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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
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no-fault evictions

Government accused of 'shocking indifference' after deciding against another eviction ban

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien revealed yesterday that the government has ‘no plans to reinstate a winter eviction ban’.

HOUSING SPOKESPEOPLE FROM Labour, People Before Profit and the Social Democrats have condemned the government’s decision not to consider implementing another ban on no-fault evictions this winter.

A parliamentary question by Labour leader Ivana Bacik to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien revealed yesterday that the government has “no plans to reinstate a winter eviction ban”.

The ban was enacted last year to prevent tenants from being evicted during the winter if their landlords wanted to sell the property or have relatives move in.

Tenants who stopped paying rent could still be evicted as this did not qualify as a no-fault eviction.

Bacik, her party’s temporary housing spokesperson, said that the ban had been a “glimmer of hope” for renters while it was in place between 31 October 2022 and 31 March of this year.

She accused the government of “running scared from their own proposal, lifting the ban without any basis for doing so and with no immediate contingency measures to cushion the blow.”

The latest figures from Department of Housing show that there was a new record high of 12,441 people in emergency accommodation in May: 3,699 children, and 8,742 adults.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has called for an immediate and permanent reintroduction of the ban on no-fault evictions.

“It was an incredibly retrograde step for them to lift that ban and the fact that we’re now facing record numbers of homeless families and children, and it’s rising every month, is shocking. It’s shocking the government won’t reinstate it, not just for the winter but for good,” he said.

“There’s a complete disregard on the part of the government in terms of the suffering and the distress of families who are facing eviction through no fault of their own.”

“It’s a display of shocking indifference to allow people to be evicted into homelessness when there clearly isn’t enough public housing or affordable housing.”

European norms

Soc Dems’ housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan told The Journal that the government’s decision not to reinstate the ban shows that Ireland is behind the rest of Europe in regards to tenants’ rights.

“There seems to be kind of a cavalier attitude in the government, they’re shrugging their shoulders and saying ‘Homelessness is going up every month, what’s it got to do with us?’” he said.

“Most countries in Europe that have a mature rental system have strong regulations around rents and rent increases, and strong regulation to protect renters from eviction. The sooner we get there, the less trauma and difficulty there will be for people.”

France has had a ban on no-fault evictions between 1 November and 31 March since 1956, while the UK’s Tory government is considering implementing a permanent ban on no-fault evictions.

“Even getting into emergency accommodation now is very difficult. People are saying that they’ve been ringing up emergency accommodation and being asked questions like ‘Do you have a car? Would you be able to sleep in that?’”

Government justification

When the government defied calls from the Opposition to extend the eviction ban past March, it announced several measures aimed at improving tenants security of tenure including schemes allowing local authorities to buy a home from a landlord and rent it to the tenant.

The First Right of Refusal was also announced, which would oblige landlords selling a property to offer to sell it to their tenant before placing it on the market.

However, the legislation to allow this measure will be delayed until after the Dáil’s summer recess, which O’Callaghan slammed as a “broken promise to renters”.

“It really shows their lack of commitment on this. I don’t think they really understand how much stress people who are facing eviction, facing homelessness, are under,” he said.

“They’re refusing to take actions that are known to work and are working well in other European countries.”

Senior government figures including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien justified not extending the ban beyond March by stating that it did not help to actually reduce the number of people becoming homeless.

This has been disputed by homelessness charities such as Threshold, while a FactFind by The Journal found that although homelessness continued to increase during the ban, it happened at a slower rate compared to the months before the ban.

From July to August 2022, the number of homeless families increased to 1,483 (an increase of 60) with 3,220 children (an increase of 83) homeless in August.

By October, the number was at 1,601 families with 3,480 children – an increase of 178 families and 343 children in the three months from July. 

But in November – the first full month during which the ban was in place – the number of homeless families had only increased by 15, with homeless children going up by 14.

Ivana Bacik has repeated her party’s call for a ban on no-fault evictions to be reintroduced immediately and for the ban to be kept in place until the number of people in emergency accommodation decreases for four consecutive months.

“The reality is that current policy simply does not tally with the reality facing households across the country,” she said.

“In October, it will be five years since Dáil Éireann declared a housing emergency, with the support of Minister O’Brien and his colleagues in Fianna Fáil. Yet, we have yet to see real emergency measures to address the crisis we are in.”

Boyd Barrett said that he would support the Labour proposal if it could be implemented but believes it should do more tenants’ security of tenure.

“I’d support any reinstatement of the eviction ban during this emergency period. But I think it’s not enough. We need to get to where most of the rest of Europe is where if you’ve done nothing wrong you have no reason to fear eviction.”

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