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RTB orders landlord to pay €13,000 to family after illegal eviction

The couple and their three children became homeless after the eviction.

Image: Shutterstock

THE RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES Board (RTB) ordered a landlord to pay €13,766 to a family after their illegal eviction last year.

The couple and their three children became homeless after the eviction. They were represented by Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) who secured one of the highest awards of compensation given by the RTB to date.

The landlord was ordered to pay €10,000 in damages for the unlawful termination of the family’s tenancy, €3,000 in damages in respect of breaches of landlord’s obligations and €766.15 in respect of their unreturned deposit.

In its annual report, launched today, Flac said the level of damages awarded “reflected the seriousness of the landlord’s actions in forcing the family concerned to leave the property without notice and without availing of the appropriate dispute resolution procedure”.

Housing and discrimination case were the predominant areas of work in Flac’s 108 case files last year.

In another case, a young pregnant woman with a serious health condition who was living on the side of the road in a caravan was served with a 48-hour eviction notice. After correspondence from Flac, the local authority agreed not to forcibly evict her, but subsequently removed her from the housing list.

Judicial review proceedings of the decision to remove her from the list without a proper examination of her circumstances were settled on the basis of her being reassessed as homeless and provided with emergency accommodation, and to make a proposal regarding long-term housing.

Speaking at the launch of the report today, chief executive of Flac, Eilis Barry, said cases such as these demonstrate the importance of access for vulnerable people to legal assistance.

“The Legal Aid Board is a fundamental part of the administration of justice and the rule of law, and needs a major investment of resources to deal with all kinds of cases where the greatest need is including housing and discrimination claims,” she said.

She welcomed the enactment of legislation which gives greater power to the Circuit Court to refuse to grant a possession order in mortgage arrears cases.

“This Act introduces a defence for potentially thousands of people in long-term arrears and a significant percentage of these people are likely to be entitled to legal aid,” she explained.

“We are concerned however that the Legal Aid Board Aid simply does not have the resources to deal with the significant increase in demand which it will now face. The Abhaile scheme cannot provide legal representation for these people.

“The Legal Aid Board will require a significant immediate increase in its funding simply to deal with the new demand on its already overstretched resources. The welcome provisions of this new Act will only be effective if they can be enforced. It is vital that there is a legal aid audit when any new legislation is passed.”

She said Flac regularly receives calls from lay litigants who are representing themselves in complex court cases and “who are desperately in need of assistance, advice and representation”, which Flac does not have the resources to provide.

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