Preliminary data on the number of tenancies terminated in the second half of 2022 was not shared with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien before the decision was made to lift the eviction ban despite it being sent to his department.
A report on Wednesday on the Dublin Inquirer website outlined that preliminary data on the number of notices to quit had been shared by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) with the department in January and February this year – well in advance of the Government decision to lift the ban that was taken in early March.
The data indicated about 9,000 notices to quit were served in the third and fourth quarters of last year.
After the Government made the decision to lift the ban on evictions, Mr O’Brien indicated he did not know how many eviction notices had been issued.
The Government last month decided not to extend a ban on “no-fault” evictions beyond March 31st, having put the ban in place on October 30th last year.
The measure prevented landlords from evicting people, even if they could be issued with a valid notice of termination. The decision to end the ban has been harshly criticised by Opposition politicians and housing charities.
On Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for Mr O’Brien said the department and the RTB engage on an ongoing basis.
“It is not uncommon for the RTB to share preliminary data at official level which is then subject to further analysis and verification. This data would not have been shared with the Minister.”
The Dublin Inquirer reported on Wednesday that emails were sent between the RTB and the department in January.
Emails released with the report show the RTB shared data on January 11th with the department indicating there were 4,745 notices to quit issued in the third quarter of 2022.
On January 19th, the RTB shared unvalidated and preliminary data showing there were about 4,300 notices issued for the last quarter of 2022.
Final data sets published in recent weeks tallied with both those figures.
In a statement published on Wednesday morning, Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin called on Mr O’Brien to clarify when he knew about the information.
“It is hard to imagine any set of circumstances where Department of Housing officials would not have shared this information with the Minister in advance of such a significant decision,” the statement said.
During a post-Cabinet briefing for political correspondents, spokespersons for the Government insisted that the data would not have been a “deciding factor” in the call to lift the ban.
While first characterising the information as “irrelevant”, a Government spokesman then revised that line saying: “What I meant was it wasn’t going to be a deciding factor”.
“The reason the decision was taken, by Government itself, was precisely because the temporary winter eviction was actually having a deleterious effect, it wasn’t reducing homelessness and it was also driving landlords out of the market, those are the two principle reasons,” a spokesman for the Coalition said.