Government approves eviction ban ahead of ‘exceptional winter’

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said his moratorium on evictions until next April was ‘robust’ from a legal perspective.
Government approves eviction ban ahead of ‘exceptional winter’

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

The Government has approved a one-off ban on evictions ahead of the “exceptional” winter period, the Minister for Housing confirmed.

Under the plans, notices of termination can be issued to tenants but the property does not have to be vacated until the ban is phased out next year, with the last date on June 18th.

The ban will mean that landlords who want to sell or live in the property they rent out can still issue an eviction notice, but that it cannot take effect until April next year at the earliest.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the Cabinet had approved the ban to “provide some space” amid a shortage of accommodation and to recognise “the exceptional times that we’re actually in”.

 

“We want to make sure that we can protect tenancies through these winter months whilst also respecting fully the rights of the property owners,” he told RTÉ radio.

Protections will be given to tenants based on the length of their tenancies to ensure that there are no “no-fault” evictions between November 1st and April 1st next year, the minister said.

“The earliest that a notice to quit can be actually effected will be April 15th, 2023, and the latest will be June 18th, 2023, depending on the length of the tenancy agreement that was already in place.”

With any notice to quit that has already been issued in advance of this legislation coming into effect, the tenancy will not be terminated during the period of the moratorium, Mr O’Brien said.

Exceptions to the moratorium are the non-payment of rent, antisocial or criminal behaviour, or using a property for purposes that it was not let for.

The minister said: “What this does is protect quite a significant cohort of people who already would have received tenancy terminations in Q1 and Q2 of this year that were due to take place in this quarter – about 2,273 tenancies.”

He added: “We have done our level best to balance this to ensure that the rights of the property owner are also respected with ensuring that we provide emergency protections for tenants through what is an exceptional winter that we’re coming into this year.”

New legislation will be required to implement the ban, which is expected to be introduced to the Oireachtas next week.

The Government is hoping the ban will take effect from November 1st.

Earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that any legal action against the eviction could be defended on the basis of public interest.

The Fine Gael leader made the comments after the Irish Property Owners Association indicated that it was considering legal action over the one-off winter ban on notices of termination.

The Constitution protects the right to private property, but also acknowledges that these may “as occasion requires” need to be reconciled with the common good.

Mr Varadkar said that a legal challenge may be brought over Mr O’Brien’s plans.

“Property rights in Ireland are subject to the common good,” he told reporters in Dublin.

“And if the Attorney General and the minister believe they can make a strong case to defend it on public interest grounds, then I think any challenge will be unsuccessful.”

Mr O’Brien said they had “worked hard” to make sure that the moratorium was constitutional and that he believed the plans were “robust” from a legal perspective.

It comes after homeless figures reached record highs for two consecutive months.

The Department of Housing’s monthly tally for August recorded 10,805 people as homeless across Ireland, with 10,568 recorded in July.

Charities have warned that the picture is ominous going into the winter period, and have pointed out that child homelessness has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past 12 months.

 

The move to implement an eviction ban represents a change of tune from the Government, after suggestions just over two weeks ago that it would not be possible.

When asked at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis whether a ban on evictions should be considered, Taoiseach Micheál Martin replied it was not “as clear cut in a non-Covid situation”.

The Government has repeatedly warned that it faces a challenging situation to accommodate people this winter, amid a shortage of supply and a cost-of-living crisis.

There is increasing pressure on the State to source suitable accommodation for thousands of Ukrainian refugees and international protection applicants, as well as housing Irish citizens priced out of the private market.

The ESRI think tank has calculated that house prices in Ireland could be overvalued by 7 per cent or more, while a survey by renters’ rights charity Threshold indicated that a third of renters are spending 50 per cent or more of their net income on rent.

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said that subject to the details, his party would support the Government’s ban on evictions.

“I have to say however, a ban on evictions in and of itself isn’t going to solve the core problem, which is a lack of an adequate supply of social and affordable housing for those people receiving notices to quit as their landlords are selling up,” he told reporters at Leinster House.

“So what we also need to hear from Minister O’Brien this week is what he’s going to do differently over the next five months to try and accelerate and increase the supply of social affordable housing.”

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