A few small cardboard boxes are pushed up against a wall on one of the landings midway up the stairwell.
In a bright sitting room on the top floor, a red suitcase lies unzipped. There are piles of neat folded clothes and blankets on black leather couches. Two patterned dresses hang from the curtain rail.
Jekaterina Deja is gradually, tentatively starting to pack up her home on Bramley Terrace in Applewood where she has lived for a decade with her son, and more recently an elderly housemate too.
Even though, at the moment, she plans to sit tight past her eviction deadline. “I’m planning to overhold, I’m not leaving,” she said. “I just don’t know what is going to happen.”
In January, Deja and her housemate were issued with a notice to quit by a management company on behalf of her landlord, Jersia Limited, one of several Cyprus-based companies with hundreds of rentals in Ireland, all subsidiaries of LRC RE-1, a Luxembourg-based fund.
Her notice, which gave her until 24 August to leave, wasn’t because the landlord wanted to sell, or move in a family member, or because of anti-social behaviour.
Her tenancy was up, the notice says, because she had come to the end of what is known as a “Part 4 tenancy cycle”, a period during which a landlord can terminate without any special grounds.
She has stayed pretty resilient in the months since, she says. But recently, after a meeting with organisers from the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU), she did breakdown, says Deja.
“You just kind of think, you work hard, right, you pay all your bills, you try to lead … don’t cheat on the system or anything you know that way, you try to be honest, and responsible person,” she says, her voice becoming quieter.
“And then this happens,” she says, “and it’s just like … It just feels unfair.”
Home Club Limited, the company that manages the apartments for Jersia Limited, didn’t respond to queries sent by email, and followed up on the phone, as to why it was ending her tenancy – and others – in this way.
It also didn’t respond to queries as to how many notices to quit on the basis that a Part 4 cycle was up it has sent out in the last year to tenants of subsidiaries of LRC RE-1.
Subsidiaries of LRC RE-1 own a property portfolio of mostly apartments in Ireland worth almost €620 million, according the fund’s 2022 financial statements.
Elsewhere in Applewood in north Dublin, at least four of Deja’s neighbours have also had notices on the same grounds, says Helen Moynihan, a regional organiser with CATU.
On Monday, in Dublin’s city centre, tenants in the New Maltings on Watling Street, and over the river in Smithfield Lofts – both blocks owned by subsidiaries of the same fund – also said they had gotten similar notices.
An old regime
When Deja got the notice in January, it was a surprise, she said late last week, sat at a table in a small mezzanine kitchen in her apartment.
A breeze drifts in through a door behind her, ajar onto a balcony that looks out over a concrete car park and other wings of the complex.
A couple of weeks before she got the eviction notice, she had been sent a rent increase letter, she says. “So I didn’t think that this was going to follow. When I got that, I was a bit, kind of shocked.”
She works nearby in Swords at a gift-card company, she says. Her 17-year-old son, who has just finished school, has his life around here, too. “Football team, friends. Girlfriends,” she says, with a slight laugh.
After she got the notice, she reached out to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and Citizens Information and Threshold. They all said the notice is valid, she says.
But the changes only apply to new tenancies, created on or after 11 June 2022. Or, to ones where the landlord agrees to convert an existing tenancy into an unlimited one.
A spokesperson for the Department of Housing didn’t address queries as to why it had opted to change the law in this way, applicable only to new tenancies.
During Oireachtas debates at the time, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the law had been drawn up based on work with the attorney general and taking into account the rights of tenants and property owners.
“The aim is just transition to tenancies of unlimited duration, while also respecting property rights, thereby reducing the potential for any legal challenge to this legislation,” said O’Brien.
The move towards tenancies of indefinite duration was significant and important, he said.
“Any measure we take in the rental market has to be calibrated and has to take into account the individual mom-and-pop landlords who own these properties,” said O’Brien. “We cannot tread on their rights either. Any legislation is potentially open to challenge.”
“Worse than that, we could continue to see a flight of decent landlords from the market, and there are decent landlords in the market,” he said.
Deja says she knows the law. “I know this is not against the law but it’s kind of inhumane, I should say.”
“Because it’s … especially everybody knows what it’s like out there at the moment,” she says. “Not enough houses. Well, there is houses, but they’re just not affordable for people.”
There have to be changes, she says. “Not just for me, but in general in Ireland.”
Moynihan, a regional organiser with the tenants’ union CATU, said they plans to hold a solidarity rally with Deja, inviting others in the community to come and show support, on the day that she is due to leave.
Asking to stay
“I tried to find a place to live but you know how it is at the moment, it’s nearly impossible,” says Deja. “I’ve got mortgage approval and everything, but even to buy it’s a nightmare.”
“The prices are crazy. Because I’m on my own, it’s harder,” she says.
On 18 July, organisers for CATU wrote to Home Club Limited saying that Deja, her son, and her housemate have nowhere else to go, and asking that they withdraw the notice and offer her a new tenancy.
A Home Club representative wrote back to say the landlord wouldn’t be doing that. “This property is scheduled for upgrade works and these are not works that can be done with a tenant in occupation,” the email says.
Home Club has a number of properties in Dublin, the letter says. Agents would be in touch with Deja if anything came up that would be suitable for her, said the letter.
“Nobody was in touch with me,” said Deja, last Friday.
If they said she needed to move out for a bit then she would, she says. “My parents are in the UK. I would move to the UK for a couple of months.”
But she suspects that isn’t the reason, says Deja. “To me, it’s obviously because the rents are so high, so that’s what they’re trying to do, just get rid of us. Get higher rent in.”
She pays €1,446 a month in rent, she says, for the two-bed apartment.
Across the city, at the New Maltings complex on Watling Street – also owned by Jersia Limited – as apartments have turned over, the landlord has added charges to leases on top of the rent.
LRC RE-1 had profit after tax of €28.4 million last year for its properties in Ireland, according to its 2022 accounts.
A growing number
Between mid-2019 and mid-2022, data from the RTB suggests that landlords only rarely issued notices to quit on the basis that a Part 4 tenancy was ending – or that they rarely notified the RTB that they had.
In the second quarter of 2019, a landlord issued one notice to quit on those grounds. In the first quarter of 2022, they issued 31 notices.
In mid-2022, rules for reporting notices to the RTB changed. So data since isn’t comparable, the RTB has said.
But RTB figures do show a rise in use of the provision since then. From 136 notices to quit in the third quarter of 2022, up to 244 in the fourth quarter, and again up to 257 in the first quarter of 2023.
The RTB refused a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a breakdown of which corporate landlords had issued how many notices to quit on the grounds of a Part 4 tenancy ending, each quarter over the last year.
Paul Murphy, the People Before Profit TD, who has raised the case of the Applewood evictions in the Oireachtas, said that “The immediate answer is for the council or the state to step up and buy the properties.”
It is potentially making people homeless, he says. “The state shouldn’t stand by and should be seeking to expand its housing stock.”
But while Fingal County Council could make an offer, there are no powers at the moment to force a landlord to sell in this situation. Murphy says there should be compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers that allow for it.
As he sees it, the government should also make all existing tenancies indefinite, not just new ones, and fight that out in court. “See if it’s legally challenged.”
Deja says the same. “They should be giving the unlimited tenancy agreement that they have in place now for the new tenants.”
At the same time, it’s not like she is unwilling to find a new place to live, she says. “I am in active search. But just at the moment, the market for both renting or buying is horrendous.”