Legislation protecting private renters extended
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced that due to the ongoing pandemic she is extending the legislation protecting private renters from eviction to 30 September 2021.
The Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Act requires landlords to give tenants a 12 week notice to quit period before seeking a court order to begin proceedings to evict and therefore reduce the possibility of tenants in the private rented sector becoming homeless.
Minister Hargey said:
“I am committed to protecting people from eviction during this difficult time. My focus in all I do is to support those in most need. I introduced this legislation to do just that and to support the wider public health effort.
“This pandemic has been an evolving situation and the legislation was drafted to enable an extension if required. Minister Ní Chuilín moved in August 2020 to extend this protection.
“Given the current public health situation, I consider that it’s important that we continue to give private renters some assurance at this time. The legislation will therefore now be extended until 30 September 2021.
The Minister continued:
“I would also stress again the importance of tenants and landlords working together at this time. It is a two way process. If as a tenant you are struggling making payments, the best option is to be upfront and discuss it with your landlord. Landlords are also encouraged not to commence or continue possession proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.
“Both are also reminded that my Department funds Housing Rights to provide specialist help and advice to both tenants and landlords. They can assist to help resolve disputes and save matters going to court.”
The Minister continued:
“Our focus at this time must be to continue to reduce the cases of coronavirus, and as the vaccine roll-out continues at pace, there is hope for the future. I will review the legislation in the summer. More generally I will bring forward legislation to the Assembly that will improve the safety, security and quality of the Private Rented sector.”
The Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Act was originally drafted to be in place until September 2020 with the option to extend. The legislation was subsequently amended by The Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, to extend the emergency period to the 31 March 2021.
The Department has issued Guidance (www.communities-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/communities/dfc-private-rented-sector-gui) which reinforces the need for landlords and tenants to work together to make agreements to avert evictions where tenants are struggling to pay their rent due to the Covid-19 crisis. The guidance continues to be updated to reflect the evolving situation.