Termination notices served during a forthcoming moratorium on evictions will be enforced on a staggered basis to avoid a “glut” of evictions when it expires on April 1st.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, who brought the proposals to Cabinet today, said they would provide tenants with “breathing space”. Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, he said the measures were balanced and recognised the rights of property owners.
Once the moratorium concludes on March 31st, there will be a “sliding scale” on the return of evictions depending on the length of the tenancy agreement, he said. Mr O’Brien said the moratorium would protect “a significant cohort” of people as over 2,000 termination notices have been issued this year. Landlords will still be able to evict in the case of non-payment, anti-social behaviour or a premises being used for a purpose for which it is not intended
There were fears in Government the announcement of today’s measure could lead to a rash of eviction notices being issued in the next week, before any new legislation is passed.
To counter that, those who are in receipt of a “live” notice to quit that was in place before the eviction ban comes into force will be protected from eviction until it expires.
However, it is understood that depending on the terms of the tenancy, its length and when the eviction notice is served, longer protections will be put in place until June 18th.
For example, a six-month tenancy that sees a notice to quit given during the time frame of the moratorium will be deferred until May 1st, it is understood. The rationale, sources said, is to avoid a glut of evictions becoming enforceable when the moratorium ends on April 1st.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he had reservations about the plan but Mr O’Brien had made the case that “the number of people in need of emergency housing is rising” and intervention was needed.
“We’ll potentially run into a shortage of emergency accommodation … things are going to be very tight, and what he wants is some breathing space.
“That doesn’t take away the concern that I have, which is that when it ends at the end of March or April, the problems that we have don’t go away.
“Everyone acknowledges this isn’t the solution to the problems we face, it’s just one action that we’re taking.”
The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) is considering a legal challenge to the proposed short-term ban on evictions. Chairwoman Mary Conway described the ban as an attempt by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to “feel better” about the issue, but she said it would not make much difference and would not avoid evictions this winter.
Ms Conway said the ban was just “storing up the problem” as there remains a shortage of properties to rent.
Asked about the threat of legal action, Mr Varadkar said: “Anyone can bring a challenge to the courts, and that may well happen. Property rights in Ireland are subject to the common good. Properties themselves don’t have rights, it’s the people who own them have certain rights but they are subject to the common good.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government had reached an agreement on Monday on the concrete levy
“We’re keeping a levy, we’re going to be implementing a levy next year. I have listened to the feedback in relation to it… I have made some modification to it that I will be briefing Cabinet on this morning,” he said.
“It’s going to be happening, that is the key measure of the Government’s commitment to raise money to deal with the consequences of mica and other projects that will be coming up.”
The legislation on evictions is likely to be brought to the Dáil and rushed through next week, with a similarly expedited process in the Seanad, with the intention that it comes into force in November. It is expected the Oireachtas housing committee will be asked to waive the normal process of prelegislative scrutiny to enable the process to be speeded up.