At the start of last summer long-term tenants of a north Dublin house began to notice the frequent appearance of strangers in their home. It wasn’t unusual for new tenants to come and go within a few months, but these people were staying for maybe a night or two because they were on holidays.
“We found out that rooms in the house were on Airbnb,” said one tenant who has asked not to be identified due to ongoing proceedings. “Myself and my housemates, we paid the utility bills ourselves and these people would come in, stay for a few nights, they would use the washing machine, the dishwasher, the cooker. Mostly they behaved okay but at one point I had to call the gardaí because of the behaviour of one of the guests in the night, and he was shown the way out.”
The mid-terrace house, divided into seven double rooms sharing a kitchen, and one studio, had been let to tenants since late 2020 but since mid-2022 when vacancies arose they would be advertised as holiday lettings on Airbnb. The long-term tenants sought advice from housing charity Threshold and made a complaint to their landlord, Marc Godart of Green Label Properties.
“He never told us who was coming to stay, we would just see strange faces. That’s why we complained.”
The Irish Times earlier this week reported that Dublin City Council had issued enforcement proceedings in relation to Reuben House, another property managed by Green Label on the opposite side of the city, close to the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin 8, ordering the “cessation of the unauthorised use of the property” for short-term letting.
Tenants of Reuben House were last August evicted and subsequently found their rooms advertised on Airbnb as “hostel-style” accommodation.
Back on the northside of the city, six remaining long-term tenants were last June served with eviction notices terminating their tenancies in October, and again they sought the help of Threshold, which advised the notices were invalid.
A second notice to quit was issued to them in July. At this point the law had changed, requiring longer notice to be given to tenants with six months required if they had lived in the property for more than a year. On advice that this notice was also invalid, the tenants initiated proceedings with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
We woke up and we found that all the appliances in the house had gone. The cooker, the washing machine, the dishwasher, the dryer. The gas was turned off, the electricity, our internet
Contact with their landlord had to this period largely been conducted through written correspondence. The tenants had never met Mr Godart, dealing instead with agents working on his behalf. However, in October a more direct approach to securing vacant possession of the building was initiated, the tenant said.
“On the 23rd of October we woke up and we found that all the appliances in the house had gone. The cooker, the washing machine, the dishwasher, the dryer. The gas was turned off, the electricity, our internet. I returned to the RTB and told them that this was what was happening, I also told Threshold.”
‘The door was locked’
One week later, on October 31st, just as the eviction ban was to come into force, the tenants met Mr Godart for the first time.
“I was working from home, some of my housemates were there too, and Marc came with about 15 people, many of them hefty men, big giants. He asked everyone to come into the kitchen, he said he wanted to have a discussion. Everybody came into the kitchen but then the door was locked and we could hear upstairs that people were moving in the rooms. I tried to open the door to go to my room but the men said nobody leaves. They took all our things out. We managed to call the police, they came but by then everything was all over, we were outside and they said it was not within their jurisdiction.”
The tenants secured a hearing date with the RTB in December and a Garda report was submitted as part of their evidence. In January five tenants who took the case we were awarded €12,000 each. Mr Godart appealed this and an RTB tribunal hearing was held in late January. The tenants are awaiting the outcome of this hearing.
In the meantime, they can see their rooms are still advertised on Airbnb. Monthly rent in 2020 for a double room in the house was €850 or €425 each. In 2021 new tenants were charged €1,200 for a double room but this is still considerably less than the €150 a night some of the rooms in the house are listed for on Airbnb.
“It is frustrating to see my room on Airbnb. It makes me think back to Halloween. All of us, we had no place to go, were standing in front of the house ringing to see which friend we can stay with. It was raining, and it was horrible. It was the worst experience I ever had in my life.”
Pattern of evictions
This one of several cases taken by tenants against Mr Godart and his companies to the RTB for unlawful termination of tenancy. In a number of cases tenants said they have yet to receive any compensation. A spokesman for the RTB said if its orders are not complied with, a request may be made to the RTB to enforce them. “It should be noted, however, that enforcement of the order, by the RTB, is discretionary. Alternatively, the party in favour of whom the determination order is made (or the RTB on their behalf) may commence enforcement proceedings through the courts where satisfied that there has been noncompliance with the terms of an order,” he said.
Threshold said it has become increasingly concerned about a pattern of evictions where tenants’ homes are subsequently advertising on holiday letting sites.
“We have a very strong concern about the displacement of longer term rental housing from the market into short lets. There is legislation but it has been flouted wholesale by people who are letting entire houses and apartments in rent pressure zone areas for considerable swathes of the calendar,” Threshold chief executive John-Mark McCafferty said.
“The rise of the short-let accommodation model, in the context of a collapse in long-term private rental supply, isn’t the only reason for the shortage but it certainly isn’t helping things and the irony of local authorities using hotels to accommodate homeless families while tourists are staying in houses is an upside down, topsy-turvy approach to housing and tourism.”
The Irish Times has made several attempts to contact Mr Godart but he has not responded.