Residential landlords could be banned from increasing rents, under measures to be debated in Jersey's States today.
The Housing Minister wants to amend existing housing laws so that rent rises cannot be brought in until after 30 September 2020 - even if the landlord has previously given the tenant notice of a rise.
Senator Sam Mezec also wants tenancies due to end by that date to be extended indefinitely, unless the landlord and tenant both willingly enter a new fixed term agreement.
The draft Regulations are designed to sustain tenancies and protect tenants from additional financial hardship at a time when they may already be under significant financial pressure. The measures will enable tenants to stay at home, protect their health and reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The Jersey Landlords Association is urging the minister to reconsider and asking States Members to vote against the legislation.
The Jersey Landlords Association is disappointed to hear that the Housing Minister has decided to use the sledgehammer of legislation to protect tenants rather than trusting landlords to do the right thing. This is despite the fact that the JLA released its own guidelines which were broadly welcomed by all, including the Minister. Whilst we understand and agree with his motives - to protect the vulnerable during this unprecedented period of uncertainty - we feel that this is a step too far. The fact is that there are vulnerable landlords as well as vulnerable tenants, and there are conversations going on around the island as both sides try to figure out fair and equitable solutions to the problems that we are all facing together. Using a blunt tool like legislation will be a waste of resources and will merely serve to complicate those difficult and sensitive conversations. We respectively ask the Minister: where is the need for this legislation and why is it being pushed through the assembly (with little supporting evidence or documentation in the form of guidance or Practice Directions) so quickly? Surely it is better to publish guidelines first and only legislate when there is sufficient evidence of abuse. Contrary to what some appear to believe, landlords are generally reasonable and compassionate people - trust them and they will do the right thing. That is certainly what we have found in our many conversations with landlords in recent weeks.
Evictions for non-payment of rent would also be outlawed, although landlords would be able to evict tenants for anti social behaviour or failing to keep the property in a reasonable state.
The minister says tenants will still be fully liable for paying their rent, utilities and service charges. Guidance will be published soon on the repayment of rent arrears accrued over the period.
Today's States sitting will be the second virtual meeting, where members take part via telephone or video conferencing software from their own homes.