New bill to tackle home evictions set for debate in the Dáil tomorrow

The Anti-Evictions Bill 2016 will seek to close “loopholes allowing legal eviction” ahead of a property sale or rent increase

A new bill aimed at increasing security of tenure for renters is due for debate in the Dáil tomorrow evening.

Put forward by the Anti-Austerity Alliance / People Before Profit (AAA-PPP) the bill will aim to close “loopholes allowing legal eviction” ahead of a property sale or rent increase.

The Anti-Evictions Bill 2016 will seek to ensure that a tenant can remain in their home - under the same terms and conditions - when a property is sold by a landlord, bank or ‘vulture fund.’

It will also aim to tackle the ‘family member rule’ by ensuring that compensation “equivalent to six months’ rent” must be paid to a tenant if they are being evicted because a landlord - or member of the landlord’s family - is planning on moving in to the property.

Part 4 tenancy

Under the current rules a tenancy becomes a ‘Part 4’ tenancy when a person has been renting for six months and has not received a notice of termination.

A Part 4 tenancy can only be terminated on specific grounds set out in the Residential Tenancies Act.

As of the 24th December 2016 all new Part 4 and further Part 4 tenancies have been extended from four to six year cycles.

However, should the AAA-PPP bill be enacted by the Oireachtas, the period of time before a tenancy is given Part 4 status would be reduced to two months - and all Part 4 tenancies would become indefinite.

Apollo House

Deputy Ruth Coppinger - who put forward the bill - said the “groundswell of support for the Apollo House action shows people are impatient for radical action on housing.”

“There is a gulf between what ordinary people want done and what the establishment is willing to do,” she said. “We now have an ideological divide on how the housing crisis should be dealt with.”

She claimed the ‘sale of property’ and ‘family member’ rules are often used as a “ruse” to get higher rents by taking in a new tenant.

“Where properties are actually being sold by landlords, banks or vulture funds, we propose the tenant be protected from eviction and kept in situ,” she said.

She said the proposal to compensate tenants with six months’ rent when a landlord or family member is moving in to a property has already been introduced in the Netherlands - and could act as a deterrent to potential abuse of the rule by property owners.

“The halcyon days landlords have enjoyed on the backs of massive stress for tenants must end,” she said. “The Bill proposes indefinite leases rather than just for four years; much longer notice periods, especially for long term tenants; and clear designation of banks and receivers as landlords.”

Fr Peter McVerry

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has backed the plan and warned that while the focus in recent weeks has been on housing the homeless, “the most urgent issue is preventing more and more people - and families - from becoming homeless.”

File photo, Fr. Peter McVerry, 09-Dec-2014. Image: Brian Lawless PA Archive/PA Images

“Otherwise, trying to house those currently homeless is like trying to empty the bath with the taps on full,” he said.

He said people around the country are being forced into homelessness as a result of poverty.

“It should be made illegal to evict people and families into homelessness, except in exceptional circumstances,” he said.

“The right to a home is one of the most fundamental human rights and to take away that right - because people are too poor to be able to pay for their own accommodation - is totally unjust.”

Tyrrelstown amendment

Last year, the government tabled the colloquially named ‘Tyrrelstown amendment’ after residents from the Cruise Park estate in Tyrrelstown formed an advocacy group to urge authorities to protect their tenancies from a so-called ‘vulture fund.’

American multi-national finance company, Goldman Sachs had purchased €89 million loan from Ulster Bank that had been secured against the development.

It was reported in March that up to 200 families in the estate could be facing eviction following the sale of the loan.

Responding to the crisis, the Tyrrelstown amendment was introduced to prevent large numbers of residents in a development being evicted at the same time.

The amendment - which comes online this week - will protect tenancies where a landlord or investor wishes to sell more than 10 properties in a single development - however it has been criticised in some quarters for not going far enough.

Strand Apartments

Residents of the Strand Apartments in Limerick have been facing a similar situation in recent weeks after dozens of tenants were reportedly sent eviction notices following the acquisition of a tranche of apartments in the complex by a property fund. 

Late last week, the residents were given a reprieve when the fund - Sova Properties - decided to withdraw the termination notices that had been issued.

The decision was taken by the fund following contact from the Housing Minister, Simon Coveney - in which he asked that the spirit of the Tyrrelstown amendment be respected to ensure that the existing tenancies are unaffected by the transfer of ownership.

"There was no legal requirement for Sova to take this approach so I commend them for doing what was the socially responsible thing by respecting the will of the Government and the Oireachtas," said the Minister on Friday.

AAA-PBP Councillor Cian Prendeville, who had been working with the Strand residents in recent weeks, gave a guarded welcome to the news but warned that similar situations in the future will not be prevented by the Tyrrelstown amendment.

He called on TDs to support the Anti-Evictions Bill in the Dáil tomorrow, “to ensure this cannot happen again.”

“Minister Coveney's argument that the new 'Tyrrelstown Amendment' will prevent future evictions like this is spurious,” he said. “We need a total ban on these evictions.”

He said the current amendment will simply see vulture funds evicting tenants in batches of 10 which, he said, “allows them to ratchet up the price.”

The Department of Housing has been contacted for comment.