Ex-Housing Minister proposes greater protection for renters

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LONG-STANDING tenants will be given better protection against being evicted at short notice, if States Members approve proposals lodged by a former Housing Minister.

Senator Sam Mézec said his proposition would give tenants, who could face the ‘devastating consequences’ of being evicted at short notice, more security.

For period tenancies, agreements without a specified end, landlords are only required to give tenants three months’ notice to quit, according to Senator Mézec’s report accompanying his proposal, ‘irrespective of how long the tenant has made their home in that property’.

Speaking to the JEP, the former minister said changing this would ‘provide enhanced security for long-term tenants’.

He said that the notice period should reflect the length of time tenants had lived in a home, citing as an example the Irish Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which stipulates 28 days’ notice for less than six months, 90 days for less than a year, 120 days for less than three years and up to 224 days for less than eight years.

Senator Mézec pointed to the recent case of Spencer Close, a housing block in St Saviour, where tenants were told just before Christmas that they had three months to find new homes. Up to 38 residents received letters dated 23 December telling them that the estate was being sold due to ‘increased regulatory burdens on landlords’.

His proposition calls on current Housing Minister Russell Labey to make an order under the Island’s 2011 Residential Tenancy Law to increase the minimum notice period for period tenancies, when the tenant has lived in their home for a long time.

Under his ‘fair rents plan’, announced this week, Deputy Labey said the government would ‘identify actions to expand protections’ provided by the Tenancy Law, with any amendments brought back before the States Assembly at the end of the year. Other policies set out under Deputy Labey’s plan include widening access to the Affordable Housing Gateway and establishing a Rent Control Tribunal, to give private-sector residents the opportunity to appeal ‘if they believe their rent is excessive’.

But Senator Mézec said that the Housing Minister could act now, which is why he lodged the proposition.

The Senator stated that Members had voted against his proposal on a Rent Control Tribunal last summer, and while he welcomed the re-establishment of the tribunal, he said without enhancing the security of tenure for tenants, it would not be effective.

He said: ‘Under the current rules, a family can live in a home for decades, build up their entire community network, work/life balance and provisions for their children based on what that home and location offers, only to have it all taken away from them on the whim of a landlord who can end the tenancy with just three months’ notice and without any reason given for this whatsoever.

‘For tenants who frequently move between homes or are younger and still finding their way in life, this may be less of an issue. But for older tenants with caring responsibilities or children in their local school, being forced out of their home can have devastating consequences for them, which cannot be surmounted in just three months.’

One of the Housing Policy Development Board’s recommendations from a report published last year was to make improving the security of tenure for tenants a ‘priority’, said Senator Mézec.

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