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Property Update: December 2019

Paddy Smyth
18/12/2019

Locations

Ireland

It's that time of year to take stock at the year that's gone and a peek at the one around the corner.  We have set out below some of the main updates to property legislation in Ireland made this year. The Government has fixed its main legislative priority in the area of housing, and in its efforts to tackle the rental accommodation shortage.

Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019

As part of the Government’s efforts to target the lack of affordable rental accommodation in the country, more powers were given to the RTB through this piece of legislation with the aim of strengthening renter’s rights. The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 was signed into law in May of this year.  Some of the changes introduced include:
  1. Increase of notice periods before a tenancy can be terminated;
  2. New rules on ending tenancies, creating more obligations on landlords when terminating a tenancy;
  3. All Rent Pressure Zones extended until 31 December 2021;
  4. Students now under the remit of the RTB;
  5. Increased powers of investigation and sanctions designated to the RTB – now where “improper conduct” has occurred, the RTB can apply a sanction on a landlord of up to €15,000. Improper conduct includes failing to comply with rent restrictions, failing to register a tenancy, failing to notify the RTB of an alteration to the rent set, and citing a reason for termination that is false/misleading etc. The RTB can now investigate such conduct with or without a complaint being made by a member of the public.
  6. Annual registration – Landlords will be required to register tenancies with the RTB on an annual basis. This section of the legislation has not yet been commenced.
A copy of the Act can be found here.

Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019


This Act was enacted in July of this year, to deal with various matters associated with the collection of commercial rates. The wording of section 13 of the Act had the effect of making landlords liable for arears of commercial rates accrued by a tenant before a property could be sold. Following representations from the Law Society, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has confirmed that the Act will be amended to ensure that owners who propose to sell property will not be obliged to pay unpaid rates of occupiers.

2020 Vision

In our look ahead to the coming year we have summarised below the main provisions of the Housing and Planning and Development Bill 2019 which is open for public consultation until 13 January 2020.

The Bill attempts to restrict the conditions under which proposed developments can be challenged. There has been some criticism of the Bill, with some of the view that its aim is to reduce public participation in the planning process.
 
  • The Bill reforms the law on planning challenges in that the right to initiate a judicial review challenge will be restricted to decisions determined by An Bord Pleanála. This will mean that anyone wishing to challenge a decision of a planning authority will be required to firstly appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála. This will stop challenges being lodged while planning applications are still under consideration.  
  • The Bill will also require proceedings to commence by way of "motion on notice", which enables Notice Parties to contest applications for leave in cases where it considers the application frivolous or lacking in substance. As the law currently stands, such applications are made ex parte meaning that the majority of applications for leave are granted in the absence of any involvement from interested parties. Going forward, the Notice Party (An Bord Pleanála/planning authority) will be able to submit counter arguments at the leave stage, allowing the presiding judge to hear from both sides before making their decision.  
  • The Bill also amends the requirements for a person seeking leave to apply for judicial review. An applicant must has a "substantial interest", i.e. they must demonstrate that they are directly affected by a proposed development in a way which is peculiar or personal, and they must have previously participated in the planning process in relation to the case in question, subject to certain reasonable exclusions.
A copy of the General Scheme of the Bill can be found here.

The legislative targets for the coming year will likely continue be to tackle the housing crisis through increased social housing, new homes and enhanced tenancy protections, with the objective of increased supply and affordability. Changes to planning legislation are also aimed at removing barriers to developers to stimulate further growth in the construction sector.  It will remain to be seen whether such measures will have the desired effect of meeting the growing demand for accommodation across the country.
 

 

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