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Sasko Lazarov
eviction ban

Free Legal Advice Centre says Taoiseach's claims on evictions do not reflect 'legal reality'

The centre’s chief executive said that Varadkar’s comments implied that the Courts have a large say in whether a determination order will be enforced, in reality, they do not.

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Free Legal Advice Centre  (FLAC) has stated that comments the Taoiseach made about the difference between “evictions” and “notices to quit”, and the role of the courts in enforcing notices to quit, “do not reflect the legal or social reality of tenants faced with a notice of termination”. 

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, during a debate on the eviction ban lifting this week, Leo Varadkar said that landlords accept tenants overholding because they have not managed to find a new place to live yet “all the time”. 

He further stated: “Some cases go to the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, where both sides are heard and then there is a determination order.

“Only then can it go to court. The only place in Ireland where an eviction order can actually be handed down, in Ireland, is in court. That is the system. I give the best advice I can to anybody who comes to me for advice.” 

Last week the Taoiseach also claimed that judges are “reluctant” to hand down eviction orders against renters who would face homelessness. 

“I think people often mix up notices of termination with evictions. Eviction orders can only be issued by the courts and I would expect those numbers to continue to be very small,” he further remarked. 

FLAC Chief Executive Eilis Barry has responded to these comments in order to clarify that a valid notice of termination “extinguishes a tenant’s legal right to remain in a property.” 

“The Residential Tenancies Acts provide that any determination order made by the Residential Tenancies Board in relation to the validity of such a notice is ‘binding on the parties’.

“While the Taoiseach’s comments imply that the Courts have a wide discretion in relation to whether such orders may be enforced, the legislation provides that the District Court must enforce a Residential Tenancies Board determination except in a narrow set of circumstances arising from procedural or legal errors on the part of the Residential Tenancies Board,” Barry added. 

Responding to Varadkar saying that people faced with notices of termination should seek legal advice from FLAC and other bodies, Barry said that while FLAC agrees with the suggestions, the centre’s services already face “overwhelming demand”, and can only answer one third of the calls made to their telephone information line. 

“The majority of calls which FLAC receives concern family and employment law – we do not have the resources to meet the demand in these areas, let alone to respond to the legal queries arising from the eviction ban lapsing,” she added. 

She also stated that it is “notable” that the mitigation measures discussed by the Government do not include any proposals to enhance the availability of legal information, advice or representation to tenants. 

“At present, the State scheme of civil legal aid does not provide for representation in disputes heard by the Residential Tenancies Board and, more generally, legal advice and representation is only rarely provided by the Legal Aid Board in landlord/tenant disputes,” Barry added. 

FLAC information line coordinator Erin Brogan said that the centre cannot advise callers to overhold in their tenancies in circumstances where there is no apparent flaw with a determination order and where the District Court has “extremely limited powers to overturn that order and may also order the tenant to pay their landlord’s legal costs” 

“The harsh reality is that the vast majority of calls which FLAC receives in relation to evictions relate to legally valid notices of termination. The Taoiseach comments may be construed as encouraging tenants to overhold until ordered by the Court to leave, notwithstanding the risks this creates in relation to costs,” Brogan added. 

FLAC is an independent human rights and equality organisation based in Ireland, you can find out more about its services here.

At tonight’s parliamentary party meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told members of Fine Gael that the government would serve for its full term and that the next two years need to be used well to keep the economy strong and raise living standards.

He said there must be faster progress in housing and that there is no time to waste on the issue.

The Taoiseach said the independent review group’s report into the Defence Forces released yesterday was quite shocking and that previous attempts to address these issues had failed. He said a full public inquiry would begin as soon as it could be done properly.

On delayed school building projects due to rising costs, the meeting heard that Minister Paschal Donohoe is working with Minister Norma Foley to resolve the issue quickly.

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