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eviction ban

Threshold anticipates March to be its busiest month since eviction ban came into place

The housing charity’s CEO said its caseload has been steadily increasing over the past five years.

HOUSING CHARITY THRESHOLD is anticipating March to be its busiest month since the eviction ban came into place last year.

The moratorium on evictions came into place on 1 November and is due to end on 1 April. 

A Sinn Féin motion to extend the eviction ban will be debated in the Dáil later today and voted on tomorrow.

John-Mark McCafferty, the CEO of Threshold, said there were over 700 webchats in November of last year from “people trying to get their head around what the eviction ban meant for them”.

The webchat function on Threshold’s website allows people from all over the country to speak to an advisor about any housing difficulties they may have.

There’s been around 500 webchats so far this month, and McCafferty anticipates this will top 700 by the end of the month.

The Threshold CEO said this represents a “significant increase” on the months of December, January, and December when around 500 webchats apiece were logged.

McCafferty told The Journal that the webchat is the preferred method of communication for younger renters and gives a “strong indication as to the extent of the activity”.

In addition to this, Threshold has been dealing with 336 termination cases across the country so far this month.

McCafferty anticipates that this will hit at least 430 come the end of March.

This figure was 411 in February and 475 in November, the month after which the eviction ban came into place.

While McCafferty told The Journal that this is not “necessarily as high as previous months”, he said they involve “live cases” where termination “has been signalled by a landlord”.  

He added that Threshold advisers are also working with existing cases from September and October of last year where notices of termination were paused due to the eviction ban.

“They will all be coming back into play as their notices of termination are triggered and the clock starts ticking again on the ending of their tenancies,” said McCafferty.

There has also been an uptick in general queries, which includes people contacting Threshold because they are worried about the possibility of having their tenancy ended.

There have been 121 general queries across the country this month, and McCafferty forecasts that this figure will reach 160 by the end of March.

That’s above the 127 general queries last month and busier than the 144 queries handled in November.

McCafferty said that in his experience, the majority of terminations are due to landlords “selling or claiming that they’re selling” the property.

He added that the “second biggest reason is the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family intending to move in for their own use”.

‘More widespread than before’

When asked about the advice Threshold would give to people facing eviction, McCafferty said: “We’d look for the validation of that notice of termination, because not all notices are technically valid or legally valid.

“They may be on spurious grounds that we could challenge at the Residential Tenancies Board or they may be technically incorrect and can be challenged.

“There may have been insufficient information in the letter or it doesn’t have all of the things in it that are required by law, so we can challenge that.

“We can also look at the notice period that is being given and compare that against how long the tenant has been in the tenancy and ensure that if the notice is legitimate and valid, then at least the tenant has sufficient notice period in order to find somewhere else and we can advise in terms of trying to find alternative accommodation.”

However, McCafferty said the “lack of supply of suitable alternatives, or any alternatives, in the private rented sector is a big problem”.

He added that there is a “lack of capacity at local authority level regarding emergency accommodation”.

While McCafferty said notices of termination were “useful in the past when there was more supply”, he warned that the “stark reality now is an abject lack of supply of alternative accommodation for families and individuals confronted with notices of termination”.

“We are seeing the effects of the volumes of people coming to us and also the despair,” said McCafferty.

“Five years ago if a family received a notice of termination, they arguably could source alternative accommodation, and there would be some form of emergency accommodation if they weren’t able to secure alternative rented housing.

“Now, the situation is stark because of the rate of tenancy terminations, a lot of which is due to sale in recent months, coupled with that abject lack of supply in the private rented sector right now.”

McCafferty also told The Journal that the issue is “more widespread than it was before”.

“We are in the private rented sector charity and have advised people for well over 40 years. This was always an issue,” said McCafferty.

“Because of our advice and our tenancy protection role, which are the key focus of our work, we have always had calls from tenants who are renting and worried about losing their home.

“But the difference now is the scale of those calls. It’s just much more widespread than it was before. It’s affecting a much bigger share of the population and higher up the income scale.”

McCafferty also said the charity’s caseload has increased steadily over the past five years and that Threshold is being tasked with “doing more with limited resources”.

However, he added that “Threshold is at pains to let people know who we are and what we do, so people can come to us and avail of us”.

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