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.
“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.”