Unreal estate

An Advocate for Tenants Clocks Up Hundreds of Cases at the RTB

[Editor’s note: This article contains references to self harm, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide. If you are affected by anything in this article, you can reach the Samaritans on Freephone: 116 123.] 

The moment he gets inside, Patrick Nelis launches into his schtick.

He bears right towards the front desk and waves a hand towards the security guard leaning back against a wall.

“Just ignore him,” Nelis says in a stage whisper to Eva Lindroos. She pads along a few steps behind him in silver trainers and a multicoloured skirt.

“I apologise for him,” the guard joins in, with a grin.

Nelis scribbles his name in an open book, and casts an eye over others who have signed in too – as he often does, as if to make sure that he can still boast of being one of, if not the, most frequent visitor to the Residential Tenancies Board.

The security guard leans into the lift and taps a button. “Second floor,” he says, and steps back out.

“In case he gets lost,” he says. “He doesn’t know where he’s going. It’s a big city.”

In the quiet of the lift, Nelis shakes his head and chuckles. “Doesn’t know where he’s going.”

On the second floor, the lift doors slide open. Lindroos and Nelis emerge. Nelis carries three case files tucked under his left arm – 87 pages of photos and emails and statements. All evidence worked up for the hearing this morning, a session where they’ll lay out their case that when the landlord changed the locks on the home Lindroos used to live in – even if she hadn’t paid rent for a while – it still wasn’t by the book.

It’s a few minutes past 10am on a Wednesday in mid-September. There’s 20 minutes before the hearing starts at half past the hour. Nelis and Lindroos fill out attendance forms, and settle into big black couches in the hushed waiting room – her, straight-backed on the edge of the seat, him opposite, slumped into the sofa.

Nelis knows the drill. This, after all, is case number 312 that he has worked on for tenants.

So far, by his count, he has lost just 24.

***

“I took on my own landlord,” said Nelis.

He is sat in his apartment in Tallaght Cross West, in March this year, telling the story of how he become what many consider the hardest working advocate – unpaid, he says – for tenants in the city.

The room’s walls are bare. No knick-knacks or decorations. Just a couch, some chairs, a computer on a desk. And a big red suitcase stuffed with case files – overspill from the paperwork on the table in front of him, and in a bottom drawer in the kitchen, where most would keep the big pots and pans.

At the far end of the living room, a balcony looks out over dense blocks of apartments and offices. It’s a streetscape transformed in recent years, where more than 40 percent of rentals have been snapped up in a rush of investment by big company landlords. Including his own, Ires REIT.

It was a seven-month battle. At the end of 2016, he had split with his partner and couldn’t cover his rent. The council granted him a rental subsidy, Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), for a two-bed apartment. Same landlord, different flat.

He argued with the landlord over delays in moving him in. Theytried to evict him, blaming anti-social behaviour. “I got into an awful row with them,” Nelis says, shaking his head.

He is 39, with a round freckled face, almond-shaped eyes and buzzed-short ginger hair, and speaks in an emphatic Tyrone accent.

Years back, he learnt he had clinical depression. Later, he was rediagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The world falls dark, and he barely sleeps and sometimes eats too little and other times too much, and behind closed doors, he loses hope.

It struck in 2013, after he reffed the 2013 Meath Senior Football Championship final. He was abused on Twitter – nasty messages about how he looks that turned in his head – and he closed the bathroom door. A worried friend found him, and saved his life.

Threatened with eviction, he spiralled again. He started to cut himself. “I didn’t know if I was going to be homeless,” he says, “how I explain this to my child.” He has a young daughter who lives with her mother.

He looked for what to do and discovered the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), which handles disputes between tenants and landlords.

“I never knew what the RTB was,” he says. But he figured out the system with the help of another housing activist, challenged the eviction and won, with emails from the time as evidence he hadn’t been guilty of anti-social behaviour.

But it still wasn’t over. The delayed move had meant council subsidy. No council subsidy meant he fell behind on rent. Ires REIT filed a case against him for unpaid rent.

“But it backfired,” he says. They struck a deal. He paid some back, the rest was written off.

“I walked out of there that day,” he says, “thinking I was going to help fight.”

***

The housing charity Threshold is often the first port of call for landlords or tenants unsure of their rights and responsibilities, and desperate for free advice.

Between 1 January and 31 August, its staff fielded 52,178 phone calls from landlords and tenants seeking advice, a spokesperson says.

In that time, it helped 165 people with cases at the RTB – 85 of them in Dublin. But they have to practise triage. “We have to prioritise the most vulnerable clients, such as those who are at immediate risk of homelessness,” they said.

That gap in supports has left a space open for something akin to a jailhouse lawyer, a pointman for renters unsure how to file cases at the RTB, and too wobbly to go it alone. It’s a gap that Nelis has worked to make his own.

“You’re dealing with people who don’t know what to do when they get an eviction notice,” says Dermot Richardson, a Sinn Féin councillor in Tallaght. (Nelis is a Sinn Féin member, but has less to do with the party in recent times.)

“Sometimes, we don’t have time to do the RTB stuff,” says Richardson. So he will pass on cases to Nelis – some 30 or 40 cases he reckons so far. “He won them all,” he says.

Nelis will meet the tenants, and talk them through the system, and represent them, too. “Through the whole process,” says Richardson.

“People feel like they can’t represent themselves, they won’t get their point across. There’s a fear factor as well,” he says.

If there’s something fishy about a notice to quit, Lorna Nolan, an independent Fingal councillor, will pass it on to Nelis too.

In the last six months, that’s been at least 20 people, says Nolan, who is part of Dublin West Housing Action, the volunteer group that Nelis now operates through. “All of which he won,” she says.

Until Nelis stepped in, Nadine Farrell says she had no idea how to navigate the RTB alone, and what steps to take to make her case that her landlords had failed to tackle leaks and mould in her home.

“It was great knowing that I wasn’t going to go in on my own,” she says, “and to be left off-guard, and stumbling over words.” The landlady said Farrell refused access, and the RTB has yet to rule on the case.

Nelis doesn’t just hand-hold in the RTB though. When Hazel McDermott was worried she might be evicted by hired heavies, he kept guard, sleeping on her couch for three days. “He was always on the phone, every day,” she says.

Sometimes Nelis clashes with other activists or opposing parties, who baulk at his brass neck or feel he attacks them when they don’t deserve it. He knows how some see him, but isn’t an activist who worries about propriety or hesitates to encourage tenants to take cases.

Some activists did RTB cases before, says Peter Dooley of the Dublin Renters Union, a group based in Rathmines.

“But not on the basis that he would do it,” he says. “He’s basically nearly part of the furniture in there.”

***

Nelis first spoke to Eva Lindroos in November 2017.

She was worn down. She had pernicious anaemia. “I didn’t know if it was just the stress, the general state of feeling alone,” she says.

That month, scrolling on her phone at her kitchen table in a converted garage in Rathmichael in South Dublin where she lived with her son, she stumbled on a Facebook post from Dublin Central Housing Action.

Tenants needing help should get it touch, it said. She sent a message. “Patrick phoned me an hour later,” she says.

She had tried two housing groups before. But “sometimes, people can’t wrap their heads around that you can have a good job but it doesn’t cover your monthly costs even”, she said. Nelis didn’t judge.

“I just cried my eyes out, I was so relieved,” she says. “There’s no support. If you can’t get a solicitor, there’s nothing you can do.”

She and her landlord, Andrew Boucher – who lives in the main house metres from the converted home they had lived in since July 2015 – had already been through three RTB hearings.  

Things turned sour early on, she says. Months in, he told her she was putting too much rubbish in the bins and using too much electricity, she says. Boucher said he didn’t want to talk for the article.

She expected a monthly bill for electricity, but he dropped a bill for six months in January 2016, she said. She couldn’t pay all at once, and thought €1,054 was too much, and asked for time to work it out.

“That was exactly as I had become insolvent,” she says. She had left a troubled relationship in 2011. She was working as a university lecturer in drama therapy. But still broke, she says.

She and Boucher negotiated a lower rent for a few months in March 2016. But then Boucher told her he needed the difference back, and the electricity and bin bills came due too, so she had scrambled for money from St Vincent de Paul and a Protestant church in Shankill. But it didn’t cover what she owed. “Which put me on a back foot.”

In RTB reports, Boucher says the relationship was good until then. But he wasn’t paid what he was owed. For several months, he sent letters and texts following up on the unpaid rent, and bills, and asking for payment within 14 days, and noting that he was “under pressure”.

In July 2016, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council wrote to Boucher to say the converted garage and store where Lindroos lived wasn’t supposed to be a home. It had no planning permission, it said.

In November 2016, Lindroos got a letter from the council, and from neighbours telling her it hadn’t been legally converted. She got a notice in April 2017, telling her she had to leave. It made her anxious and stressed, she said.

Lindroos’ mother in Sweden had dementia and at 85 was fading fast. She spoke to a solicitor in July 2017, who gave her free advice: stop paying the rent and go see her mother. She stopped paying rent. “We didn’t know how long she had,” she says.

The electricity was partially off when she went to Sweden, and still when she got back. The cooker, the overhead lights, and the shower didn’t work. The fridge and washing machine did, says Lindroos.

Boucher didn’t do that, said his representative, at a hearing in October 2017. There was a “cable in the wrong place” in the tenants’ fuse board, he said. He had a letter from Foxrock Electrical Services as evidence.

There were adjudications and appeals on the electricity issues and who was responsible for how much of the bills, on the validity of the notices to quit from April and September.

The RTB ruled on the unpaid rent that had racked up, on whether it was threatening for the landlord to take photos of items outside the dwelling, and whether he had carried out repairs as needed.

There would be two more hearings, the following January and March, after which the RTB would finally rule that Lindroos by then owed €12,700 in rent, and €2,300 for six months electricity, and €460 for bins.

The board has given Lindroos some relief, offsetting that by €4,200 to be paid by Boucher to her for interfering with her right to peaceful occupation because of the planning issues, and failing to do repairs. But that wasn’t the end of it.

***

At Summerhill Parade in Dublin.

Dealing with waves of people at the mercy of the housing crisis “has a ripple effect”, says Nolan, the Fingal independent councillor.

It is traumatic for those who are homeless, pushed into poverty. But also for councillors, and council staff, and volunteers who try to assist those whose lives are breaking down. “For the person who is dealing with the individual in crisis,” says Nolan.

When Lindroos had pneumonia in January, Nelis stood in at the hearing for her. He did the same in February, when the case spilled over to a second hearing and she was still sick.

At the same time, he helped Dublin Central Housing Action and three tenants take cases against landlord Paul Howard on Mountjoy Square, after several men broke down the door to number 52 and kicked them out.

After one hearing, Nelis went home exhausted. His mind was dark and his mood worried his friend David Blackwell, who drove to the snow to find him, and with the help of the guards got him to hospital. But he walked out and went home. “I’m stubborn,” he says.

Friends rallied and went to find him. He was hospitalised. “If it wasn’t for them, I would probably be dead,” he said, later. When he was released, he promised to lay off the cases for a while. He lasted four days.

At the time, Nelis was working in a warehouse for a courier company, sorting heavy boxes onto pallets to be shipped off to counties across Ireland.

It was mindless and boring. Daily, he would hop the Luas from the city-centre hearings at the RTB back to Tallaght, grab a bite to eat and head back out the door, ready to heave boxes again from 4pm to 12am. “I was double-jobbing,” he says.

Handling that, and RTB cases, was too much. He quit his warehouse job.

Since then, it’s been full-time housing activism. Nelis refuses to charge tenants. Travel costs, lunches and Lucozades, he pays from his social welfare. He makes a little, too, as a GAA referee.

He scrapes by, just. “It’s a struggle,” he says.

***

Nelis watches other people’s cases as a way to learn.

He scours lists of hearings for juicy cases and spends rare free afternoons on the second floor of O’Connell Bridge House, the gargantuan office block of glass and steel that houses the RTB, and watches disputes unfold from the single row of public seating at the back of the tribunals room.

“The hot water has not worked for the last four months,” said Juliet Adeniran, a tenant, one afternoon in mid-April. She talked quietly of damp on the walls and the need for repairs.

“Was the landlord informed of this?” asked a man on the panel.

“Yes,” said Juliet, and her husband, Akinsola, together. The landlord’s wife told the panel it had been news to them.

In the corner of the room, Nelis wrote four neat numbers in the top right corner of his notebook: 3500. He sat back in his chair.

After the hearing, he pulled the couple aside and introduced himself in the foyer downstairs. A fierce sun streamed through the big glass panes that look out onto Westmoreland Street.

Nelis talked them through their search for another place to live. The case turned on whether a notice to quit was valid. Akinsola Adeniran said they wanted to move, but they were out of ideas.

“I’ve done everything. I don’t know what else to do at this stage. I’ve gone everywhere,” he said. He leant on the edge of a soft black chair. His forehead glistened with sweat.

“Did you get awarded damages?” says Nelis, wondering what had been granted after the first hearing, before the appeal.

“Of €3,500, but it’s not about that,” said Adeniran.

“What did I say?” says Nelis, speaking over him, with delight. He leafs frantically through his notebook and finds the right page.

“I wrote €3,500. I’m a genius,” he says.

“This man is a legend!” he says, louder this time. He spins around to the empty foyer and raises his arms up as if to an adoring crowd.

***

Nelis complains about the RTB. Technical glitches with the website. Lost case files. Having to resubmit evidence. There can be multiple tribunal hearings with the same tenants and landlords just arguing about different issues – as in Lindroos’ and Boucher’s case. That’s to allow for due process, the RTB says. It wastes resources, Nelis counters.

He gripes at the sizes of damages that tenants get compared to landlords. Landlords can be fined up to €20,000 for an illegal eviction. “But no landlord gets fined that much,” he says.

The biggest fine granted after adjudication for an illegal eviction – also called an unlawful termination of tenancy – in 2017 was €15,000, RTB figures show. The average was €2,615.

An RTB spokesperson say they do take these evictions seriously. They’re “one of the most serious breaches” and “treated as a priority dispute”, they said. Damages given aren’t punitive. They’re based on the loss and inconvenience suffered by a tenant.

Nelis also complains about which orders that haven’t been followed, the RTB takes to court. Most of the cases it took last year were on behalf of landlords to pursue unpaid rent.  

That’s because of the requests they get, said an RTB spokesperson. A “disproportionate number of requests” come from landlords.

Landlords aren’t happy either with how things are running at the moment and what is enforced, says Margaret McCormick, the information officer at the Irish Property Owners’ Association.

Nobody knows how many tenants and landlords comply with RTB orders, and pay the damages or rent that they owe, she says. “To give the RTB their due, they do prioritise rent arrears.”

But when it comes to unpaid rent and tenants not moving out, the whole process of warnings and hearings, and later a court enforcement order before calling in the sheriff is too long, she says.

Unpaid rent can rack up. A landlord still has to pay the mortgage, says McCormick. “It allows a build-up.”

It is hard for tenants to find a new place, McCormick acknowledges. “There’s just nowhere for people to go.”

Nelis says rule-breaking by landlords when they take things into their own hands – and the violence of illegal evictions – are not being dealt with, with enough urgency and seriousness.

He sees case after case of tenants locked out, or thrown out without due process. “We’re dealing,” he says, “with four or five illegal evictions a week.”

***

By the time of the tribunal on a mid-September Wednesday morning, there had been eight hearings about disputes between Lindroos and Boucher.

About faulty electricity. Invalid notices. Dwelling standards. Unpaid rent. The impact of unpaid rent. Feeling hassled at home. More notices to quit. More unpaid rent.

This hearing, though, turned on what happened when Lindroos was due to move out, but hadn’t. Boucher changed the locks.

Lindroos and Boucher barely look at each other when, at about 10:45am, they follow a corridor into the hearing room.

Lindroos takes a chair in front of one table and slings her pink corduroy jacket over the back. Nelis sits beside her.

At an adjoining table, barely a metre away, the opposing parties in the case take their places: Boucher, a grey-haired man wearing a blue blazer and elbow patches, and Frank O’Grady, a burly chartered surveyor with a background in tenant-landlord disputes who Boucher brought along to represent him.

The hearing has barely started when Nelis complains. He sent in extra evidence, he says, but it’s not in the files. “It’s the RTB all over,” he says.

O’Grady shrugs his shoulders.

“It does happen. You don’t know the system here,” Nelis tells him. He tosses a sheet of paper to him to look at, to see if he will object to it going in.

“Excuse me!” says O’Grady, his voice booming.

At the head of the room – which is laid out like an informal court – Ciara Doyle, the panel chair, stays calm as she steps in. “I won’t tolerate any bad manners on behalf of either party today,” she says sharply. She is slight, with a long bob of straight dark hair.

Two men, the panel’s other members, flank Doyle. Off to the side in the middle of the room, a stenographer taps at a keyboard. The public seating at the back of the room is mostly empty.

O’Grady looks at the document, a doctor’s letter about how the housing stress has affected Lindroos’ son, and objects. “It’s irrelevant,” he says. The room is quiet, save for the buzz of an air conditioner and the shuffle of papers.

Nelis leans over to take it back, and O’Grady jerks to slap his hand out of the way.

Nelis snaps, “Have a bit of manners.”

He raises his voice. “You seen it,” he says to Doyle. “If you’re not going to do your job properly then just adjourn and get somebody else that will in the chair.” She doesn’t respond.

“This is just all smokescreen,” says Boucher. He says he just wants to get on with it.

Nelis gets up to hand the document to Doyle.

He mutters something inaudible as he returns to his seat.

“Excuse me!” says O’Grady. “Do not threaten me. I want it noted, I was threatened.” He stands up, tugs at his jacket lapels, and sits down again.

Baiting landlords to get them off balance is typical Nelis. Later in the hearing, he moves on to another of his crusades – keeping an eye over who acts as adjudicators and who sit on tribunals.

“Can I ask you a question? Are you a landlord?” he asks Doyle.

“That is not relevant,” she says.

“That is relevant,” he says.

***

At a Take Back the City protest.

Nelis hasn’t done legal work before. Most of his life, he worked with horses.

He grew up in Clady, a small village in Co. Tyrone. It was a full house with eight children. “I’m not blaming my parents, but there was a lot of them,” he says.

“I felt I wasn’t expressing myself,” he says. From the age of about seven, he would show up at a stables down the road. There seemed more space for him.

It was run by a couple called Mack and Winnie Lafferty, and their daughters. “They were like my second parents, they were so good to me,” he says.

He and Mack would often shout and fight about little things, riding the horse wrong. Nelis would jump off and throw the whip at Mack. “We used to go head to head,” he says.

But they would make up 20 minutes later. “We’d be away down the road with an ice-cream cone laughing,” says Nelis. “That was a big part of my life that I loved.”

Growing up, he was headstrong and direct but so soft too, says Amanda Lafferty, one of the couple’s daughters. She was, they both agreed, like a sister to him.

He always had a “look after the small man”, she said. He was “righteous about people being bullied and things like that”.

He was born in January 1979. It was the middle of the Troubles but he won’t talk much about that. He shares the occasional recollection of British soldiers poking guns at his chest and of people being searched. “Where I was brought up, it was horrible,” he says.

Some in the village call him “polecat”, he says. When he was about 13, he climbed up the lamp post in the middle of the village – naked but painted in gold, white, and green, to taunt the soldiers.

“I got stage fright on the pole,” he says. “They had to get the fire truck to get me down. I got a big cheer.”

***

By now the Lindroos hearing into whether her eviction had been legal had been going about 20 minutes. O’Grady lays out the landlord’s case. Boucher speaks up now and then, but mainly stays quiet.

On 27 April, the RTB had ruled that the notice to quit was valid, he says. Lindroos had to leave. Boucher waited for 21 days and 48 hours – as he thought he must. On 23 May he went to the property, and knocked on the door, and heard no answer.

So he went to a local Garda station and told them what he was going to do based on the RTB ruling. He went back to the mews, and went in and changed the locks, said O’Grady.

The converted garage where Lindroos lived is in the front garden of Boucher’s home. “They are both beside each other,” says O’Grady. “They are 25 feet from each other.”

Not long after, O’Grady and Boucher sat in Boucher’s house drinking coffee. Through the window, they spotted a ladder below the first-floor window of the converted home, says O’Grady. “We called the guards.”

Doyle, the panel chair, interrupted. “Just when you did enter, were all the tenant’s belongings in the property at that point?”

“Her belongings were in the house,” says Boucher.

Changing the locks was a way to get the tenant to say what her plans were, says O’Grady. “We were totally in the dark.”

They were following a timeline for taking back the home that the RTB had advised, said O’Grady. If they acted early, it was “through no malicious intent”.

Boucher says he had written several times to Lindroos, but heard nothing from her before 21 May. That day, she had texted to say she would be out on 6 June.

“There was no communication,” he says.

“So why did you enter the property on the 23rd, two days after that text message?” asks Nelis, when it’s again his turn to speak. He rests his right elbow on the table and rubs his chin.

O’Grady leans in towards Boucher.

Nelis jumps in and tells him he can’t coach his client. “That’s the rules.”

Boucher sets out his case again: Lindroos hadn’t paid rent for 10 months. She hadn’t told them what her plans were.

Nelis repeats the question. “Sorry, he’s whispering again, this is not allowed!” he says, as O’Grady whispers something to Boucher.

“I’ll try to answer it in a way … that I just disbelieve her,” says Boucher.

As he continues his questions, Nelis gets more irate each time O’Grady whispers to Boucher. It’s against the rules to coach witnesses when they’re being cross-examined.

He asks Doyle to intervene. “The next time this gentleman beside me directs him, I’m walking out of this tribunal,” says Nelis.

O’Grady laughs. “I was a witness to the events.”

“You can laugh all you want, it’s contempt of court,” says Nelis. He throws down his pen on the desk and appeals again to Doyle.

Doyle warns O’Grady.

Nelis is annoyed: “And the landlord gets off scot-free again.”

He points to a photo in evidence of Boucher taking a photo of Lindroos through a window and asks why he took it. Boucher says Lindroos was swearing and laughing at them.

Nelis asks – several times – if Boucher knows the Residential Tenancies Act, section 12(1). It sets out the landlord’s legal obligations, such as allowing tenants peaceful occupation of a home.

“At this moment in time, I can’t comment on that because I don’t know the full ins and outs,” he says.

Sometimes Nelis plays dumb. He flicks to page 20 of the files, a notice Boucher put on Lindroos’ door, saying he was taking peaceful possession. “I’m a bit confused on this one. […] I’ve been doing this for over a year and a half, two years, I have never heard of taking peaceful possession of the property.”

“I didn’t break in,” says Boucher. “I needed to take possession.”

Doyle hurries Nelis along.

He presses Boucher on whether he knows the rules, and what is supposed to happen if a tenant fails to comply with a determination order. He pointed to Boucher’s emails about the unpaid rent, with the procedure highlighted – the next step, it notes, is an enforcement order through the courts.

“So he knows the procedure,” he says to Doyle.

Boucher says he took advice and changed the locks.

“Took advice from who?” says Nelis.

Boucher pauses. “Well, from somebody in, a friend of mine who’s in some form of, well, an acquaintance of the law.”

“Is he here today?” asks Nelis.

“Yes,” says Boucher.

Nelis asks if he can cross-examine O’Grady – who says he gave Boucher advice to change the locks.

“Why?” says Nelis. There is a pause.

“To bring the matter to a head,” says O’Grady.

***

Nelis asks Boucher if he got notice from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown that the property was a garage, not a dwelling.

Boucher sighs loudly. He stays silent.

Doyle jumps in and they talk about what can be included and what can’t. This dispute – which goes back to a claim for damages – won’t be heard today. It hasn’t yet been through adjudication, the first round of hearings.

Boucher says he is frustrated with the RTB, with case after case after case and hearing after hearing. “To allow this circus to continue for the duration it has. It’s madness.”

It is, says Nelis. But it’s madness, too, that he converted a garage to a home without planning permission. “Do you not see the hypocrisy there?”

***

Finally, Lindroos speaks for herself. “It was very frightening,” she says.

She had come home from the school run, and found the locks changed, and had propped up a ladder and climbed back in through the window.

She made sure the back patio was locked and wedged a red steel broom against the door, to stop Boucher getting in, she says. “Which I had had there every night the summer before.”

In the weeks before, if she went out to shop, she would leave somebody in the house. Her son was sick with constant nausea, she says. “The doctors say it’s due to the stress of the house.”

“My health is ruined,” says Lindroos. She is still off work from stress, she tells the panel.

O’Grady, Boucher’s representative, asks if gardaí were there when the landlord came to the door. The second time, they were there, says Lindroos.

“So there was no violent attack on the door,” he says.

“Yes there was,” she says.

“How did you feel threatened by three people in front of another man’s house?” O’Grady says.

“I was living there and I was a woman on my own,” says Lindroos.

He asks if her illness predates the day the locks changed. “Were you unwell before the 27 April?”

Lindroos says yes. But she got ill in October 2017 after an RTB hearing, she says. “Which was a brutal hearing, very unpleasant.”

O’Grady asks if she has paid rent since July 2017.

Lindroos says she hasn’t. “You know it already.”

***

The hearing lasts about an hour and a half. “That’s it,” says Nelis, gathering up his papers. Lindroos grabs her jacket. Boucher and O’Grady push their chairs under the table in front of them. It will be weeks before the final ruling is out.

“Do you want to go for a cup of tea?” asks Lindroos, once they’re outside the room.

“Yeah, I’ll go for a cup to tea,” he says.

They follow the corridor back to the lift, passing through the empty waiting room, and back down to the quiet foyer, past the security guard sat alone with a newspaper at the front desk.

Nelis looks back as he pushes out the door. “Talk to you in the afternoon,” he says.

[Editor’s note: This article contains references to self harm, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide. If you are affected by anything in this article, you can reach the Samaritans on Freephone: 116 123.] 

[UPDATE: This article was updated on 31 October at 12.23pm to include details for the Samaritans and to remove some graphic description.]

Lois Kapila portrait
Lois Kapila

Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's managing editor and general-assignment reporter. Want to share a comment or a tip with her? Send an email to her at info@dublininquirer.com.

 

Comments

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  2. Anonymous commenter
    31 October at 12:56

    I lived in New York in the 1990s and it used to amaze me that most people were allegedly a pay cheque away from being homeless but it’s the same here now ..,

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