The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 reformed social housing tenancy law in a number of respects. The previous Housing Act procedure for summary recovery was found contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights as it do not allow for litigation of a dispute regarding whether the tenancy has been lawfully terminated.
It provides for the issue of a tenancy warning by a housing authority where there has been a breach of the tenancy let by it. There is a new procedure for housing authorities to recover possession of properties
- where there has been serious and repeated breaches of the tenancy agreement
- where the dwelling has been abandoned or
- where there is no tenancy and it is occupied by a squatter or person without lawful authority to reside.
There is a mandatory provision for deduction from social welfare payments of monies due, by local authority tenants and beneficiaries for scheme rents, rent contributions and rent arrears owed to housing authorities.
The housing authority may issue a tenant with a warning in relation to breach of tenancy agreement, in particular non-payment of rent and antisocial behaviour. The tenant may request that a review be conducted of the warning by a more senior official.
The warning notice must specify the breach, the nature and occasion and effect of the breach, requirements to terminate the breach and the action which would be taken if it continues or is repeated including the repossession application.
The principal provisions relate to antisocial behaviour and rent. There is provision for warning notices in the case of other provisions of the tenancy agreement in different terms.
The review mentioned above must not be normally be requested within 10 days of the warning. The tenant or member of his household may make oral representation. The review period may be extended in exceptional circumstances to up to 20 working days from the date of warning.
The person reviewing the decision may confirm, cancel or vary the decision giving reasons. The reviewer is entitled to accept the evidence of the Gardai or local authority officials that he believes a person is or has engaged in anti-social behaviour.
Where a legislation affects existing local authority tenancy agreements and requires new terms and conditions in them, the Minister may make regulations requiring housing authorities to revise their tenancy agreements and notify tenants of the changes.
There is provision for protection of the identity of persons who inform the housing authority of breaches who might otherwise be subject to intimidation if their identity was known.
A housing authority may in the case of non-payment of rent or other breach of tenancy, apply for possession. It may be based on information on oath by an official.
It will give the tenant 10 working days of the hearing. If however, the breach has a significant and persistent detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality, it must give a copy of the possession application to the tenant no later than the time it applies for the order.
The possession application follows the tenancy warning. However, if the breach is very serious, the housing authority may dispense with the warning. The possession application in this case states why the authority did not issue a warning. Similarly, if an application proceeds while the review is ongoing in respect of the tenancy warning, this must be stated in the proceedings.
Where the tenant does not without good reason appear at the hearing of the application, the District Court may grant an order where there is a prima facie case. It may adjourn the hearing with or without conditions, as it sees fit.
The Court is to make a possession order, if it is satisfied the housing authority has grounds for recovery and the Court considers it reasonable, in the circumstances. The Court is to take account of the proportionality of making the order, having regard to the grounds of the application. The Court may hear cases in camera, i.e. privately.
In the case of anti-social behaviour, the Court may make an order against persons under the antisocial behaviour or other housing legislation as an alternative to an order for possession.
The housing authority has a right to repossess the dwelling within a period commencing on the date specified by the order. It must be between two and nine months of the order. Enforcement terminates the tenancy.
Where there is no tenancy other than where the tenant has died or the dwelling has been abandoned or is illegally occupied, the housing authority may apply to the District Court for an order of possession, stating the grounds. The occupier must be given at least 10 working notice of the hearing.
The Court may make an order where there is a prime facie case. If the tenant appears, the Court may make an order if it is satisfied there are grounds for recovery that an order is a proportionate response to the person’s occupation of the dwelling, and it is considered reasonable in the circumstances to make the order. The authority is entitled to repossess the dwelling within a period specified in the order not more than six months.
It is an offence except in limited circumstances to enter, use or occupy a dwelling in which there is no tenancy, or which has been abandoned. There is subject to a class C fine or imprisonment up to one month or both.
A housing authority may enter a dwelling which has been abandoned in specified circumstances where there is a risk of significant damage due to vandalism or the operation of utilities. It may take steps as are necessary to prevent access by trespasser.
A housing authority may enter a dwelling with the consent of the tenant or under a District Court warrant. Where the dwelling is abandoned and is being damaged by vandalism or in imminent danger or is not practicable to wait for a warrant, the chief executive of the local authority may authorise an employee to enter the dwelling and take such measures as he considers appropriate.
When a housing authority intends to repossess a dwelling abandoned by the tenant’s household, the authority must, serve a notice on the tenant require him to confirm within four weeks if the household intends to occupy the dwelling as its normal place of residence. After that, if the housing authority is satisfied he does not so intend, it may serve a further notice terminating the tenancy agreement with immediate effect.
Provision is made for the return of personal property found in the dwelling belonging to the tenant or for the disposal of the property if the tenant has not arranged for its return. If property is found there which belongs to third-parties, reasonable steps to identify the owner and return the property at the owner’s expenses is to be taken.
A person who is tenant of a dwelling, when the tenancy was terminated may apply to the District Court within six months of termination. If the District Court decides the housing authority did not comply with the notice requirements or did not have reasonable grounds for finding that the dwelling was abandoned or that the former tenant had reasonable cause by reason of illness or otherwise for failing to notify the authority, of his intention to reside in the dwelling, the court shall if it has not been let to a new tenant, declare the termination to be void or direct the housing authority to allocate the tenant another suitable dwelling in the same locality.
Where there is no tenancy due to the death of the tenant, in circumstances where a member of the deceased tenant’s household is not entitled to succeed, the local authority may apply to the District Court for possession. It must give notice to the occupier at least 10 days in advance.
Where the occupier does not appear, the court may grant an order where there is a prima facie case for so doing. It shall make an order if it is satisfied the housing authority has grounds for possession and the order is a proportionate response to the person’s occupation of the dwelling and the Court considers it reasonable in the circumstances to make the order.
There is provision for notice to be published in the newspaper in the locality in the case of an abandoned dwelling. It is an offence to remove a tenant warning affixed to a dwelling.
The provisions by which a tenant, tenant purchaser, housing authority or housing body may apply to the District Court for an order excluding a person from a dwelling house used for social housing purposes or purchased from a local authority, who has engaged in antisocial behaviour. He may also be excluded where appropriate, from its locality.
The legislation brings all purchasers of local authority housing other than affordable housing within this provision. The period is limited to 20 years after the sale by the local authority.
The obligation of the housing authority to consult a tenant, a tenant purchaser or HSE before applying for the exclusion order is removed. It may not be sought against a person under 12 years. It may be sought against a joint tenant.
An order made may not exclude a person under 18 from his home. It may exclude such a person from entering or being in the vicinity of another dwelling or specified place or area which the housing authority controls or where the housing authority controls or manages one or more dwellings.
The penalties in respect of breach of an order are updated. The amendment provides that the penalty on summary conviction of a person under 18 are a Class D fine or detention in a children’s detention school up to three months or both. It provides a penalty for breach of an excluding order by a person over 18 of a Class B fine or imprisonment up to six months or both. A person may be arrested if he is contravening the order.
A housing authority may, on anti-social behaviour or estate management grounds relating to a member of a household, refuse to allocate or defer allocation of a dwelling to that household or refuse permission for a person to reside or resume residing in a local authority dwelling.
The power in relation to excluding person’s authorisation to occupy a caravan on a site provided by the authority is also amended.
Housing Amendment Act 2014 provides for a system of mandatory deductions by the Minister for social protection for social welfare payments of rent, rent contribution and arrears payable by local authority tenants or households who have rental accommodation arrangement, tenancy agreements or are benefiting from Housing Assistance. The amount deducted is generally not to exceed 15% of the rate of benefit or assistance payable except where the recipient otherwise agrees.
There is provision for notification by the Minister for Social Protection of Housing Authorities where it is not possible to deduct the full amount. The Minister for Social Protection is obliged to keep records relating to the deduction.
There is provision for data sharing between housing authorities and specified bodies for the purpose of performance of obligations under the Housing Act. Information may also be shared with Private Residential Tenancies Board, Revenue Commissioners, the Minister for Social Protection and other designated bodies.
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