How Government Reactions to COVID 19 have affected the Dublin Landlord and Tenant
This Covid world that we all find ourselves living through is much changed, uncertain and a challenging time for all walks of life. None more so than residential tenancies, from both a landlord and tenants point of view. At the time of writing, Hopkins Ward have generally had a very positive response from both tenants in paying rent and landlords engaging with those tenancies who have been financially effected from a loss of employment and/or income.
Affected tenants have found themselves in two categories:
- An immediate ending of the tenancy as, due to financial and personal circumstances, the tenancy is not viable going forward. This is a very tough decision for any tenant as they must give up the right to their home. As a company, in conjunction with the individual landlords, we are allowing shorter notice periods, a full written reference if requested and with all other tenancy obligations met, a full deposit to be returned.
- A wish to remain in situ with an agreed temporary deferment of rent payments. This scenario is the most beneficial to both parties, as tenants get to remain in their home and landlords get to keep good tenants and are not left with a vacant property.
From our entire management portfolio we have had c. 11% of all tenancies fall into the above categories. We are of the opinion that this is quite a low % considering the difficult times that the tenants are facing. The immediate response of the government in paying a €350 Covid 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, has certainly contributed in somewhat easing tenants financial worries and enabling them to pay all/part of their rental obligations. We would have a slight concern going forward, as to when this unemployment payment ends and tenants are not immediately back to their place of work in the same financial capacity as before.
What has been the response from Government?
With effect from the 27th March 2020, the government introduced the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020. This was a quick and decisive decision in protecting the rights of tenancies. It has brought about an initial set of emergency laws for a 3 month period, 27th March 2020 – 27th June 2020. By government order this notice period can be extended, and we would be of the opinion that it will be.
- Notice of termination cannot be served during the emergency period, only under extreme circumstances. Extreme circumstances would be a serious breach of tenants obligations i.e anti social behaviour or malicious damage to the property, to name but two.
- Any notice of termination that was legally served prior to the 27th March 2020, is frozen for the length of the emergency measures. For example : Tenant A has been renting from Landlord B for 7 years. On the 1st of January 2020 Landlord B decides to sell his/her property or to take the property back for his/her own family use. Due to the length of tenancy, a valid notice of 196 days is issued on the 1st January 2020. This tenancy would normally end on the 15th July 2020. With the introduction of emergency legislation, the notice period is paused from the 27th March 2020 for the duration of the emergency period (currently 3 months). If the government does not extend the emergency period, this tenancy will now end on the 15th October 2020.
- A rent review which fell due on the 1st April 2020, for an existing tenancy, cannot be issued during the emergency period.
- If a new tenancy commences on the 1st April 2020, the increased rent allowed under RPZ cannot be enforced until after the emergency period. For example Tenant A moves into Property A on the 1st April 2019 at a rent of €1000. Tenant A naturally ends their tenancy on the 1st April 2020 and Tenant B is set to commence his/her tenancy from this date. Under normal circumstances the new rental amount would be €1040 under the 4% RPZ calculator. The Covid measures dictate that the rent due will be €1000 during the emergency period and will only increase to €1040 once the measures have been lifted.
- An existing tenancy was renewed on the 1st January 2020. A valid 90 day rent review was issued on this day under RPZ calculations and the rent was set to increase from the 1st April 2020. This reviewed rent amount will only kick in after the emergency measures have been lifted. For example Tenant A commences a tenancy on the 1st January 2019 at a rental figure of €1000 per month. Tenant A renews their tenancy on the 1st January 2020 for a further 12 months. A valid rent review is issued on the 1st January 2020, increasing rent to €1050 from the 1st April 2020. Under emergency measures the original rent of €1000 per month will continue to be the rent due until the ending of the emergency period.
Dublin Rental Market Post Covid?
To answer this question with any degree of certainty is near impossible at this time. There remain too many unknowns including the longevity of the disease, the world economy effecting our island economy, long term affordability of tenants and whether Dublin will continue to remain a desirable location for the continued expansion of both existing and new start ups companies both homegrown and international.
I would tentatively suggest that the fundamentals remain strong within the Dublin rental market. Landlords may have to adjust to longer down times between tenancies and not an automatic rent increase year on year. I have been directly involved in Letting and Management in the Dublin residential market since 2003 and can recall a time when it was expected to have anything from a 2 week to a month gap between tenancies. Pre covid 2020, if the gap was any longer than a number of days it was an exception.
Remain safe, stay at home and a post covid world will be sooner than we think.