Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA is to introduce legislation in the Assembly to extend the notice to quit period a landlord must give a tenant to 12 weeks.
The Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Bill 2020, will provide private renters with additional protections during the Covid-19 period.
Minister Hargey said: “During this unprecedented public health emergency the public health advice is clear. Stay at home to save lives. Indeed many vulnerable people have been advised not to leave their homes at all. Tenants in the private rented sector must be protected from eviction so they can protect their health and the health of their families.
“There has been support for buy-to-let landlords to avail of a three month mortgage holiday, and I have announced that private renters can get assistance to pay their rent through Universal Credit and Discretionary Housing Payments.
“The legislation I am introducing will further strengthen the protections in place for private renters as it will make sure that no tenant is evicted because of inability to pay rent during this period of economic disruption. The BiLL will ensure that landlords are required to give tenants 12 weeks notice to quit before seeking a court order to begin proceedings to evict and therefore reduce the possibility of tenants in the private rented sector becoming homeless.”
The Minister continued: “Due to the emergency situation, I want to get these measures in place as quickly as possible and therefore want to thank the Communities Committee and Executive colleagues for their agreement that this important legislation is progressed by Accelerated Passage.”
The Minister has written to the Speaker with a view to introducing the Bill in the Assembly on 21 April 2020.
In the meantime, landlords should not proceed with notices to quit during this unprecedented time, given the associated risks to public health.
The Lord Chief Justice’s Office has also announced that courts will only be listing urgent matters. Once a landlord has served a notice to quit on a tenant, they can then only get possession of the property through an application to the court. These matters are not deemed urgent matters at this time.