Focus Ireland calls for a reintroduction of eviction bans and rent freezes to prevent a spike in homelessness in light of new Covid-19 restrictions

Focus Ireland believes a moratorium on evictions and rent reviews should be reintroduced in parallel with the reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions to prevent a spike in the number of people losing their homes and needing emergency accommodation.

The charity has also warned about the occurrence of chaotic evictions at a time of such widespread anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “Public health advice is now clear that congregate settings can lead to a significant spread of the virus and, while we have been successful to date in preventing such outbreaks in emergency homeless accommodation, a constant high level of alert is needed to ensure there is no outbreak within homeless services. The level of risk will inevitably increase if more people need emergency accommodation as a result of a new wave of evictions from the private rental sector.”

“The legislation which significantly reduced the protection for tenants was passed by the Dáil in July when all the evidence suggested that the risk of Covid-19 was under control. The situation today is entirely different and the Government are taking significant steps back in a number of areas. We accept that Minister O’Brien introduced legislation which he believed was the best that could be done in July, but he now needs to revisit that decision and reintroduce protection for families where landlords want to sell up or undertake major renovations.

“While the legislative protections for those who have experienced a financial loss due to Covid-19 from eviction and rent reviews on the grounds of rent arrears are welcome and will protect that category of tenant from homelessness until January 2021, our research clearly shows the majority of notices of termination are due to landlords wishing to sell their property. There is currently no legislative measure to prevent an eviction taking place on this ground, including for a person who is unemployed due to Covid-19 and in rent arrears.

Mr Dennigan added: “Since the lapse of the initial ban on evictions and rent reviews, our services are meeting tenants who are facing notices of terminations and evictions at present. While we are working with them to try to avoid an entry into homelessness, the challenges of Covid-19 make this a very stressful and difficult experience for people to navigate. The recent deaths in Cork and Dublin further emphasise the urgency and seriousness of the public interest in ensuring that we proactively prevent homeless services from experiencing insurmountable pressures over the coming weeks and months. The most effective measure we have seen during this housing crisis to reduce the number of people entering homelessness was the eviction ban.”

Focus Ireland has asked the Department of Housing to work with the Attorney General’s Office to identify a way forward for further legislative protections in this area.

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