rent certainty & safeguards for both tenants and landlords. Current rents are growing at over 9% according to the latest Daft figures. Anyone who has had a rent increase this year, will not have one next year and this will lead to savings of in excess of €1,000 . In Dublin this could be as high as €1,500.   One of the main purposes of the legislation is to provide a new deal for tenants which provides for rent certainty, measures will include increasing the rent review period from one to two years, increased notice periods for rent reviews and much greater protections for tenants. The increase in rent review periods will mean that anybody who has faced a rent increase in 2015 will now not have a rent review until 2017.  Legislation will require 2 years between all rent reviews, in what is among the most significant overhaul of tenants’ rights in the state.   “The housing market at the moment is dysfunctional and this presents many challenges for our Government.  Many low income families rely on the private rental sector and rents are escalating far higher than people’s incomes because of the housing shortage and the growth in employment.   Some 20% of families are renting in the state and home ownership is reducing, long-term renting will become an option for more and more people and the regulatory environment must be modernised to reflect this. People in rented accommodation need greater security and certainty in their lease and these measures will provide for that.”   “For families who were facing a rent increase next year, the longer distance between rent reviews will delay such increases for a year and ease the pressures on many families that are currently facing uncertainty  due to the shortage of supply. ,”   “Research indicates that many tenants are not aware of their rights. This legislation will now place a legal obligation on landlords to notify them on how to process a dispute on excessive rent increases, tenants will now be more empowered and landlords have a disincentive to aim for the highest rent possible – as they could face a dispute which will delay their rents. This bill  also gives much greater security of tenure to families in rental accommodation,,” said Minister Kelly.   The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill also provides for the creation of a deposit protection scheme where deposits are lodged with the PRTB as opposed to the landlord with consent of both parties required to draw it down on completion of a tenancy. Almost 25% of all disputes dealt with by the (PRTB) Private Residential Tenancies Board are related to deposits. This measure alone will allow the PRTB dedicate more time to other matters.   The measures also oblige landlords to provide more evidence that rent increases are in line with the local market rate and will legally oblige them to inform tenants of their rights and how to dispute future rent increases with the PRTB.   Landlords who intend to sell their property or terminate a tenancy in order for a family member to use it will have to supply a ‘statutory declaration’ to a tenant of their intent to sell and could be liable for a fine if it does not materialise. The measure is designed to prevent abuse of procedures in order to terminate a tenancy.   This legislation will extend the reach of the Act to the not-for-profit Approved Housing Body, or AHB sector.  The AHB sector plays a key role in the provision of social housing for many groups with specific needs.     There will also be a new procedure to deal with rent arrears cases with the PRTB and determination orders concerning terminations will now be dealt with at the District Court level as opposed to Circuit Court, making it easier and cheaper for landlords, or the PRTB, to deal with unscrupulous tenants.  While minor errors in Notices of Termination will no longer cause entire proceedings against problem tenants to fail, as is currently the case.   Furthermore, it will become easier for landlords to deal with problem tenants through the PRTB and District Court as opposed to the more costly procedure of the Circuit Court.”   In addition to rent certainty measures, the Housing Assistance Payment limits are being increased in Cork, Galway, Kildare and Meath where flexibility allows for a 20% payment above rent supplement thresholds. For families in emergency accommodation in Dublin City, HAP payments will be allowed for 50% above rent supplement levels. More than 5,000 families have already benefited from increases in rent supplement limits and this has allowed them to stay in their homes.   “These increases are vital to alleviate the threat of homelessness and to house people who are currently homeless. For a variety of reasons our housing market is not functioning properly at the moment, increasing this funding is part of the solution to get people out of emergency accommodation and back into functioning family units again,”   There will also be a tax relief measure introduced in the Finance Act to allow landlords who lease to tenants in receipt of social housing supports such as rent supplement or the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), to avail of 100% mortgage interest relief on their borrowings where they commit to accommodating tenants in receipt of the above payments for a minimum period of 3 years.   Minister Coffey said “The measures passed by today in the residential tenancies bill are both a practical and balanced approach in terms of dealing with the short term pressures in the private rental market and will lead to a more sustainable rental market over the coming period until supply of housing units increases to meet demand over the coming years.”       “I am satisfied that the measures provided for in this Bill will bring some stability to the  housing market. Supply is one of the main reasons for the  current state of the market and we must continue to drive on with the implementation of  the Social Housing Strategy  and other measures to increase supply. Overall these measures put some stability into what is a highly volatile marketplace that suits neither tenant nor landlord at the moment. We will continue to invest in housing and the reform agenda to bring further stability to the market.” ended Minister Kelly.  

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