Impacts of COVID-19 Emergency Legislation on Student Specific Accommodation

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 was signed into law on 27 March 2020. This page provides an overview of how these changes impact Student Specific Accommodation.

The emergency legislation introduced on 27 March 2020, which lasts until 20 July 2020 and can be extended by Government Order, has brought restrictions to ending a tenancy and increasing rent amounts during the emergency period. An overview of the related key changes introduced can be found below, followed by a list of Frequently Asked Questions based on different scenarios to help provide an understanding of the effects of the legislation. If your particular scenario is not addressed below, please contact us on our Web Chat facility, our website contact form or by email here.

Key changes

No one can be made to leave their accommodation (other than in limited and exceptional circumstances where a breach of tenant obligations takes place and an RTB Determination Order is sourced through the dispute resolution process).

  • Tenants do not have to leave their rental accommodation during the COVID-19 emergency period unless a notice of termination was issued before the emergency period, and the RTB issues a Determination Order supporting the tenancy termination for breach of tenant obligations.
  • A notice of termination cannot be served during the COVID-19 emergency period. All notices of termination which were served before the emergency period and fall within this period, are paused; a tenant cannot be told to leave their rented accommodation during this time.

Please be aware that carrying out an illegal eviction, which includes prohibiting access to the property or making the property uninhabitable by disconnecting services, can result in damages of up to €20,000 being awarded to the tenant. The RTB can seek an injunction from the Courts to reinstate the tenant and will continue to prioritise these cases during the emergency period.

Rents cannot be increased 

  • Rent increases are prohibited during the COVID-19 emergency period. 
  • Tenants are still required to pay rent to their landlord during this emergency period.
  • All notices of rent review that notify a rent increase, which were served before the emergency period and were due to start during this period, cannot take effect until the emergency period ends; the tenant is not required to pay the increased amount of rent during the emergency period and no backdating of rent may apply.
  • Rent review notices can be served as usual during the emergency period, but they cannot take effect until after the emergency period is over. This should be stated in any rent review notice and no backdating of rent may apply. 
  • When setting rent for a new tenancy, any higher amount which gives regard to rent setting rules (e.g. RPZ 12 month/24 month outside RPZ), will only become payable after the emergency period is over. 
  • Tenants are encouraged to engage with their landlords and the Department of Employment and Social Protection at their earliest opportunity if they cannot afford to pay their rent. Income supports and Rent Supplement are available for those struggling to do so.
  • Further information on these supports can be found in the Government of Ireland Guidance Document here, by calling the DEASP Income Support Helpline for COVID-19 1890 800 024 or visiting the DEASP website here. Please note the RTB does not manage these income supports.  

Please note that a rent decrease is allowed, whether the rent review notice was served before or during the COVID-19 emergency period. Landlords and tenants can come to an informal agreement themselves regarding a reduction in rent. If they decide to do so, parties should clearly agree the conditions in writing and whether this is intended as a rent reduction for the emergency period or a more permanent basis. Further information can be found in the FAQ here.

Rent a Room & 'Digs' Accommodation included in legislation 

The emergency legislation states that all proposed evictions are prohibited, including Rent-a-Room and Digs-style accommodation. Property owners and anyone renting in such circumstances are asked to show forbearance and support for each other during the emergency period and, where possible, have regard to the precautions necessary to tackle COVID-19, to avoid ending accommodation arrangements. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do the emergency measures apply to student specific accommodation provided by public authorities and private providers? 

Yes, the emergency legislation extends to all tenancies and student licences under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended.

Many students within student specific accommodation have pre-paid their rent. Are they entitled to a refund if they left their tenancy early?

A lease should state the total rent to be paid by a tenant, and when it is due to be paid; the rights and responsibilities of the landlord; and the rights and responsibilities of the tenant including what, if any, penalties a tenant would face if they choose to end the tenancy before the end of the lease.

A fixed term tenancy is a tenancy that lasts for a specific amount of time, for example a 9-month lease is signed with a start date and end date. Tenants must ensure that they intend to stay in the accommodation for the amount of time that they sign up to or they could face costs such as loss of pre-paid rent and/or part or all of their deposit.

The RTB encourages all landlords and tenants to review their individual tenancy agreements to ensure that they are aware of the rules around ending their specific tenancy early and what penalties may apply.

If a tenant is unable to remain in their tenancy for the duration of their tenancy agreement, they should firstly speak with their landlord and explain the situation and see if an amicable resolution can be found. If a resolution cannot be found and the tenant leaves early, a landlord must also aim to mitigate their losses and find a replacement for the tenant to ensure that they face as few costs as possible.

If a replacement can be found, the outgoing tenant may then only face a partial loss of pre-paid rent or a partial loss of their deposit; however, if a replacement cannot be found, there could be bigger losses facing the tenant to cover what was due to the landlord for the time remaining within the tenancy agreement.

Where an issue arises within a tenancy, the RTB encourages tenants and landlords to discuss problems promptly, keep lines of communication open and respect each other’s positions. If the problem cannot be resolved, registered landlords and all tenants can apply to the RTB for dispute resolution. More information on the RTB Dispute Resolution services available during the emergency period can be found here.

Are students who are due to pay rent in student specific accommodation still required to pay?

Tenants must pay their rent in full and on time. If the tenant remains living in the tenancy, then the rent must be paid. This applies even where a dispute case has been lodged with the RTB.

If a tenant’s circumstances have changed and they had to prematurely leave the tenancy and break their tenancy agreement, the landlord may be entitled to retain part or all of the tenant’s deposit and/or could potentially lodge a case to the RTB for any further losses they feel they incurred. All landlords must show attempts to mitigate their loss.

The RTB would encourage all landlords and tenants to review their tenancy agreements in detail, to communicate with each other as soon as an issue arises and to avail of the free RTB Telephone Mediation service, if required. More information can be found here.

Are students who have pre-paid their rent in the private rental sector or privately-owned student specific accommodation entitled to a refund where they have had to end their tenancies early?

There is a distinct difference between tenants in the private rental sector and students living in student specific accommodation. Tenants living in student specific accommodation may not have any option to break out of their lease early whereas a tenant living in the private rental sector can end a fixed-term tenancy by getting permission from the landlord to assign or sublet the tenancy. If the landlord agrees, the tenant can get a replacement for themselves and leave. If the landlord refuses the offer, the tenant can then serve a valid written notice of termination (this does not apply to Approved Housing Bodies & student specific accommodation).

Therefore, once the tenant follows the steps as set out above and validly terminates the tenancy, they would be entitled to a return of any pre-paid rent from the date which they left the tenancy.

Are students required to pay rent in the private rental sector or in privately-owned student specific accommodation?

Yes, tenants must pay their rent in full and on time. If the tenant remains living in the tenancy, then the rent must be paid. This applies even where a dispute case has been lodged to the RTB. The RTB encourages all landlords and tenants to review their individual tenancy agreements in order to ensure that they are aware of the rules around ending their specific tenancy early and what penalties may apply.

Where an issue arises within a tenancy, the RTB encourages tenants and landlords to discuss problems promptly, keep lines of communication open and respect each other’s positions. If the problem cannot be resolved, registered landlords and all tenants can apply to the RTB for dispute resolution. More information on the RTB’s Dispute Resolution Services available during the emergency period can be found here.

How do the new emergency measures apply to student specific accommodation where a notice of termination has already been issued due to anti-social behaviour? 

All notices of termination are suspended during the emergency period; however, tenants must continue to pay rent and observe the other normal terms and conditions of their lease.

If a landlord would like a notice of termination to be ruled upon, on the grounds of a tenant’s breach of obligations related to anti-social behaviour, they may do so by taking a dispute resolution case to the RTB. Only when the RTB issues a Determination Order in favour of the landlord, can a tenancy end and the student be asked to leave their rental accommodation.

If necessary, the Garda Síochána should be contacted to safeguard the local community and property.

Sample notices of termination can be viewed on the RTB website here.

If a person in student specific accommodation tests positive for COVID-19, what does it mean for the others in the accommodation? 

Tenants should follow the appropriate guidelines in accordance with the HSE.ie.

For health and safety reasons, can a provider of student specific accommodation move students within blocks, either for the purpose of self-isolation or to protect other students from someone who is self-isolating? 

A student residing as a tenant can only be moved to another block with their full consent. Landlords must remember that the tenant’s home is their house or room and they are entitled to remain there unless they agree to move. A student residing as a licensee can be moved, if necessary. Licensees do not have rights to exclusive occupation and can be moved but again, forbearance by all parties at this time is encouraged.

Click here for the overview of all changes introduced by the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020.

Click here for more details on how the new legislation affects ending a tenancy and notices of termination.

Click here for more details on how the new legislation affects rent reviews.

Click the links for more details on the DEASP COVID-19 income supports and Rent Supplement available for landlords and tenants during the emergency period.

Click here for more details on the RTB’s services during the emergency period.

Click here for more details on the RTB’s Dispute Resolution Services during the emergency period.