Hundreds of tenants 'illegally evicted'
Almost 1,000 tenants were illegally evicted from rented properties last year, a national housing charity revealed today.
Threshold claimed the number of people being physically removed from their homes was worryingly high, with tenants targeted for rent arrears, problems with rent supplement payments and landlords' failure to repair properties.
Aideen Hayden, Threshold chairwoman, said: "Illegal evictions can involve a landlord changing the locks, intimidating a tenant out of their home, or throwing out and destroying a tenant's belongings.
"Every day, Threshold sees the devastating effect of illegal evictions on people's lives.
"Illegal evictions make people homeless and turn their lives upside down. It is absolutely unlawful to lock someone out of a rented property with or without their belongings."
In its annual report for 2009, Threshold revealed it provided advice and representation to almost 22,000 people - with 4,125 fighting their landlord for keeping deposits. The average deposit retained was just under €1,000.
Another 1,000 cases involved sub-standard accommodation - with 40pc involving rent supplement tenants.
Ms Hayden called on landlords who have a grievance with tenants to resolve disputes legally through the Private Residential Tenancies Board in a fair and legally compliant manner.
Threshold also wants a deposits protection scheme where deposits would be lodged with the board and returned to compliant tenants at the end of their tenancy.
She said last year saw the recession starting to have a discernable impact on those living in the private rented sector.
"Threshold experienced a bigger caseload, with more tenants seeking advice on breaking leases because they could no longer sustain high rents due to unemployment and income losses," continued Ms Hayden.
"We also saw a significant increase in clients in rent and mortgage arrears.
"The growing problem of unreturned deposits would suggest that landlords are feeling the pinch too: it seems that, increasingly, landlords don't have the cash to return deposits to compliant tenants.
"Other landlords are not maintaining their properties, which has contributed to the growing number of complaints about sub-standard accommodation."
Elsewhere, the organisation said sweeping reforms in the regulation of the private rented sector, and in the State's relationship with landlords, were needed for better standards across rented accommodation.
Ms Hayden said the State spent €500m on rent supplement to support tenants in the private rented sector.
"Given the level of expenditure by the State on rent supplement, it is vital that the money is only spent on quality accommodation," she added.