Green leader Eamon Ryan admits he was 'not as clear as he could have been' on eviction ban

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Hugh O'Connell and Gabija Gataveckaite

GREEN Party leader Eamon Ryan has admitted he was "not as clear as he could have been" in trying to explain Government measures to protect tenants as the eviction ban ends.

The Environment and Transport Minister’s spokesperson issued a statement after Mr Ryan earlier told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that a “safety net” will be introduced for tenants from this weekend.

But one element of the Government’s plans to offset the impact of the ban ending - the right for tenants to get first refusal if a landlord is selling the property they are renting - will not be in place by Saturday.

This is despite Mr Ryan’s interview giving the impression that it would be. It is the second time in ten days that the minister has incorrectly indicated that this so-called ‘first refusal’ option would be in place on an administrative basis from April 1.

Speaking to Aine Lawlor on Morning Ireland on Friday, Mr Ryan said: “If you are at risk of eviction, you will have the right of first refusal to be able to purchase the property and that we will extend, from April 1, from this weekend, the tenant in situ scheme so that those households in receipt of housing supports can avail of that option.

“For someone who isn’t in those circumstances that we will get the local authorities or the AHBs, the approved housing bodies, to be able to to purchase the property and rent that back to the tenant as a cost rental tenant model.”

During the interview, he said: “We will introduce that safety net this weekend and it’s important that there wasn’t a gap.”

He later added: “If there isn’t a HAP tenancy available, that tenant in situ scheme is up and running and available to allow the local authority or the AHB to buy that property and rent it back to the tenant. That’s existing, that’s working.”

However Mr Ryan’s spokesperson later moved to clarify the comments in response to queries, saying: “The Minister acknowledges that the answer he gave to a question during this morning's live interview was as not as clear as it could have been.

“He was referring to a safety net that will be in place on an administrative basis from tomorrow in order to protect the most vulnerable people in the private rental sector.

“This comprises of the tenant-in-situ scheme for people on social housing supports and a cost rental measure for people who are not on these social housing supports but are at risk of becoming homeless if they are evicted.”

When he announced the measures on March 21, Mr Ryan incorrectly claimed in response to questions that this 'first refusal' option would be in place “on an administrative basis” from April 1.

His office later clarified the 'first refusal' option will take longer. The measure requires legislative change and will not be in place by April 1 and here is no clear timeline for its introduction.

The Government has emphasised other measures which are in place as the eviction ban lapses. Mr Ryan said local authorities or Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) already have the power to purchase renters’ homes under the tenant-in-situ scheme and use them as social housing.

However, this only applies if the tenants are eligible for social housing. If they aren’t, local councils and AHBs can still buy the properties and lease them as cost rental homes.

The Irish Independent reported on Friday, however, that some councils cannot afford to buy houses where tenants have been served notices to quit, as landlords are asking for too much money.