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Coronavirus - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 – Does it extend to Commercial Tenancies? - Ireland

  • Ireland
  • General

03-04-2020

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (the “Act”) was signed into law by the President on 27 March 2020. The Act includes exceptional provisions, made in the public interest having regard to the risks to human life and public health posed by Covid-19.

The Act amends existing legislation and includes provisions relating to the operation of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended) (the “2004 Act”).

By way of brief overview, the Act introduces emergency measures to prevent the service of termination notices on residential tenants and to prohibit rent increases in respect of residential tenancies during an emergency period of three months from 27 March 2020. This emergency period is subject to extension at the request of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. The provisions also extend to licence agreements within the meaning of section 37 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019.

While some commentators in the market speculate that these provisions could extend to commercial tenancies, our considered view is that they do not extend to commercial tenancies for the following reasons:

1. The spirit of the legislation and the intent of the legislature are clear; both from the Explanatory Memorandum1 and the debates in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

While the Courts would not generally have regard to such political debates when interpreting a statute, the long title to the Act specifically states that it makes provision in relation to the operation of the 2004 Act. The Explanatory Memorandum also states that the exceptional provisions affecting the operation of the 2004 Act are to prevent the termination of residential tenancies and rent increases.

The Government’s underlying policy objective must be borne in mind – that is, to protect and maintain residential tenants in their rental properties, whilst also supporting residential landlords, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

2. Notably, Part 2 of the Act is entitled “Operation of Residential Tenancies Act 2004”. While some commentators speculate that section 5(7)(a) of the Act could extend to commercial tenancies because it states that “all proposed evictions in all tenancies in the State” are prohibited, this provision cannot be read in isolation.

Section 5(7)(a) of the Act was inserted to protect tenants residing in Local Authority and Approved Housing body dwellings2 and to protect Travellers3. It will also protect rent-a-room scheme tenants. Accordingly, it is clear that section 5(7)(a) was inserted to protect residential tenants who fall outside the remit of the 2004 Act and the Residential Tenancies Board.

The Act does not refer to commercial tenancies and in the absence of specific legislation, a commercial landlord and tenant should continue to carefully consider their obligations under a lease on a case-by-case basis.

For support on legal issues facing your business in light of the outbreak of Covid-19, please visit our Coronavirus hub to get our latest information and guidance.

How Eversheds Sutherland can help

We remain fully operational during these difficult times and all our lawyers are readily available and contactable at their usual email addresses or telephone numbers.

For further information about any aspect of this briefing please get in touch with your usual Eversheds Sutherland contact or a member of our Dispute Resolution & Litigation team acting as legal advisors to the Residential Tenancies Board:

Pamela O’Neill, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution & Litigation - PamelaONeill@eversheds-sutherland.ie  - +353 1 6644 241

Eoin Mac Aodha, Partner - EoinMacAodha@eversheds-sutherland.ie - +353 1 6644 947

Ciara Geraghty, Associate - CiaraGeraghty@eversheds-sutherland.ie - +353 1 6644 336

Aishlinn Maria Gannon, Associate - AishlinnMariaGannon@eversheds-sutherland.ie - +353 1 6644 271

1 To the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020, as it then was

2 Section 5(7)(b) of the Act

3 Section 5(7)(c) of the Act

Disclaimer

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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