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Concerns raised as COVID-19 rent freeze ends, allowing Irish landlords to impose rent hikes of up to 8%

DUBLIN: Allegations have been raised that a loophole in the existing law has allowed property owners to exploit tenants during the pandemic. Critics argue that once the COVID-19 rent freeze ends, landlords will be able to impose rent increases of up to 8% on some tenants. During the pandemic in Ireland, the state supported tenants by imposing a temporary ban on evictions and freezing rents for those in financial trouble. But the current measures ends in July. When a landlord reviews the rent for the first time in two years in a rent pressure zone, it is confirmed that an overall 8% increase is allowed.

Landlords are renewing rent during pandemic in violation of government regulations. The eight per cent increase is based on a two-year rent increase. The rent increase was not possible due to a restriction during the time it was to be increased, and now the landlords are raising the rent together for the following two years. Many tenants have already received notifications from their landlords. Tenants who received such notices brought the matter to the attention of TD Paul Murphy, who raised it in the Dáil.

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 specified that rent increases are not permitted from March 27 to August 1, 2020. The Residential Tenancy and Valuation Act 2020 also states that rent increases cannot be imposed during the emergency period from August 1, 2020 to January 10, 2021. The Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies, Act 2020 is currently in effect, and it states that rent increases are not permitted to take effect during a new “emergency period” that runs from 11 January 2021 to 12 July 2021.

Paul Murphy raised the issue in the Dáil, asking why landlords are “being allowed to apply a rent increase from last year and effectively get around the 4% rule”. The maximum rent increase permitted in rent pressure zones (RPZs) is 4% per year. But Murphy said landlords have told tenants that their rent will rise by 8%. TD said he has been approached by many people with such issues.

Housing Minister said a new law would be introduced as a solution

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the issue would be brought to the attention of the Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien. “An 8% increase, for anyone, is a very big increase in any one year. I admit to not being aware of that, so I will certainly talk to the Minister [for Housing] about that,” Varadkar said.

A spokesperson for Housing Minister said: “The Minister has been clear that the current RPZ system, which expires at the end of 2021, will be replaced with broader protections. Minister O’Brien will bring a comprehensive bill for renters before the Oireachtas in the autumn to include provisions such as long-term security of tenure and rent levels.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Broin asked the Housing Minister to prioritize the publication of legislation to replace the RPZ laws.

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