A landlord was “at [his] wits’ end” after trying to get a tenant out of his property for over two years, while his tenant, a mother of young children, could not find anywhere to move to, the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has heard.
Landlord Séamus MacKenna told the RTB tribunal it had been 758 days since he first gave Florence Denti notice that her tenancy in Drogheda would terminate. Ms Denti, who had rented the house at Bryanstown Manor since April 2017, was appealing an earlier determination that the notice to quit (NTQ) issued on 19th November, 2019 was valid.
Mr MacKenna said his family was “under a lot of financial pressure” and had to sell the house. He had had a good relationship with Ms Denti and wanted to give her as much notice as possible when he delivered the NTQ giving her 180 days’ notice, along with a statutory declaration that the house would be sold.
Asked her grounds for appeal, Ms Denti said: “The reason why is that I still didn’t get a place. Last month I did ask my landlord for a reference because it was promising, two places that I went to view, but still I didn’t get lucky.”
She had gone to the housing department and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) sections of Louth County Council in Dundalk, asking for help.
“They just gave me a new form . . . That’s all they did.”
Several times, as she spoke from the house, children could be heard. Appliances and heating had broken in the house, she said. “The landlord said the reason why he can’t fix anything is because he has no money. So we have to stay here with no heaters, no fridge. I have kids. I know I have to move out but the rent is still getting paid.” Her rent was €1,142 per month.
Mr MacKenna said he contacted her via WhatsApp in February 2020, confirming the termination date was May 17th, 2020, and checking how she was getting on finding a new home. “If you need landlord references or anything else I can help with, please let me know,” he told her.
On March 15th, by letter, he reaffirmed the May 17th deadline.
On April 7th, 2020, following imposition of Covid restrictions, he extended notice to August 17th, 2020. On August 12th he extended again to August 24th, 2020.
Amid ongoing uncertainty about Covid, he wrote to her on September 6th, 2020, setting a new termination date of October 1st, 2020. As well as encouraging her to contact agencies who might help, he contacted the local authority.
“I spoke to them a number of times about the fact it was a difficult situation for my tenant. I was saying: ‘I don’t need her out today. I don’t need her out this week. But can we get something sorted so we can all plan?’ Unfortunately none of those people were able to help . . . Most of these people, what they will say, and in my view it is terribly, terribly wrong, they will say to the tenant, ‘Stay where you are.’”
He offered to sell the house to the council if they could keep her in it. There was no reply to this offer, he told the tribunal hearing, held remotely on December 15th.
Covid restrictions brought the situation to April 2021, said Mr MacKenna, and a final extension to the notice. On June 3rd he wrote to Ms Denti seeking an update. Having received none by June 17th he raised a dispute with the RTB.
“By that time more than 1½ years had passed since the original notice of termination was issued and there was no end in sight. We are now at day 758, and I am at my wits’ end.
“I don’t want to be in this position today. I am 63 years of age. I’m not getting any younger, any fitter, any healthier. There have been a lot of implications for me in the last two years and for other people because Florence didn’t move out. I believe I have been legally compliant. I have attempted to be patient. I have been as considerate as I can be. I have been flexible. I have been supportive . . . I am not a social worker. It is not up to me to solve the housing crisis that’s there,” said Mr MacKenna.
Ms Denti, asked if she had any final submission to the tribunal, said: “I don’t know what to say now. I don’t know what to do.”
Closing the hearing, chairman Niall Buckley said the tribunal would issue its determination “in some weeks”.