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Leah Farrell
eviction ban

Extending eviction ban would reduce number of rental properties even more, says O'Brien

The Housing Minister formally announced today that the eviction moratorium will be lifted from 31 March

LAST UPDATE | 7 Mar 2023

HOUSING MINISTER DARRAGH O’Brien has said he believes that further government interventions in the private rental sector would reduce the number of homes to rent even further.

O’Brien formally announced today that the eviction ban will be lifted from 31 March, but claims that there will be no “cliff edge” for families who may be affected by the change.

He admitted that homelessness “could very possibly” increase following the decision to lift the eviction ban. 

The ban was due to expire at the end of this month but there had been significant pressure from opposition parties to extend it.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time this evening, O’Brien said he “cannot guarantee that there won’t be a short term increase in homelessness” when the moratorium expires.

He said the government decided not to extend the ban because “a further intervention in the private rental sector will lead to further reduction in the capacity within that sector.”

He said this was based on “our own research.”

The Rental Tenancies Board carried out research last year which indicated that landlords are citing high taxes and low profits as their main reason for selling their properties.

O’Brien said: “The rental market, as it stands right now is not functioning as it should. And that’s been a long standing issue.”

When asked why the ban could not be extended in exchange for offering further incentives to landlords to stay in the market, such as tax breaks, the minister said: “All of those all of those options were looked at.”

He said he believes that “uncertainty within the sector over a long number of years has led to people leaving and there’s no new people coming in.

Record levels of homelessness

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Ireland hit a record high with latest Government figures last month showing that 11,754 people were living in emergency accommodation in January. 

It is the seventh consecutive month that the record number has been broken.

A total of 8,323 adults and 3,431 children were living in emergency accommodation during the week of 23 to 29 January.

Speaking after today’s Cabinet decision today, O’Brien said the moratorium on evictions “has not had the impact of reducing homelessness numbers” in recent months, but added that he did not regret putting it in place last winter. 

When asked by The Journal about the Government’s understanding on the number of notice to quits will now come on stream now that the ban has been lifted, the minister indicated he did not know the number of people that now face eviction, stating that the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) will publish data shortly. 

Before the winter ban, it was estimated that around 2,700 notices to quit were paused when the moratorium came in.

“The RTB will publish data soon in relation to the notice to quit during the eviction moratorium. But the figure is on or about 2700 Notice to quit, that were paused during this period.

Legal challenges

Green Party Minister of State Malcolm Noonan, standing alongside the housing minister, told reporters that he knows that people will be disappointed. 

“But the advice of the Attorney General was clear that it was going to be legally challenging to extend the moratorium any further and we have to act on that advice,” he said. 

O’Brien said he stood over his decision, stating that if he believed an extension to the moratorium would be the better option in the short to medium term, he would obviously push for it “notwithstanding legal difficulties that that might be there”.

“We have to be cognisant of our legal advice, but I don’t want to bring forward a short term measure that’s going to do more damage to the sector and reduce the number of properties that are available for people to rent. And that’s why we’ve taken a responsible decision today as a government and it’s the right thing to do,” he said. 

Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the advice from the AG was that it would be extremely difficult to justify a further extension of the eviction moratorium in the courts, stating that the Government would have to prove that it did more good than harm and that it was in the public interest in the round.

“And having considered it, the Government formed the view that it wasn’t in the public interest in the round to extend the eviction moratorium. We made this as a decision as to what we thought was the right thing to do as the Government.It wasn’t because the AG told us that we could or could not make the decision,” he added.

Budget measures

The housing minister said that along with the new measures announced today, such as legislating to require a landlord selling a property to first offer it to the tenant on an independent valuation basis for sale, more measures will be contained in the budget for landlords and tenants. 

“I think what’s very clear from the Government decision today though, is a firm commitment, but a decision from government today, that measures in relation to the rental sector, both for tenants and for landlords will be brought in in the budget this year.

“And I’ve always said I believe a rebalancing is needed, particularly for the individual Mom and Pop landlords in that space. And that’s what we intend to do,” he said. 

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