‘Pros and cons’ of winter eviction ban will be weighed up, says Varadkar

Eamon Ryan says there should be exceptions to ban such as anti-social behaviour by tenant

The “pros and cons” of a winter moratorium on evictions will be weighed up by the Government in advance of a decision on the matter, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The Fine Gael leader said there is an “obvious advantage” and it would be “a good thing” that people would not lose their homes over the winter.

However, he also said: “We have to balance that against the possibility that it might make more landlords sell up or sell more quickly, in which case there’ll be less properties available in the long term.”

In advance of a phone call between Coalition leaders to discuss proposals for a time-bound eviction ban on Monday evening and the full Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said: “There’s no perfect answer unfortunately to this.


“We just have to weigh up the pros and cons and make a decision on that basis.”

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has tabled proposals for a time-limited eviction ban. Mr Varadkar said it is possible the proposal could be discussed and decided upon at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, but he also cautioned that most Ministers would not have seen the memo at this stage and said: “I can’t say whether or not it’ll be at Cabinet tomorrow.”

He said the proposal is “not an eviction ban per se” in that evictions in Ireland happen on foot of court orders.

“It would be a moratorium on affecting notices to terminate in certain circumstances.”

He said Mr O’Brien’s proposals is a “one-off... just for this winter”.

It would be in place until the end of March and not be renewed at that point.

Mr Varadkar was asked by reporters at a press conference in Dublin if the moratorium was a breach of landlords’ constitutional property rights.

He said an eviction ban was brought in during the pandemic at a time when people would have had difficulty finding an alternative home due to restrictions on movement.

Mr Varadkar said property rights are subject to the common good and are “not absolute”, highlighting measures such as property tax and compulsory purchase orders which impact on such rights.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he is in favour of a temporary halt on evictions “because we have such a challenge”.

However, he said “the details are important” and suggested there should be exceptions.

He identified instances of a tenant who is involved in anti-social behaviour and “terrorising a community” or people who are simply refusing to pay rent saying: “there are circumstances where it is still appropriate for people to have the ability to discontinue a rental agreement.”

Mr Ryan told RTÉ Radio’s Drivetime programme: “That doesn’t mean necessarily, particularly in this winter period, we don’t look at the rules in other cases so that we don’t have any people going into homelessness in what is going to be a very challenging winter”.

Opposition parties and charities in the sector have called for the introduction of a ban due to record levels of homelessness, combined with the cost-of-living crisis.

Earlier on Monday, Mr O’Brien said he has worked with the Attorney General on the issue and has put forward proposals to the three leaders. It is understood the proposals would then be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday.

“The context of any proposed ban and how it looks will be discussed by the three leaders this evening. That will be worked through. I’ve obviously worked with the Attorney General and his colleagues to see what we can do as a time-bound measure,” he told reporters on Monday.

“We obviously have an acute accommodation crisis right now, obviously within our homeless cohort but also within emergency accommodation due to our arrivals from Ukraine and other IPAS [International Protection Accommodation Services] countries. What we’re looking at is what effective time-bound measures we could take to assist while we’re building up overall supply.”

Speaking at the Dublin Fire Brigade Training Centre in Marino, where he was announcing Fire Safety Week 2022, Mr O’Brien said the Government has to be “very conscious” that any potential ban does not have “unintended consequences” such as reducing supply in the private rental sector.

“That’s what I’ve said before in relation to the notion of blanket or open eviction bans can have a negative effective with regard to further reducing supply. We’ve seen that. We’ve seen individual landlords continue to leave the market since 2016, probably about 10,000 tenancies.”

Stakeholders met the Minister on the proposals on Monday afternoon, with sources who attended the meeting describing it as “constructive”.

Attendees said there was a general consensus that this move wasn’t perfect but was essential, and that reforms were needed around the tax relief of small landlords in order to deter more of them from leaving the market.

Wayne Stanley, head of policy at Simon Communities of Ireland, said at this point, “we have to be” in favour of a moratorium on evictions.

He said a ban on evictions would give “breathing space” to allow the Government to tackle a number of issues such as vacancy, engaging with landlords leaving the market and to “ramp up” the in situ purchasing scheme.

The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers today called on the Government not to introduce a temporary ban on evictions, saying it would exacerbate the flow of private landlords from the market.

Mr O’Brien also said he will bring forward proposals for temporary appointments to the board of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) “in the coming weeks” to fill the vacancies that have arisen.

Commenting in the wake of an Irish Times report on Monday into the planned appointments, Mr O’Brien said these individuals will be appointed on a temporary basis, with a maximum duration of 12 months.

“Under my own powers, I can appoint temporary members of the board. I’m bringing forward a new appointments process, and I’m bringing forward further measures to Cabinet,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Even before these controversies arose [in ABP], I had said the manner in which appointments are made to the board needs to be more transparent. That’s changing.”

Mr O’Brien said until that legislation passes, he believes there is a need for temporary appointments to the board “to ensure they can do the work that they need to do”.

“I’ll be bringing them forward in the coming weeks. We’ll be looking to appoint them on a temporary basis, maximum 12 months. And they will fill those positions then,” he said.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times