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Ending of rent freeze a betrayal, claim TDs

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A new law aimed at protecting tenants hit by the Covid-19 pandemic was branded as a "betrayal" and criticised as "overly complex" in the Dáil.

Opposition TDs argued a ban on evictions and rent increases had helped reduce the number of people becoming homeless and should be maintained.

Those emergency measures are due to expire on Friday, but Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien insisted the measures in the new legislation would help protect tenants into the new year.

He said tenants who made a written declaration that the economic impact of Covid-19 had left them unable to pay rent could get an increased notice of eviction period for failure to pay rent from 28 days to 90 days. This will last until January 10.

He insisted the bill targeted a prohibition on rent increases for those who needed them and protected tenants from imminent tenancy termination caused by rent arrears.

He said: "The earliest they will have to leave their home is January 11, 2021."

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett claimed the bill was "a shameful betrayal of tenants that opens the door to a new wave of evictions into homelessness in the midst of a pandemic".

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin claimed it was "an attack on renters" that "strips vital protections from the vast majority of tenants at the very time when they most desperately need them".

Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin argued the bill had "limited protections" and added: "It seems strange, when a measure introduced in March has been seen to work to keep people out of homelessness, that we would change the provisions that were made."

Elsewhere, it emerged there was no major rise in the numbers of people going into arrears on their rental bills during the lockdown.

This is because many renters saved money on childcare, commuter costs and going to the pub, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found.

But the think-tank warned thousands of renters were under pressure to meet their payments and rental arrears were likely to rise.

Irish Independent