St Helen’s tenants vow to stay on as ban on evictions lifted

Remaining residents not optimistic about finding new homes during pandemic

St Helen’s Court residents Onani Ngwenya, Tony Geraghty, Sean Mitchell, and Yang Choo and her son Austin Choo (9). File photograph: Tom Honan

St Helen’s Court residents Onani Ngwenya, Tony Geraghty, Sean Mitchell, and Yang Choo and her son Austin Choo (9). File photograph: Tom Honan

 

Tenants of a south Dublin apartment complex facing eviction following the lifting of the Government ban on evictions, say they will not leave as they have “nowhere else to go”.

The seven households, which include sick older people and children with special needs, were due to vacate their homes at St Helen’s Court, Dun Laoghaire, on Friday following the lifting of the eviction ban.

The end of the moratorium on evictions comes 10 days after the relaxation of travel restrictions in place to stem the spread of Covid-19. Since April 12th people may travel further than 5km from their homes.

The four-year battle by the St Helen’s tenants, with two sets of corporate landlords culminated, in February, with a determination from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) that notices-to-quit, served in August 2019 by owners Donegal-based Mill Street Projects Ltd, were valid.

The remaining tenants – the last of an original 20 who since 2016 fought and beat attempted illegal rent increases and evictions, have been told by the RTB they must “give up possession” of their homes “within 10 days” of the end of Level 5 Covid restrictions or “within 56 days” of the order – “whichever is the later”.

Tony Geraghty, a carer, pays €800 monthly for his one-bed apartment. Speaking at a protest outside the apartments on Thursday he said: “We are supposed to be out today but we can’t, won’t . There is nowhere for us to go to. We would be rendering ourselves homeless.”

Radslaw Czuchaj, a taxi-driver, has lived in St Helen’s for 14 years. “I pay nearly €900 a month. I have tried to find somewhere else but it is impossible around here. A one bed is at least €1,400.

Other tenants include Onani Ngwenya, here since 2004. He works in a nearby newsagent and cares for his wife, Edith (64), who has a serious heart condition.

“The situation, it’s very, very bad,” he said. “My wife is in and out of hospital. I just feel squeezed. I am afraid we will be homeless.”

Melanie Zeng, her husband, Kin, and their two children, aged 9 and 7 – one of whom has a disability and attends a local school – have lived at St Helen’s Court for 18 years.

Local TD Richard Boyd Barrett said: “The idea that you would allow evictions to restart just because the 5km rule has lifted is ridiculous. It’s hard enough without Covid to find affordable accommodation but in the midst of a pandemic it is reckless to possibly put people into homeless accommodation.

“The eviction ban should remain until the end of the pandemic.”

Mill Street Properties did not respond to requests for a comment. Their next step, should the tenants refuse to leave, will be to issue court proceedings against them to enforce the RTB determination.