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Last Friday, the Taoiseach, Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar, said that evictions are very rare and that judges would be reluctant to evict tenants into homelessness.
“Actual eviction orders can only be issued by a court and it’s very, very rare that a judge would evict an individual family into homelessness,” he said, according to the Irish Times.
But two solicitors specialising in housing law said they didn’t know of any cases in Ireland where a judge took pity on a tenant facing homelessness and didn’t grant an eviction order.
“We are not aware of any proportionality or broader human-rights-based arguments being successfully made in disputes concerning evictions from privately rented accommodation,” says Mary Heavey, a solicitor with Community Law and Mediation, a free legal advice and advocacy centre in Coolock.
The legal costs of fighting an eviction in the courts can mount up quickly, says Aoife Kelly-Desmond, managing solicitor at the Mercy Law Resource Centre, and the tenant’s name can be published in an adjudication report on the Residential Tenancies Board’s (RTB’s) searchable database.
Still, for tenants who are unable to secure either a new home or access to emergency accommodation, overholding may appear to be the only option available to them, other than sleeping on the streets.
“People’s choices are so limited that there might not be any other option but to stay where they are,” says Heavey.
Several councillors said they think social housing tenants on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme should remain in their homes and that the council should buy the homes under the tenant-in-situ scheme.
Aaron Downey, the national campaign coordinator with the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU), says that there can be benefits to tenants from overholding when it comes to negotiating with landlords.
Some corporate landlords have called off evictions in the face of substantial opposition, he says.
The Irish Property Owners Association didn’t respond to queries about overholding.
Since the government decided to lift the ban on no-fault evictions earlier this month, tenants with notices to quit have been weighing up whether – given the scarcity of alternative accommodation – they should stay put past their deadlines.
That can play out in different ways, say those forced to do so.
One tenant, who asked not to be named for fear she will struggle to get another place in future, said she regrets overholding.
Her situation has not improved since she started to overstay last summer. She is currently waiting for the sheriff to come and evict her, she says.
The mother, who lives in Dundalk with her baby and her adult daughter, says her landlord took a case against her at the RTB in August 2022. The RTB found that her notice to quit was valid.
The tenant was given 14 days to leave. She stayed on, she says, and the landlord took her to court and secured a court order for her eviction.
“I’m worse off now than I was back then,” she says, “and sure I will soon be homeless anyway.”
She is angry with Louth County Council staff, who, she says, advised her to overhold. Her name is searchable on the RTB database and future potential landlords will be able to see that she overheld.
Council staff advised her to keep overholding even after she lost the RTB case, which meant she incurred legal fees in the courts, she says.
Louth County Council did not respond to queries sent Friday about whether and in what circumstances they advise people to overhold.
The four Dublin local authorities didn’t respond directly to queries as to whether their staff advise tenants to overhold.
The Dublin Region Homeless Executive issued a response that did not directly address this question.
Another tenant, a mother with a teenage son living in Ballymun, has had a starkly different experience. She has been overholding since January 2022.
She has heard nothing from the landlord since, she said. The landlord hasn’t filed a dispute with the RTB.
She is still paying rent to the council and the landlord is being paid by the Housing Assistance Payment, she says.
The tenant says she has applied for hundreds of homes but hasn’t managed to find one she was allowed to accept due to price restrictions of the HAP scheme.
“I’m very lucky that he’s not chasing me,” she says.
At the beginning she was afraid to go out, she says, and it is still hanging over her. “It’s so much pressure, so much stress.”
She had to pay to fix the heating herself and the property does need maintenance, she says. If the council would buy the home and bring it up to standard that would be a massive relief, she says.
What the Law Says
Lately, more people who are overholding are attending legal advice clinics run by Community Law and Mediation in Coolock, says Heavey, the solicitor there.
“Legally speaking, people are in a precarious situation,” she says. “If you have been served with a valid notice of termination, you don’t have a legal basis to continue to remain in the property beyond the termination date.”
The landlord cannot physically evict the tenant, says Heavey. They can file a dispute with the RTB, she said.
If the landlord enters the property to change the locks or cuts off the utilities, that would amount to an illegal eviction, she says.
If an RTB adjudicator finds that the notice of termination is valid they will give the tenant a date on which they have to leave the property.
Tenants can appeal the adjudication in the RTB and then the case goes to an RTB tribunal, says Heavey.
Ann-Marie O’Reilly, the national advocacy manager with Threshold, says that the housing charity is working with 302 households that are overholding. The RTB process usually takes between five months and nine months, including the tenant appealing to a tribunal.
If the tenant doesn’t appeal, or if the tribunal also finds in favour of the landlord, the landlord can then apply to the District Court to enforce the RTB decision to evict.
The District Court case is usually over in a matter of minutes, says Heavey.
The District Court ordinarily implements the RTB decision, she says. It can only decide not to make a court order enforcing the RTB decision in certain, limited circumstances, such as a procedural failure or a legal issue with the decision.
Neither the RTB nor the District Court generally take account of the personal circumstances of tenants, says Heavey. “They are limited in what they can consider.”
Up to now, most people left before the cases came to court, says Heavey, but that may change in the near future, due to the shortage of emergency accommodation and a lack of other options.
Kelly-Desmond says that the legislation ensures that the tenant who is overholding will be liable for the landlord’s legal costs.
If the tenant still doesn’t comply with the court order, the landlord can go for an enforcement order and that will add to the legal costs, says Kelly-Desmond. “It is high risk for the tenant, particularly prolonged overholding.”
The RTB adjudication report will be published on the RTB database, too, she says.
Running Out of Options
Councillors say that with a shortage of rented accommodation and families being refused emergency accommodation too, tenants are left with little choice but to overhold.
Independent Councillor Cieran Perry says that he advises people to overhold to buy time to search more for a new place.
“I reluctantly advise people to go down that route because it keeps them with a roof over their head for a longer time,” says Perry.
But it is highly stressful for the tenant. “You know you’re going to lose the case and you have to represent yourself in the RTB,” he says. “It’s far from ideal.”
Madeleine Johansson, a People Before Profit councillor in South Dublin County Council, lives in a rented apartment in Tathony House in Kilmainham, where multiple tenants are disputing eviction notices through the RTB.
She hopes that the RTB will find in favour of the tenants but if it finds in favour of the landlord, she doesn’t plan to leave her home.
“It is highly likely that we, like thousands of others, won’t find anything and in that case, the only option will be to overhold,” she says, by phone on Saturday. “We’re not going to have a choice.”
The worst thing about overholding is the stress and worry for tenants, says Johansson. Tenants often fear that their landlord might perform an illegal eviction, she says, which happens fairly frequently.
Still, there is a severe shortage of rental homes and very little emergency accommodation, she says. “Keep looking, but if you have nowhere to go and your eviction date is coming, don’t leave and end up homeless,” says Johansson.
Anthony Connaghan, a Sinn Féin councillor on Dublin City Council, says that he doesn’t know any renters who are currently overholding. But he knows a lot of tenants with notices to quit who are considering overholding once the eviction ban is lifted, he says.
Families are being told that emergency accommodation is not available, he says, and many families cannot stay with relatives because their relatives’ homes are already overcrowded.
People are getting really desperate, says Connaghan. Most of the tenants he knows get on well with their landlords and don’t want conflict with them, he says, they simply have nowhere else to go with their children.
“There is no emergency accommodation,” says Sophie Nicoullaud, a Right to Change councillor on Dublin City Council. People should try to minimise the length of time their children spend homeless, she says.
If a social housing tenant overholds the landlord is more likely to do a deal with the council to buy the home under the tenant-in-situ scheme, she says.
The government announced earlier this month that councils across Ireland will buy 1,500 homes this year under the tenant-in-situ scheme and turn them into social homes.
It also announced that it would, from 1 April, operate a similar scheme for those on higher incomes who don’t qualify for social housing, but would for cost-rental homes.
Promises to keep tenants in situ could well be interpreted by renters as the best opportunity to secure permanent housing for their families.
Johansson, the People Before Profit councillor, says some landlords want to sell to South Dublin County Council but the council doesn’t have enough staff to process the applications.
A Bargaining Position
Overholding can provide the tenant with a position to negotiate from, says Aaron Downey, of CATU, particularly when dealing with big corporate landlords.
He wouldn’t advise a tenant to overhold without assessing their case, he says. “We take each situation on a case-by-case basis,” says Downey. “Generally I would say that there are a lot more reasons to overhold, particularly in the current context.”
Downey says it is always better to try to negotiate solutions as early as possible, rather than wait until the eviction date is up. Sometimes a corporate landlord will call off the eviction in the face of substantial opposition, he says.
“We have had cases where people have overheld – particularly in the case of the bigger corporate landlords – and the landlords have given them a cash settlement to move elsewhere or we got the eviction called off entirely,” he says.
Some corporate landlords have agreed to re-house tenants in other properties that they owned too, he says, instead of battling with them through the RTB and the courts.
Scandalous public representative’s telling tenants to break the law.
I am a landlord who lives in fear of tenants rights
They have the right to stay.
The right to blackmail me into either giving in and letting them stay
Give them money to go.
No wonder we landlords are leaving the market
We pay tax at the top rate
Are not allowed any relief on repairs costs
It’s all about the tenants rights
Well as far as I and many other landlords think they have the right to live for free in a council house
Not in my house
I am selling up and advise others to do the same
I was a good landlord not raising rents
My property is rented for a reasonable amount
A fair amount when I rented it 10 years ago
But with rent controls I can not charge market rents
It makes more sense to sell the property and buy the one next door
I can get twice the rent as it’s a private house never rented
Meanwhile my house as a former rented house is off limits to potential investors looking for a rental as my house is only allowed rent at the reduced rate I was charging
How is this fair
Meanwhile the big corporate companies rent at the higher rates
Pay less tax and buy more and more
So you want to buy a house
You can only buy a former rented house these guys don’t want and spend your money to fix it up
The bank takes a look
You want to pay how much
How will you fix it up
Where is the money to fix it up
Sorry no we think it’s too dear and you have no money to do it up
You can not buy it
I can not keep it
The tenant who was being treated fairly can not be allowed stay in it
I need to sell it because the system is forcing me
Round and round we go
Stop rent controls
Stop the madness
Let landlords charge a market rate
Make it possible to have places that can be rented
If my wife wants me out of the family home I will need somewhere to live – you say I can’t move back into my rented property? What about my son with special needs that his step-mother wants out of her house – where does he go – he becomes homeless? What if I am a victim of domestic violence and need to move back into the property i paid for? You say I can’t do that because I agreed, according to different laws at that time, to let the house to people for a rental payment? You think you can just change the law now, and stop me moving back into my house? You treat me, the owner of the property, as some sort of medieval landlord, even though the house was only built in the last 100 years, post Irish independence, and is a bog standard 3-bed semi? The media are no longer paid well, because of the Internet making content available for free, so the journalists now can’t buy houses, so they jump on the populist bandwagon. This law is ridiculous, it will not stand, owners of small houses can’t be dispossessed of their properties. A let property was never, ever, going to be in the permanent ownership of the tenant. This was always the agreement. Stop this populist nonsense
Above comment from a small landlord so correct.
Just rent the rooms out individually and keep a room in house for yourself .
I am a sole property owner who naievley rented out my home while air moved abroad for one year. I am now locked into a one sided system that is designed to protect tenants and villify landlords… I am left in a vulnerable homeless scenaio but because I am a ‘Landlord’ my homeless status is not considered to be a concern for any homeless charity or government run agency dealing with landlord and tenant rights.. I am waiting and waiting and waiting for a notice validation from the RTB which is looking likely to not happen before the notice to quit date comes along. The RTB mistook me for the tenant in an email thread and advised me to overhold on the basis that they don’t get around to validating the notice before the day the tenant is due to leave. This response just validated what I already knew to be true. I have begged and pleased with Threshold not to suggest to the tenant to overhold and I have been met with all the reasons why the tenant deserves to remain in my home. I seemingly don’t deserve a home. I made a mistake, I rented my home out and I didn’t realise it meant I was giving it away. I am homeless but I don’t deserve to live in my own home. I have met some people in this nightmare reality who see my point and I have been faced with some opposition TDs who feel I don’t deserve my home back. This is a fight for survival between me and another human for my home that I worked very hard for to purchase. The system is broken and some very forceful opposition opinions have created a social dynamic that is going to create anarchy in society when the ban lifts. Overholding is an option for one side but its not an option for the other to tolerate. We are all human. Nobody should be considered demonic for wanting back what is rightfully theirs. Tenants are not the responsibility of landlords.
The current situation in the housing market has been politically motivated for years. The term Landlord is extremely popular, actually the correct term should be multiple property owners. If a property owner has to pay exorbitant taxes and fees, that’s an issue that rests solely with this vulture government. The tenants have been thrown to the lions, the rents that they pay are doubled simply because the property owners are been ripped off by the state. The untold misery that in 2023, is worse than the conditions of the Strumpit City, from a bygone century. Until we elect a government that is capable of protecting all its citizens, with a roof over their heads. Nothing is going to change, citizens lives and mental health will carve a trail to the cemeteries. It’s time that our nation, which consistently values its record in Europe. Starts to get its act together in providing meaningful provision for tenants and property owners.
Yes it certainly seems that the responsibility for this hellish situation belongs to the state. It’s not all down to greedy landlords and bad tenants. This should never have come about in a caring society, with a government doing what it’s elected to do – taking care of all it’s citizens. Imagine reading this article thirty years ago – you would find it hard to believe, and would wonder what state in the world could allow this madness to happen. Certainly not Ireland in the 21st century. I feel sorry for all the decent landlords and tenants out there living this terrible unending nightmare.
A rental property is an “investment” piece of real estate with a certain attached risk for a landlord and a “home” for a certain duration of time for a tenant. The landlord purchases the property and agrees to lend it to the tenant for a period of time as per a lease agreement. It is nothing more or less than that. Left wing and socialist parties and certain charities expect Landlords to take out large mortgages to purchase a properties and gift them for lifelong periods to tenants and their children. Landlords never intended purchasing and renting their property to give a lifelong home to a tenant.In future from mid 2023 Landlords nor their spouses nor their children will not be allowed move into their own properties if necessary.
The landlords will have to sell the property to the tenant or with the tenant in situ. By Summer 2023 this law will be fully enacted in Ireland giving ‘First Right of Refusal’ to tenants to buy the property. If the rent is below market the sale price will be based on the valuation yield and the Landlord will not be able to sell at the open market rate. Not a lot of people know this as the law is currently flying low and fast under the radar. Please Google “First Right of Refusal to tenants to buy the property in Ireland” and you will see this is actually the case. Spread the word to unwitting Landlords who are still renting out their property. I have been advising landlords to get out of the business for the past year and have actively done so myself. Any Landlord playing “wait and see” is going to learn an expensive lesson when they cannot get their own property back for personal, family or sale purposes. Hear me good…
If YOU THINK IT IS BAD NOW WAIT UNTIL THE SHINNERS APPEAR.
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