National housing charity Threshold prevented 8,351 households from entering homelessness in 2019, according to its Annual Report for the year, published today. This encompassed a total of 10,709 adults and 7,916 children.
And despite the protections given to tenants in the private rented sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity revealed that it has had to intervene in over 100 illegal or threatened evictions and advised on almost 300 invalid notices of termination throughout the year. Threshold believes this is just a fraction of the tenants who were threatened by homelessness during 2020.
The Annual Report reveals that throughout 2019, Threshold’s advisors:
· Answered 267 calls per day
· Carried out a total of 82,357 actions on behalf of renters
· Represented 343 households at the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)
· Provided 1,278 outreach consultations
More than one third (35%) of all renters requiring Threshold’s assistance in 2019 had received a Notice of Termination from their landlord. Of these, 45% had received the notice because their landlord intended to sell the property.
Commenting at the launch of the report, Chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden said: “Under Section 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord is permitted to evict a tenant for the purpose of sale, refurbishment, own use, change of use and in some instances for no reason – all where there has been no wrongdoing on the part of the tenant. Threshold continues to advocate for the removal of no-fault evictions from the Act. This is vital if renting is to become a viable, sustainable tenure choice, on par with home ownership and social housing.”
60% of all renters who sought assistance from Threshold in 2019 were in employment. Only 10% were under the age of 25; three quarters (75%) were aged between 25 and 44.
“This tells us that the profile of renters in Ireland is changing,” said Hayden. “It shows that renting is no longer just a transitional tenure for students and young people, before they buy their own home or secure social housing. Those aged over 35 are more likely now to rent for life but, without affordable rental options, there will be a housing affordability crisis for this cohort – as well as for the State – when they retire.
“Where it is an option, under-25s may still be living at home with their parents as they cannot afford to rent. We can also see a growing cohort of people without children in the private rented sector. These may all be indicators of delayed independence and family formation as renting is not a secure or reliable housing option.”
Covid-19 and evictions moratorium
Speaking about the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Hayden said: “This year the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and society. Private renters felt this keenly as they make up a large number of the workers in sectors which experienced the greatest job losses. The moratorium on rental evictions introduced in March and again in October did offer some reprieve
for tenants. In spite of this, however, Threshold had to intervene in over 100 illegal or threatened evictions and advised on almost 300 invalid notices of termination between March and August, when the first moratorium was in place. In some of these cases, tenants came home to find the locks changed, their belongings still inside and had nowhere to go.
“During the most recent five-week moratorium, introduced alongside Level 5 restrictions in October, we had to intervene in 17 illegal or threatened evictions and advised on 69 invalid notices.
“Through our interventions we were able to get a number of tenants reinstated in their homes and stopped many of the attempted evictions. However, these tenants are now desperate to find more secure homes as their feelings of safety have been destroyed. That is what a home should be, a safe sanctuary. This is what we all deserve.”
Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD said: “I am delighted to virtually launch Threshold’s 2019 Annual Report, which outlines the key work being done by Threshold in helping to prevent homelessness in Ireland and protect tenants. The Department was pleased to be in a position again in 2020 to make €800,000 in funding available to Threshold, including funding their vitally important Tenancy Protection Service. The TPS quickly links tenants at risk of losing their homes to Local Authorities and the Department of Social Protection in order for them to access supports before becoming homeless, enabling them to continue living in their existing tenancies.”
Speaking at the launch, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu said: “It is fitting that the launch of Threshold’s Annual Report coincides with World Human Rights Day. I firmly believe that having a home is a basic human right and that no one should be homeless in Dublin or indeed anywhere on the island of Ireland in 2020.
“As Lord Mayor of Dublin, I have established a Task Force on Homelessness, aimed at developing a ‘wish-list’ of measures to be introduced and supported, which will be presented to the Minister for Housing on Friday. I was delighted to have met with representatives of Threshold last month as part of this initiative and I would like to acknowledge Threshold’s trojan work in preventing homelessness before it happens. There is no doubt that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Ireland would be far higher, but for the work of Threshold and other organisations who provide vital frontline services and have continued to do so despite the challenges of Covid-19.”
The difficulties being faced by tenants in Ireland’s private rented sector are illustrated by the story of one of Threshold’s clients, Noirin. Noirin is self-employed, in her fifties and has been renting since losing her home following the financial crash. During the five years Noirin has been renting her current home, she has reported numerous standards and repairs issues to her landlord’s agent, to no avail.
Following a recent dispute with the agent, an online search for advice led Noirin to Threshold’s website, where she started a webchat with one of its expert advisors. Threshold’s advisor reassured Noirin of her position and informed her of her rights as a tenant, many of which she had not been aware.
Speaking about the support she received from Threshold, Noirin said: “I wrongly believed that I had to put up with many issues as rentals are so scarce. I have been paying a huge rent of €1,200 per month and tolerating what I consider to be dangerous conditions – below the minimum standards – in an effort to simply keep a roof over my head. This will be the first Christmas in five years, that I will have a safe, working cooker and functioning heaters in the bathroom and bedroom.
“Tenants don’t need handouts, we just need to be able to sleep at night and it’s Threshold that has helped me to sleep at night. It’s the knowledge that you have someone to rely on and someone on your side, waiting to advise, that really helps.”
Threshold’s helpline remains available Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm at 1800 454 454, and via its website at https://www.threshold.ie/advice/help for any renter in need of advice or support.
Threshold will be operating a service over the Christmas period – its helpline will be available from 10am until 4pm on 24, 28, 29, 30 and 31 December.
Notes to Editors
Threshold was founded in 1978 and is a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to secure a right to housing, particularly for households experiencing the problems of poverty and exclusion. Its main concentration of work is within the rented sector. The organisation operates a national office, based in Dublin, and three regional offices. Further information is available at www.threshold.ie.
Threshold wishes to acknowledge the funding support of statutory agencies including Pobal, the Dublin Regional Housing Executive (DRHE) and the Department of Rural and Community Development and its Scheme to Support National Organisations 2019-2022.
Threshold provides free, independent and confidential advice and support to tenants in the private rented sector. Its Freephone helpline number, 1800 454 454 operates Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm.