What is happening now with the eviction ban?
The Government this month decided not to extend a ban beyond March 31st that has been in place since October 30th, which prevented landlords from evicting people, even if they could be issued with a valid notice of termination.
The ban was introduced in the face of fears that hundreds, or thousands of people could have been evicted in the run-up to last Christmas, and afterwards.
What should someone served with a notice of termination do?
People facing eviction should seek help from a housing charity, such as Threshold, and notify their local authority if they will need emergency accommodation. Proof will have to be offered to a local authority that the affected person lives in the council’s catchment areas. This could include proof of employment, or evidence that their child goes to a local school.
They must also bring documents to prove they are homeless, and why, and that they have no accommodation they can legally occupy, as well as the notice of termination from the landlord.
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John-Mark McCafferty, Threshold’s chief executive, says the charity provides validation letters as part of a Tenancy Protection Service, confirming that a valid notice of termination was served. This is not legally required to avail of homeless services, he said, but it should help.
What happens then?
Local authorities may then seek help from housing charities to explore potential “11th hour” measures. A tenant, for example, may find the termination notice is invalid or not in compliance with the law, and can be challenged through the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
Since July 9th last, the length of time a tenant has for the referral of a dispute on the validity of a notice of termination received has increased from 28 days to 90 days in cases where there has been no breach of tenancy obligations.
This can, at the very least, buy time.
If a tenant has exhausted all alternatives such as going to the RTB, then a tenant is entitled to bring the case to court. However, a tenant who goes to court first will find that their case is thrown out, and that they will be told to go to the RTB.
Is overholding an option?
If a tenant is “overholding”, where someone continues to occupy a property after the tenancy has expired following a valid notice of termination, then Threshold says they are not in a strong position to challenge.
If tenants are overholding they must continue to pay rent, but acceptance of the rent does not imply that the landlord accepts that the tenancy has been given a new life. Where a landlord, either verbally or in writing, withdraws a Notice of Termination, the tenancy will then continue, according to the RTB. The organisation does not condone overholding.
Instead of overholding, Threshold advise tenants to get advice, and quickly. If people feel they have grounds to dispute a notice, then it urges people to find out whether they have a case that could go to the RTB or not.
Threshold accepts that some people will overhold as an act of desperation, especially if they have been refused emergency accommodation, though it says that the numbers it is currently helping who are doing so “in the tens rather than the 100s”.
Will this become a bigger issue?
The numbers overholding will rise in the coming months. However, a number of Threshold’s clients whose tenancies are due to end in April have told them that informal extensions have been arrived at with their landlords to give them a few extra weeks to find alternative arrangements.
“It is unlikely that their ability to seek alternative accommodation would change, even with that extension,” Mr McCafferty added. “Where the notice of termination is valid and is legally legitimate, we can try and ensure that the tenant is going to have access to their entire notice period that they are entitled to.”
He added: “It could be that the the landlord then just reissues a technically valid notice, and if it is all legally legitimate, then the tenancy will ultimately end. However, it may have provided that respite to just seek alternative accommodation, or to get all of your documentation into the local authority.”