Proposed emergency measures for renters could leave tens of thousands in debt, warns Ó Broin

Proposed emergency measures for renters could leave tens of thousands in debt, warns Ó Broin

Measures to protect renters in emergency Covid-19 legislation to be debated in the Dáil on Thursday could leave tens of thousands of renters in debt, Sinn Féin’s Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has warned.

The legislation, which will be brought before a marathon 11-hour Dáil session, promises changes to the Residential Tenancies Act for three months.

These changes include a ban on eviction orders, a rent freeze and a moratorium on the period of notices to quit tenancies.

Mr Ó Broin said that he will propose amendments to the emergency legislation aimed at protecting those without tenancy agreements and ensuring that tenants who lose income due to the pandemic are not left with substantial debt arrears at a later date.

Mr Ó Broin’s amendments include renters who are on a licence or renting a room on a verbal agreement in those who protected by the ban on evictions and also calls for allowances to be made for Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to establish a scheme aimed at avoiding deferred rents becoming millstones for impacted renters.

Mr Ó Broin said that he accepted such a scheme would be complex and requires the buy-in of banks and landlords, but said that it would ensure burden-sharing in the private rental sector.

“A lot of people who’ve lost their jobs are in the private rental sector. They’ll get the protections of no rent increases and no evictions, as well as a fast-tracked rent supplement.

But if that rent supplement is even €600, you could be clocking up up to €1,000 a month in rental debt. What happens to that rent?

“Our solution is that where a tenant can’t pay, banks should offer a mortgage moratorium to the landlord, which would mean landlords shouldn’t be expecting the full amount of the rent, but the rental supplement would still give them something.

“The landlord's costs wouldn’t be the same because of the moratorium, but they get part of the payment and the renter isn’t expected to carry it down the road.

“This could be quite a big problem down in a few months, you could be talking about tens of thousands of people having a debt that they cannot service.

“It’s not a straightforward scheme to build, but government should commit to working to build it.

"The system whereby the handling of this debt is down to individual renters is not sustainable.

“If this is a national crisis, we all must be in this together.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that his party would also table amendments to the legislation, including a mortgage, rent and utility bill holiday people who lose employment or income due to the ongoing health emergency.

“Even with the enhanced income supports and payments proposed hundreds of thousands will see significant reductions in income and will be unable to pay already demanding and often extortionate rents, mortgage repayments and utility bills.

“The last thing that people need, who are abiding by public health advice and having to stay at home, is to have financial pressure and worries of rent, mortgage and utility bills.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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