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Sinn Féin to introduce legislation on illegal evictions

Sinn Féin is to publish legislation to give effect to recommendations by the Residential Tenancies Board on illegal evictions.

The party’s housing spokesperson said an RTB report in 2022 into an eviction on Berkeley Road, Phibsborough in Dublin 7, made a number of recommendations.

Eoin Ó Bróin said the recommendations included that illegal evictions be made an offence, gardaí be given powers to arrest anyone involved in an illegal eviction, and also that anyone involved in an illegal eviction face fines of up to €40,000.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said it is not known how many illegal evictions there were last year but between 2017 and 2022 the RTB reported that there were 78.

“The reality is we don’t know the number but while the number may be small, the impact on tenants is significant,” he added.

“Most illegal evictions that I’m aware of never make it to the Residential Tenancies Board, either because we find out about them afterwards.

“The tenants don’t know their rights, or they’ve simply moved on with their lives. So, the reality is we don’t know the number, but what the Residential Tenancies Board report also says is, well, the number may be small, the impact on tenants is very, very significant.

“People are losing their home in the most traumatic of circumstances. They can often be subject to violence and intimidation.

“And therefore, no matter what the number is we need to address this matter by way of legislation.”

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Mr Ó Bróin said that many tenants do not know their rights and that landlords have to go through a process with the RTB.

Mr Ó Broin added: “But whatever the set of circumstances, the problem at the moment is the law makes it a civil matter between the landlord and tenant.

“So, if you are being illegally evicted at present, you can’t call the guards.

“You need to get a solicitor, you need to go to the High Court, you need to get an injunction and that’s simply beyond the reach of the vast majority of tenants affected and in fact, in some cases I’m aware of landlords deliberately seek to evict at the evenings or at the weekends, where securing a High Court injunction isn’t possible.

“So, given that the residential Tenancies Board is the body which has advised the state on reform of the sector, given that they proposed this, I think it’s reasonable to respond.”

He added: “What’s very frustrating, however, is the ministers had this report for over the year and there’s no sign of legislation. It’s not in the legislative programme.

“The minister hasn’t given any indication and at a time when the number of eviction notices been issued continues to rise, almost 20,000 last year, the difficulty then is the likelihood of illegal evictions increasing is also very apparent and like I say, it doesn’t matter the number.

“The impact of this on tenants, including families with children, is so high that it should be an offence. The guard should have those powers. So should the RTB.

“And the reason why we’re publishing the legislation today is to give effect to the minister’s own report from the RTB because he’s failed to act and obviously we hope to introduce the legislation as soon as possible.”

He said that the current dispute procedure is not sufficient.

“If it was the residential tenancies board wouldn’t be recommending these additional powers, both for themselves, for the guards and for the courts,” Mr Ó Broin said.

He said: “The difficulty is if you’re in the process of being illegally evicted at six in the evening, there is no RTB phone staff to contact to seek a mediation.

“If you’re being legally evicted at the weekends, it’s not possible to get to court to get that injunction and therefore I think it is quite important to note that the RTB highlight those key changes in the letter to the minister in November of 2022 and here we are at the end of March 2023.

“Still no action from the minister, that is not surprising. The minister has been very, very slow to stand up for renters since he’s taken office and the fact that, again, an RTB report has recommended these changes and almost a year and a half, they’re gathering dust on the minister’s shelf. I think that’s very disappointing.”

He said that a review by the RTB has been delayed but added “we don’t need to wait for that, a family that may be at risk of a legal eviction today can’t wait for that review to be concluded”.

“The Residential Tenancies Board considered these matters in quite some detail and they made a very detailed report over a year ago.

“I simply don’t understand why the minister didn’t act and act quickly to implement those findings and as a consequence of the minister’s failure we have had families and families with children experiencing illegal eviction since then.

“Again, the question isn’t the number. The question is the impact on the families involved, and I think the minister has to explain why he hasn’t acted to this date and when he’s going to implement these crucial recommendations,” Mr Ó Broin added.

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