Changes to the law relating to termination of Approved Housing Bodies tenancies – potentially very harsh effect on tenants

On 7 April 2016, Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), often known as voluntary housing associations, were brought under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).  Part 2 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 (the Act) provided for this change.  The change came into effect on 7 April 2016 (by S.I. 151 of 2016). As of April 2016 there are over 500 Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland with a stock size of over 30,000 units.

This change in the law means that:

  • Approved Housing Bodies must now register their tenancies with the RTB.
  • Approved Housing Bodies now have the same rights and obligations as private landlords, with some exceptions.
  • Approved Housing Bodies’ tenants now have the same rights and obligations as private tenants, with some exceptions.

 

Over recent months, we have met with several tenants in voluntary housing who have been adversely affected by this change and through these meetings we have identified various preliminary issues and serious concerns that this change raises.

Tenants entitled to notice based on the date of the commencement of the Act – not the date of occupation – may negatively affect tenants’ security of tenure

A tenant of an AHB, like a private tenant, gains “Part IV tenant rights” when they are in a tenancy for longer than six months. This means that once a tenant remains in the tenancy for over six months they gain an automatic security to remain in that tenancy for a minimum of four years. The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 extends the period of a Part 4 tenancy from four years to six years. This applies to all tenancies created from 24 December 2016, the day after the signing of the Act.

The tenancy, after the first six months of the Part 4 tenancy, can only be terminated on certain grounds (contained in s 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004).  Those grounds include:

  • The tenant has failed to comply with their obligations.
  • The landlord intends to sell the dwelling within the next 3 months.
  • The dwelling is no longer suited to the needs of the occupying household.
  • The landlord requires the dwelling for own or family member occupation.
  • Substantial refurbishment of the dwelling.
  • Change in the use of the dwelling.

 

In private rented tenancies the length of the tenancy starts from the date of occupation. However for Approved Housing Bodies’ tenants, under the Act, the date of occupation is the date of commencement of the Act (7 April 2016), or the date that the tenant moved in, whichever is the later.

 

This negatively affects the tenants’ security of tenure. Even if the tenant has been in occupation for, for example, 40 years before 7 April 2016, the tenancy is taken to start on 7 April 2016.  No matter how long the tenant’s tenancy actually was before 7 April 2016, or the purposes of how much notice of termination must be given, the length of tenancy is counted from 7 April 2016.  The major effect that this has is on the amount of notice that the tenant must be given of termination of the tenancy.  The length of tenancy of the AHB tenant is only counted from 7 April 2016, or the date the tenant moved in, whichever is later.

 

The following are the notice periods which must be given.

 

Length of tenancy Notice that the landlord must give  
Less than 6 months 4 weeks (28 days)
6 months or longer but less than 1 year 5 weeks (35 days)
1 year or longer but less than 2 years 6 weeks (42 days)
2 years or longer but less than 3 years 8 weeks (56 days)
3 years or longer but less than 4 years 12 weeks (84 days)
4 years or longer but less than 5 years 16 weeks (112 days)
5 years or longer but less than 6 years 20 weeks (140 days)
6 years or longer but less than 7 years 24 weeks (168 days)
7 years or longer but less than 8 years 28 weeks (196 days)
8 years or longer 32 weeks (224 days)

 

Length of tenancy Required period of notice by tenant
Less than 6 months 4 weeks (28 days)
6 months or longer but less than 1 year 5 weeks (35 days)
1 year or longer but less than 2 years 6 weeks (42 days)
2 years or longer but less than 4 years 8 weeks (56 days)
4 years or longer but less than 8 years 12 weeks (84 days)
8 years or longer 16 weeks (112 days)

 

MLRC cases on termination of AHB tenancies

We have legally represented four tenants before the RTB Tribunal on this issue. The tenants of the AHBs had been issued with 28 days’ notice of termination with no reason given.  The clients had challenged the validity of the Notice of Termination before the RTB. The RTB’s determination was that the Notice was valid.  The RTB so held, even in circumstances where the tenant had been living in their home for ten years or more.  MLRC appealed these determinations to the RTB Tribunal and we are awaiting their decision.

 

Case example

Mary has lived in her AHB home with her two children since 1 January 2006.  Under the new legislation, on 1 September 2016, the AHB served on her a 28 day Notice of Termination, without a reason, requiring that she and her family leave her home on the 29 September 2016.  The short notice period of 28 days was because, as noted above, the date of occupancy flows from the commencement of the Act, 7 April 2016, and not from the date of actual occupation, 1 January 2001.  If Mary was in private rented accommodation the tenancy period would flow from the date of occupation, 1 January 2006, which would result in Mary having to receive a 32 weeks (224 days) notice and, as she would be past the first six months of the Part 4 tenancy cycle, one of the six reasons as outlined above for a valid Notice to quit to be issued.

 

The RTB adjudication determined that the Notice was valid.  This was appealed to the RTB Tribunal. Submissions were made to the Tribunal on a number of legal issues in respect of the Notice of Termination. Foremost of these were on the rights of the mother and her children to an independent, proportionate decision on the interference with their right privacy and family life under Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We submitted that this requirement applies both to the AHB and to the RTB. We are awaiting a decision from the RTB Tribunal in this matter.

 

MLRC submission

The Government, as is made clear in Rebuilding Ireland, in addressing the crisis in housing and homelessness, intends to grow the involvement of AHBs in the provision of social housing (at page 53 of the report):

“The Housing Policy Statement 2011 and the Social Housing Strategy 2020 recognise the key

contribution that AHBs have to make to the delivery of housing supports in Ireland, building

on their track record in terms of both housing provision and management. The AHB sector

has evolved in a short timeframe from the traditional grant-funded model to greater use of a

loan finance approach, reflecting the prevailing arrangements in other jurisdictions. Working with the Housing Finance Agency, 15 AHBs with certified borrower status are currently progressing projects across the country. This is a significant contribution and the Government

remains committed to enabling the sector to play a central role in the effort to meet social

housing needs….”

We respectfully note that in providing that the date of commencement of AHB tenancies for the purpose of notice of termination as being the date of commencement of the Act, 7 April 2016, is an important defect in the legislation.  It has a particularly harsh effect as many AHB tenants have particular vulnerabilities and mental health issues and facing homelessness with shortened notice is clearly a highly distressing situation.

We respectfully propose that the legislation be amended to provide that AHB tenants’ date of occupation is the date of actual occupation.  In this way, AHB tenants would be accorded the same rights as private tenants on this point.

Subscribe to our ezine

Disclaimer

All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes and only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this between this Blog and any person or entry unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more.

Advertisements