Unregulated agents working for landlords will no longer be able to carry out evictions in the Republic under new laws that become operational on Saturday, the first day evictions can resume following the lifting of the ban.
Landlords will also no longer be able to bring in personnel from outside the state at short notice, which has been a feature of some high profile and emotive evictions in recent years.
Instead, the Private Security Authority (PSA) has authorised any licensed security guard or “doorman” to carry out evictions, backed by laws allowing them to use force if required, beginning at the end of this week. It will become a criminal offence to use any unlicensed personnel for evictions, with that new system coming into operation on the expiry of the eviction ban.
A number of homeless charities have urged the Government to reverse its decision on the eviction ban which comes into effect on April 1st. A spokesman for the Simon Communities of Ireland said it was “beyond disappointing” that the eviction moratorium was being lifted before promising measures have been given a chance to take effect.
Rory Hearne, assistant professor of social policy at Maynooth University, anticipated that many tenants facing eviction would have no option but to stay in their properties or overhold. While landlords would apply to the PRTB to mediate a solution, they could eventually go to the courts and secure an order empowering them to remove a tenant.
Mr Hearne said ultimately, the execution of such orders could create conflict and said there was “utter desperation” on the part of tenants facing eviction as they were “terrified” of losing their homes.
The Private Security Services (Amendment) Act 2021, banning the use of unregulated, and often unidentified, agents for evictions was enacted almost two years ago, but key provisions have not been activated and will not commence for some time.
Under the Act, which followed some cases of violence related to evictions, the role of “enforcement guard” has been added to the range of security industry posts licensed and regulated by the PSA. Enforcement guards will be empowered to execute court orders, using force if necessary, on behalf of landlords or financial institutions in eviction and repossession cases.
Though the training and licensing systems for enforcement guards are still not in place, The Irish Times has learned a new regime will be activated from next Saturday, April 1st, the date of the expiry of the eviction ban, after which a spike in evictions is anticipated.
Under that system, as an interim measure, security guards and “doormen” already licensed by the PSA will be permitted to take on enforcement guard work relating to evictions or repossessions.
“Work on the development of training requirements for employee licensing is currently under way,” the Department of Justice said of the new enforcement officer roles in reply to queries. “A time frame for the licensing of enforcement guard employees will be announced later this year. In the meantime, the PSA has mandated that all enforcement guard employees hold a PSA licence in either the door supervisor or security guard sectors.”
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The Department of Justice added that after Friday, any enforcement guard contractors “will require a licence to operate” from the PSA, thus bringing to an end the use of unlicensed agents for evictions.
The practice of bringing in agents from outside the jurisdiction at short notice will also end because anyone not resident in the Republic will be obliged to undergo vetting, including criminal record checks, before they will be licensed for enforcement guard work by the PSA.
Under the authority’s regulations for the private security sector, all security workers must be trained and licensed. Their employers are also subject to inspection and security personnel must wear identity badges while working. That system is seen as more transparent, with recourse for members of the public who believe they have been mistreated by security workers.
The enforcement of court orders related to evictions and repossessions, however, has never been regulated. Because of the stigma attached to evictions, men carrying them out in the Republic, at times with force, have been masked and unidentifiable. In many cases, gardaí have been deployed to the scene to deter any disorder. At some evictions, there have been clashes between members of the public and agents, as well as gardaí.
In reply to queries, the PSA referred The Irish Times to the Department of Justice for comment.