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File image of a woman looking into an estate agents window in Ardara, Co Donegal. Alamy Stock Photo
eviction ban

'While the moratorium paused evictions, it didn’t stop landlords issuing notices to quit'

Homeless services are worried about the potential impact of eviction ban lapsing.

THE LEVELS OF growth in homelessness will return to those seen prior to the eviction ban coming in to place, once it lapses at the end of the month.

That’s the warning from Wayne Stanley, the Executive Director of the Simon Communities of Ireland.

Speaking to The Journal, he said the ending of the moratorium is “very worrying” because while “people still became homeless when the eviction ban was in place, it absolutely prevented homelessness”.

“Even having that quite significant preventative measure, we still saw homeless numbers grow, particularly in the Dublin region,” said Stanley.

“So once that’s lifted and we return to the levels of growth in homelessness that preceded it, it’s very worrying because our services were already stretched.

“So the pressure is on from every side and it’s a really dark picture at the moment.”

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said additional emergency accommodation will be provided to lessen the impact of the eviction ban coming to an end.

However, Stanley warns that groups like his “will very quickly use that up and be back to a situation where we are stretched beyond capacity”.

Before the ban came into place, it was estimated that around 2,700 notices to quit were paused.

Stanely anticipates that this number will be similar if not higher once the ban is lifted.

“The only way that we would not have similar figures is if those people who have had their notice paused had found some alternatives in the interim,” noted Stanley.

“Our experience is that while some definitely will have found alternatives, the numbers will be relatively small and the numbers will have been added to.

The Housing Minister doesn’t have the overarching numbers because he said he’s waiting for that from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), but I would anticipate it probably being at least 2,700 and probably more.”

Stanley also said landlords were presenting notices to quit even while the moratorium was in place.

“Threshold continued to see people presenting with notices to quit. While the moratorium put a pause on evictions, it didn’t stop landlords being able to serve notices to quit,” explained Stanley.

The CEO of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty said his organisation “currently works with thousands of individuals with notices of termination”.

He added that “evidence from the Residential Tenancies Board and our frontline staff indicates a significant number of evictions are pending”. 

McCafferty said: “In 2022, Threshold became aware of 5,444 newly-created termination cases, where 57% of notices were issued due to the landlord selling, and in 17% of such cases, the landlord and/or family member moving in.

“The ban on evictions is not a ‘silver bullet’. The ban was to provide ‘breathing space’ for positive changes and improvements in supply to take place.

“Unfortunately, we are yet to see the outcome of Government action in this respect. The decision to end the ban at the end of this month will likely make a bad situation worse. It is disappointing and detrimental.”

As a result of landlords still being able to serve notices to quit, Stanley said it is difficult to predict if there will be an increase in notices to quit once the ban ends on 31 March.

“The moratorium didn’t stop anybody serving a notice to quit, so I’m not sure there’ll be an influx in notices, but there may be because of the way these things are communicated.

“Sometimes landlords would think that they couldn’t serve a notice to quit and that actually wasn’t the case.

“So while I don’t know what the market will do, I do know that we will start to see an increase in the number of people coming into homelessness.”

It’s understood that renters with their tenancies ending could remain in their homes until June, depending on the length of their tenancy.

“There is a lag in it that allows an unwinding of the protections on a time based criteria so that there isn’t just a cliff edge of people whose notice ran out in the interim,” said Stanley.

But he warns: “We will quickly get back to where we were before the moratorium was in place.

“Those notices to quit will start to unwind and that same pressure will be on the private rental market, and that was the big driver of homelessness.

“The numbers are real people and those are real people that are going to be suffering the trauma of homelessness, and attempting to find a way out in the context of a private rental market that is shrinking.”

He also said that when it comes to properties within the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) rates, “we are looking at functional zero”.

“It’s not an absolute zero,” said Stanley, “but you’re talking about so few properties and the competition is so stark, that it’s very difficult for people to find alternatives, particularly people on low income.”

Threshold CEO John-Mark McCafferty said that while some measures, such as an offer of first refusal to buy a property, may help some renters, most would not be in a position to do this given the “exorbitant cost of rent and the inability of people to save the significant deposits required as a result.”

When affected renters begin having to leave their homes in June, Stanley said: “You can anticipate us being back up to the sort of numbers coming in to homelessness that were coming in the months preceding the eviction ban coming into place.”

While Stanley said work is starting right away to ensure protections are in place, he worried that homeless services won’t be able to cope with a “crisis” like this.

“Services are filled to capacity. There is work going on to try and increase capacity, but during the last cold weather initiative in Cork, the Cork Simon had people – to get them out of the cold and to make sure they’re safe – wrapped up sleeping under the stairs.

“That is how stretched capacity is when a crisis hits. That’s in the context of extreme weather conditions, so there is very little additional capacity in the system.

“We’re working on increasing it, but the truth is, even as we increase it, the numbers are now going to start climbing.”

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