Family homeless over ‘tardiness’ of RTB and Garda failings

Tenants were given just 32 days’ notice to leave despite being entitled to 112 days

Nona Varimashivili got 32 days’ notice to leave despite having lived there since May 2014 and being entitled to notice of 112 days. Photograph: Donall Farmer

Nona Varimashivili got 32 days’ notice to leave despite having lived there since May 2014 and being entitled to notice of 112 days. Photograph: Donall Farmer

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A Dublin family with two young children is homeless following an eviction due to failings of garda systems and “tardiness” by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), a housing charity has said.

Threshold is supporting the family of Nona Varimashivili (41), her husband Goderdzi Laliashvili (44) and their daughter (8) and son (6) who were forced out of their rented home this month.

They got 32 days’ notice to leave despite having lived there since May 2014 and being entitled to notice of 112 days.

They sought the assistance of the RTB and the gardaí. Neither moved to protect their rights and the landlord warned she planned to force her way in if they would not let her in. She advised them not to have their children at home.

This followed notice in July from their landlord, local woman Samantha Kelly, that she was increasing their rent from €1,200 a month to €1,600 – an increase of 33 per cent. In a rent-pressure zone increases are limited to 4 per cent.

Ms Kelly then said she would accept €1,500 – a 25 per cent hike. Unable to pay this the family got notice, on July 23rd, to be out by August 19th.

“I said to her I would try to find somewhere,” says Ms Varimashivili. “But it was impossible.”

The family – originally from Georgia and now Irish citizens – has been on the housing waiting list with South Dublin County Council since October 2008. The homeless section told them the notice-to-quit (NTQ) was invalid as they were entitled to 112 days notice, so could not register as homeless.

“When I told the landlady she said, ‘It is my house. I want it back’,” says Ms Varimashivili.

Dispute claim

Focus Ireland advised her to lodge a dispute claim with the RTB, which she did on August 8th, and to call the gardaí if necessary.

On August 9th, Ms Kelly, in a text, told Ms Varimashivili she would be changing the locks on August 18th, the day before they were to leave.

You have left me no other choice but to force my way in. Please do not have your children there

On Thursday 16th she says Ms Kelly called to the house but she did not answer the door, instead calling the gardaí.

“After 45 minutes the gardaí came but she was already gone. I asked them to contact her. They spoke to her, they told me: ‘There is nothing we can do. She owns the house’.”

Households in the private rented sector and in receipt of rent allowance are enabled to seek an increase where they face rent increases they cannot meet. The service has operated in Dublin since June last year. Photograph: Eric Luke Staff Photographer
Threshold says they contacted the RTB by phone requesting they get a Circuit Court injunction to prevent the eviction. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

That evening she received a text, she shows, from Ms Kelly: “You have left me no other choice but to force my way in. Please do not have your children there as the last thing I want is to upset them but u have left me with no other choice.”

Ms Kelly told The Irish Times she had needed the home back as her rent was going up and her family too had been facing homelessness.

“I gave her [Ms Varimashivili] notice on three occasions. She wouldn’t let me into the house. When I spoke to gardaí they said I was allowed to tell her to go by the 18th. I had no choice. I needed the house or me and my kids were going to go homeless.”

Ms Varimashivili shows a letter from Threshold, dated August 17th , to Ms Kelly telling her: “The notice appears invalid as it does not comply with Section 35A, 62 or 67of the [Residential Tenancies] Act.”

It also tells her, as a dispute had been lodged with the RTB “the tenancy cannot be terminated until a hearing date has been set and a decision has been made”.

Threshold says they contacted the RTB by phone requesting they get a Circuit Court injunction to prevent the eviction.

‘Big fright’

On Saturday 18th, says Ms Varimashivili , she “got a big fright” and said to her husband, “we can’t stay here because it’s too hard for the kids. They are frightened.”

With the escalating homeless crisis the gardaí are increasingly being brought into questions of eviction and tenant security

They left the following morning with what they could fit in their car, called the freephone homeless number and were placed in a B&B. For the past 11 days they have had to leave their B&B or hotel every morning, and must start calling the freephone at 4pm to see where they will sleep that night – on some nights not knowing until 9pm.

The children, who start back at school on Thursday, are “very tired”, says Ms Varimashivili. “We were at a play area in a shopping centre yesterday. My son, he lay down on the floor and fell asleep.”

A spokesman for Focus Ireland said: “With the escalating homeless crisis the gardaí are increasingly being brought into questions of eviction and tenant security . . . It is important all gardaí, particularly in urban areas, receive up-to-date training in new legislation and the roles they may be called to fulfil.”

Threshold, who sought the family’s permission to speak about the case, says the systems let this family down. “The RTB was tardy in this case”.

A spokesman for the RTB said it could not comment on an ongoing case.

“Unlawful termination of tenancy is one of the most serious breaches of landlord and tenant law and is treated as a priority dispute within the RTB.”

A Garda spokesman said: “Disputes between landlords and tenants normally fall within the civil law and as such are not investigated by An Garda Síochána. ”

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