Subscriber OnlyHousing & Planning

‘Fear of homelessness’: Why tenants do not vacate rental properties after receiving termination notices

Landlord-tenant disputes adjudicated on by the Residential Tenancies Board lay bare the dearth of alternative accommodation and real-life consequences of the housing crisis

In one particular case, having concluded a termination notice served in January 2023 was valid and a landlord genuinely intended to sell a property, the Residential Tenancies Board tribunal, following a hearing last April, gave a tenant until October next to vacate the property. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

She is not being “awkward” by staying on in her rented home in Cobh, Co Cork more than a year after a notice of termination was served – she just does not want herself and her nine-year-old daughter “to be homeless”, the woman said.

The working mother, a lone parent, told a Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) tribunal she had viewed about 150 other properties without success and hoped within six months to have saved enough of a deposit to be eligible to apply under the help to buy scheme.

Having concluded the termination notice served in January 2023 was valid and the landlord genuinely intended to sell the property, the tribunal, following a hearing last April, gave her until October next to vacate the property.

Another lone parent, a mother of two, also cited fear of homelessness as the reason for staying on in a property in Swords where the family had lived since 2017. On foot of a notice of termination, the home was due to be vacated by October 2023, but the family were still there when the case came before the RTB tribunal last April.


The woman admitted overholding, which is when a tenant stays in their rental accommodation after the termination date of their tenancy. She said she was on illness benefit, had nowhere to go, and that Threshold – the charity that advises people with tenancy problems – had told her little could be done for her.

Landlord who evicted woman and her children before Christmas must pay more than €12,000Opens in new window ]

She had paid €150 extra on top of the €1,900 monthly rent after getting the termination notice, but the landlord had refunded that, saying he needed the property back, and her problems should “not be pushed” onto him. The tribunal found the notice was valid, the family were overholding, and gave them 28 days to leave the property.

Another woman facing eviction with her three children from their rented home in Dundalk, Co Louth, was “shocked to her bones” to be served with a notice of termination by her landlord, who said he was on good terms with her but needed the property for his own family, the RTB heard. She was competing with up to 100 others when she went to view alternative accommodation in Louth and Meath, some places would not take the HAP (Housing Assistance Payment), and she had sought help from TDs, she said. The RTB accepted the landlord had genuine reasons for wanting the property back and ruled he could serve a remedial termination notice to address a technical difficulty with the original notice.

These cases and many others included in more than 900 determinations of landlord-tenant disputes published by the RTB since January give a flavour of the impact of the housing crisis.

The RTB is the independent regulator of the private rental sector and, among other things, provides a dispute-resolution service for tenants and landlords.

Landlady to pay more than €10,000 to tenants over unlawful ‘aggressive’ eviction from Cork houseOpens in new window ]

The most recent RTB annual report, for 2022, disclosed the main causes of disputes coming before it were rent arrears and/or overholding (33 per cent), the validity of notices of termination (19 per cent), and breach of landlord obligations (17 per cent).

The RTB data shows a marked increase since 2019 in disputes about rent arrears and overholding. In the first quarter of 2019, there were 401 such disputes before the board, a five-year peak of 882 was reached in the third quarter of 2023, and numbers remained high at 705 in the first quarter of 2024.

In 2023, the RTB received 19,011 notices of termination. Between 50 and 60 per cent of applications to it from 2018 to 2023 for hearings of disputes were made by tenants. Of 9,908 applications in 2023, 5,208 were by tenants.

Many of the 2024 determinations concerned moves to evict tenants over rent arrears ranging from several hundred euro to substantial five-figure sums.

In one such case, a corporate landlord secured orders upholding the validity of a termination notice served in January 2023 on the tenant of an apartment in a large complex on the Malahide Road, Dublin, requiring the tenant to pay €37,499 in rent arrears and “late fees”.

The tenancy began in April 2020 and rent arrears were more than €22,000 when a warning notice was served in March 2022. Late fees of €150 monthly were applied over several months under a “new company policy”, the RTB was told during a hearing which the tenant did not turn up for.

In another case, the RTB upheld a notice of termination served on the tenant of a property in Finglas, Dublin, over rent arrears of €19,270. The tenant had not participated in the RTB hearing.

Rent reviews featured in several disputes, including one where a landlord sought to increase the rent for an apartment at Eglinton Road, Dublin, from €2,500 to €2,900. That was opposed by the two tenants and the RTB ruled in their favour, finding that terms of the lease which provided the rent for the first year would be €2,500, but would then increase to €2,900, were an attempt to circumvent restrictions in a rent pressure zone. The rent review notice was declared invalid, the applicable rent was determined to be €2,500 monthly, and the landlord was directed to reimburse the tenants with €400 because they had paid an additional €50 on the monthly rent over eight months.

Landlord must pay tenant €11,654 over excess rent for apartment in Dublin rent pressure zoneOpens in new window ]

In a separate dispute concerning a four-bedroom house rented by a family in Barna, Co Galway, the RTB held a rent review notice served in July 2022 seeking to increase the rent from €1600 to €3,000 from October 2022 was invalid. Three properties described in the notice as “comparators” were not proper comparators because, unlike the Barna property, they were located in rent pressure zones, the tribunal held.

The tenant family had offered to pay €2,200 rent monthly, but said they could not afford €3,000 and argued similar properties in the area had lower rents. They left the property in March 2023 and it is now rented for €3,300 a month.

Some claims by landlords alleged breach of tenant obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act.

A mother who said she was “too busy” over several weeks to inform the landlord about water leaking from the washing machine in her Dublin 13 apartment until after water patches had appeared on the ceilings of two rooms was ordered by the RTB to pay about €17,000 to the landlord, comprising €12,680 in damages for breach of obligations and €4,748 in rent arrears from late 2019 to the end of May 2023.

The landlord said the insurer had refused to pay for the damage because of delay in reporting the leak. The RTB upheld the validity of a notice of termination served on the tenant.

Some disputes arose from tenants subletting accommodation without landlord knowledge and/or consent. In one such case, a man who was sublet a room by a tenant of a Limerick property from 2019 to 2023 until the tenant locked him out was held to have no case against the landlord because there was no tenancy agreement with the landlord.