The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018: Proposals to enhance protections for tenants

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2018 (the “Bill”), which was published in January 2019, is currently at the committee stage in the Dáil and has already sparked quite the debate among cabinet members. The Bill aims to provide more protection for tenants and if enacted in it’s current form will substantially increase the obligations of landlord of residential properties.

The Bill proposes to extend notice periods required to be given to tenants to terminate tenancies,  gives powers to the Residential Tenancies Board (“RTB”) to investigate and sanction non-compliant landlords and allows for the publication of rental amounts in the RTB register.  We are providing a short summary of the most significant proposed changes below:

Notice Periods:

Once a tenant is in occupation for more than 6 months the notice period required to terminate their tenancy is to be significantly extended.

Duration of tenancy Current Notice Period       Notice Period in Bill*     
Less than 6 months 28 days 28 days
6 or more months but less than 1 year    35 days 90 days
1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days 120 days
2 years or more but less than 3 years 56 days 120 days
3 years or more but less than 4 years 84 days 120 days
4 years or more but less than 5 years 112 days 120 days
5 years or more but less than 6 years 140 days 140 days
6 years or more but less than 7 years 168 days 168 days
7 years or more but less than 8 years 196 days 196 days
8 or more years 224 days 224 days

While this would offer greater protection for tenants it will however take longer for landlords to get vacant possession of their properties.

“Substantial Change”

  • The Rental Pressure Zone (“RPZ”) legislation allows for an exemption from the rent restrictions where the landlord has carried out works to the property resulting in a “substantial change in the nature of accommodation provided under the tenancy”
  • The Bill introduces a legal definition for “substantial change” so that the exemption will only arise where:

(A) At least 50% of the floor area of the dwelling has undergone renovation; and

(B) The renovation works are structural in nature to the extent that:

  • The internal layout of the dwelling is permanently altered;
  • The dwelling is adapted for use by person with disability;
  • The number of rooms increased
  • A permanent extension added
  • The BER is improved;

Sanctions:

  • The RTB is to be given powers to investigate non-compliant landlords in particular landlords setting rents not in compliance with the RPZ rent restrictions.  Previously a landlord could be investigated or sanctioned only where a tenant makes a formal complaint to the RTB
  • A landlord found in breach could be faced with a financial penalty of up to €15,000, a whopping increase of €12,000
  • Minister Eoghan Murphy also stated in December last that in total a sanction could cost a landlord in breach up to €30,000 and a written caution (to include a penalty of up to €15,000 and a payment of RTB investigation costs of up to €15,000)
  • The Bill also proposes in make it a criminal offence for landlords to raise the rent above the legally allowed 4% of properties in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs)

Rent Register:

  • For the first time a rent register is to be established by the RTB with rental amounts for residential properties published
  • Landlords will be obliged to provide information to the RTB for the purpose of the register such as:
  • the rent paid by the last tenant and the period this rent covers
  • the landlords name and PPS number
  • Additionally the RTB, on request, may provide new tenants of the property with the above information free of charge

Student Accommodation:

The Minister has indicated that further amendments may be included in the Bill to extend certain provisions of the Residential Tenancies Acts in particular those connected with rent setting to purpose built student (specific) accommodation let under licence by private or public provides. This could also see student accommodation rent rises capped at 4%.

Minister Eoghan Murphy has stated in respect of the Bill that: “The key measures and reforms are designed to enhance enforcement powers for the RTB, provide greater security of tenure for tenants and further underpin the operation of the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) arrangements, along with some further targeted priority measures.”

In conclusion the proposed amendments to the Act could have significant ramifications for all residential landlords and it is important that landlords are well-informed of these changes.

For further information please contact Joan Maclean (Partner), or your usual AMOSS contact.

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