Friday, 27 March 2020
An Bille um Bearta Éigeandála ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail (Covid-19) 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I thank Senators Ruane and Gavan. I will deal with the amendments first before I respond to Senator Gavan's question. I propose not to accept the amendments tabled. The reason is that section 5(1) provides that a landlord cannot serve a notice of termination during the Covid-19 emergency for any reason. The limitation on the constitutionally protected property rights of landlords will only be in place during the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bill provides for the Covid-19 emergency period to be of three months' duration to begin with. This period can be extended by Government order if necessary. We aim to restrict the movement of people to stall the transmission of a disease. However, it is provided that a tenant cannot accrue security of tenure rights under Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act due simply to the passage of time during the emergency period. The Government considered it fair and necessary that any landlord who is delayed by Covid-19 in carrying out a legal eviction should be in a position to carry out the eviction after the Covid-19 emergency on the same basis as before. There will be no further need to restrict the movement of people on health grounds. If someone has been in a tenancy for less than six months before the Covid-19 emergency and the landlord had intended to terminate the tenancy at that time, and still intends to terminate after the Covid-19 emergency, the intervening emergency period should not count in the six-month tenancy required for a tenant to accrue Part 4 security of tenure rights. I believe in the circumstances that this is a reasonable balance and they are the reasons that I cannot accept the group of amendments from Senators Ruane and Gavan.
To answer Senator Gavan's question, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is now considering the amendment that is now part of this legislation and its legal consequences. I am not in a position at the moment to be able to definitively answer the Senator's question.