Housing activists occupy Residential Tenancies Board HQ

Take Back the City group demand meeting with chair and director over housing crisis

The Take Back the City group have staged a protest at the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) headquarters in Dublin by occupying a tribunal room at the board’s premises on D’Olier Street. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Housing activists occupied a tribunal room during a protest at the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) headquarters in Dublin on Wednesday morning.

The Take Back the City group occupied the room at the board’s premises on D’Olier Street in a bid to raise awareness of a hearing over a dispute between a family and the Focus Housing Association.

The campaign group demanded a meeting with the RTB’s chairwoman Catriona Walsh and director Rosalind Carroll and called for the tribunal to be rescheduled.

About 40 people gathered in the tribunal room at 10.30am, with chants of “housing is a human right, this is why we have to fight”. They remained there for over an hour when they got confirmation the tribunal would be rescheduled and a meeting provided.

The group has called for RTB adjudicators and tribunal members who have property interests to be prohibited from deciding on disputes.

They also called for all evictions to be banned immediately, for “an independent rental board” to be established and for rents to be reduced and capped at 20 per cent of income.

The campaigners have also called for a licensing system for all landlords and the removal of “legislative loopholes that allow landlords to evict”.

The RTB said it is engaging with representatives from the Take Back the City group. “We are listening carefully to the views they are expressing and the questions they are raising. We would reiterate, that our mission in the RTB is always to protect the rights of tenants and landlords,” a spokeswoman said.

Focus Housing Association said that as an approved housing body it has clear responsibilities, “as do tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act in regard to tenancies”.

“Unfortunately, a very small number of cases need to be taken to the RTB to resolve the issue,” a spokesman said. He said this option was only taken “as a last resort when all other options to resolve the issue with the tenant/s have been exhausted”.

Take Back the City has staged a number of sit-down protests and property occupations in recent months.

There was controversy last September when gardaí wearing balaclavas were involved in removing several protesters from the group who had occupied a property at North Fredrick Street, Dublin.

The Garda operation followed a High Court ruling ordering the protesters to leave the building.

Michelle Connolly, an activist involved in the campaign, said the RTB was targeted because it is “one of the actors in the housing crisis”.

“The reason we’re here today is that some of the operations and some of the procedures at the moment of the RTB seem to us to be in some ways exacerbating the housing crisis,” she said.

“One of the things we do Take Back the City is we try and highlight various aspects of what is causing the housing crisis so we’ve highlighted vacant buildings, land hoarding, evictions, short term-tourism lets, now we’re coming to the RTB.”

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said private landlords are “scattering around notices to quit like confetti because they want to jack up rents and make more profit for themselves”

“What’s important about this is shining a light on the Residential Tenancies Board and saying are you impartial, are you an impartial referee,” the Cork North Central TD said.