More than 17,700 households contacted housing charity for help in 2020

Threshold prevented 5,100 households from entering homelessness, annual report shows

Threshold says the Covid-19 crisis has shown ‘it is possible to tackle key problems in the private rented housing sector’. Photograph: iStock

Threshold says the Covid-19 crisis has shown ‘it is possible to tackle key problems in the private rented housing sector’. Photograph: iStock

 

Housing charity Threshold assisted more than 17,700 households and prevented 5,100 from entering homelessness in 2020, according to its annual report published on Wednesday.

The charity said the three most pressing issues on which it provided advice during 2020 were tenancy terminations, advice on leases, and standards and repairs.

The number of cases worked on was 1,000 more than the previous year, 2019. Threshold also launched a webchat service in August of 2020 which by the end of 2020 had responded to 3,993 queries via webchat.

While tenancy termination remained the number one issue facing tenants in Ireland’s private rented sector in 2020, it accounted for a lower proportion of cases than in the previous year. Tenancy termination was down from 35 percent in 2019 to 28 per cent in 2020.

Threshold said the drop could be accounted for by the moratorium on rental evictions put in place in early 2020 in response to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Sale remained the primary reason for a landlord to end a tenancy, accounting for 27 per cent of the notices of termination brought to Threshold last year. However, 47 per cent of terminations brought to Threshold in 2020 were ultimately found to be invalid; this included invalid notices of termination, illegal evictions and threatened evictions.

Advice on leases was the second most common query received by Threshold’s advisers in 2020, accounting for 9 per cent of queries, the number doubling between 2019 and 2020. This was driven by the impact of Covid-19 restrictions.

With tenants in the private rented sector disproportionately impacted by Covid-19-related job loss and third-level institutions closing, renters and students contacted Threshold as they sought to end their tenancies and return to live with family, where possible.

Commenting on the situation regarding Covid-19, Threshold said the crisis has shown that “it is possible to tackle key problems in the private rented housing sector”.

Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of Threshold, said last year advisers worked on 20,728 cases and answered an average of 219 calls every day from tenants needing support.

“For many, this involved advice to help them understand their rights and protections afforded under the new pieces of legislation introduced that year. For others who were worried about losing their rented home, we prevented 5,173 households from entering homelessness services in 2020 – that’s 7,121 adults and 4,026 children who were prevented from becoming homeless,” she said.

The charity said throughout 2020 the Government passed four pieces of legislation affecting private renters, introduced wholesale changes to the rent supplement system and delivered the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, all of which provided much-needed support to private renters.

John-Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Threshold, said the moves “showed what could be done in a crisis. During the year we also advocated that more needed to be done on affordability. In this regard, legislation currently going through the Oireachtas aims to reduce the level of rent increases and will eventually halt the ability of landlords to end tenancies for no reason after six years.”