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Sam Boal
eviction ban

Taoiseach says Govt did not have exact RTB figures when deciding to lift eviction ban

Questions have been raised about whether government knew the extent of the notices to quit that had been served.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Apr 2023

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said Government did not have the exact Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) figures on notices to quit when deciding to lift the eviction ban. 

However, he told reporters this afternoon that regardless, the same decision to lift the moratorium would have been reached. 

He said some want to give a false impression that had Cabinet known the updated number of notices to quit, different decisions would have made. 

“That’s absolutely not the case,” he said, adding one reason the decision was made not to extend it “was precisely because there was an acceleration of landlords leaving the market”

“The numbers of notices to quit were increasing and had we extended by another three or six months, that would have left us with an even bigger problem down the line,” he said.

That was “part of the rationale around the decision that was made”, said Varadkar. 

Questions have been raised about whether the government was aware of the number of such notices that had been served on tenants before the eviction ban was lifted, following an article published in The Dublin Inquirer today.

The report cites an email exchange dated 15 February between the RTB and department officials about the data, with mention of a request to hold off on the publication of the figures until the next day. 

“I wanted to flag that the RTB will be publishing data on Notices of Termination received by the RTB in Q3 2022 on the data hub section of the RTB website today,” said an email from an RTB staff member to department officials on 15 February, the Dublin Inquirer reported. 

According to the article, that triggered a request from a department official to hold off on publishing until the following day. There is no reference to the delay in subsequent emails released under the Freedom of Information to the Dublin Inquirer. 

The data wasn’t published until 10 March, a few days after the government had  announced it was going to lift the no-fault evictions ban. 

TANAISTE 422 Sam Boal Sam Boal

Tánaiste Micheál Martin today rejected any suggestion that Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) notice to quit figures were delayed until after the ending of the eviction ban was announced last month. 

When asked about the reports today, the Tánaiste said he had not read the article in the Dublin Inquirer but stated: “No one delayed any figures.” 

In relation to Q4 figures, an email from an RTB executive officer to housing officials on 10 March stated: 

“It is the intention that the Q4 2022 data will be published on the RTB Data Hub the week beginning the 20 March 2023.”

This data was not published until 3 April. 

Saying repeatedly that any suggestion of a delay was “outrageous”, Martin said Cabinet “didn’t get the Q4 figures” on the number of notices to quit. However, he said there had been previous communications, while also stating that he did have an idea as to what the figures might look like. 

‘Economic rationale’

The advice Cabinet received was that there was an “economic rationale” for lifting the ban, said the Tánaiste.

“I don’t think that has been reflected in debate,” he said, maintaining that keeping the eviction ban in place would cause “more harm” and “exacerbate the situation in terms of homelessness overall”. 

When asked for further clarity this afternoon, a Government spokesperson for the Tánaiste said department officials did have preliminary data, but that the minister did not. 

He said had the figures been known “it wouldn’t have changed the government decision”, stating that the figures “were going to be irrelevant to any decision”. 

The spokesperson then clarified his remarks, stating the RTB figures on the number of notices to quit issued “wasn’t going to be the deciding factor”. 

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said the full Cabinet meeting had “briefing materials” on hand that were relevant to the decision-making process.

When asked about whether it would have been better to have all data and figures available when a decision was being made to lift the eviction ban, a spokesperson for Minister Eamon Ryan said “all information is helpful”, but if the RTB numbers were not available, they weren’t available. 

TANAISTE 69 Micheál Martin speaking to the media in the Government Press Centre this afternoon. Sam Boal Sam Boal

On 7 March, when confirming that the eviction ban was to be lifted on 1 April, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien indicated to media that he didn’t know the increased number of notices to quit that tenants had received in recent months. 

Questioned by The Journal, O’Brien said that 2,700 notices to quit had been paused, but stated that “the RTB will publish figures soon in relation to the notices to quit during the eviction moratorium”. 

Gavan Reilly, political correspondent for Virgin Media, followed up with the minister on the same date, asking: “So you don’t know at this point how many people are actually now subject to eviction notices?”

O’Brien replied: “No well, the RTB assess that data. Because they receive, they receive copies of the notice to quit and they’re the ones who publish that data. And we’ll have that very shortly.”

When asked about the questions raised today, a spokesperson for the housing minister said:

“The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) is a key stakeholder for the department and we engage with them on an ongoing basis.

“It is not uncommon for the RTB to share preliminary data at official level which is then subject to further analysis and verification. This data would not have been shared with the Minister. The publication and timing of publication of RTB data is a matter for the RTB.”

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