Taoiseach plays down risk of mass evictions after ban ends next week

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar checks his phone prior to leaving the building after an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels. Photo: Reuters

John Downing

Judges will be “very reluctant” to order large numbers of people to be evicted from their homes after the eviction ban ends next week, the Taoiseach has said.

Mr Varadkar moved to downplay fears of a wave of people being put out of their homes in the coming months as a result of the ban on no-fault evictions ending on April 1. He said many people were confusing tenants getting “notice to quit” with actually being ejected from their rented home.

“Evictions in Ireland can only be ordered by the courts,” Mr Varadkar told journalists on his way into the second day of an EU summit in Brussels.

“People often mix up notices of termination with evictions. And I would expect those numbers to continue to be very small. And I can guarantee you that judges are very reluctant to evict people into homelessness. So we do need to start using words a bit more accurately.”

“Evictions are ordered by a court, it’s not the same as a notice to quit or notice of termination,” the Taoiseach stressed.

Mr Varadkar also said that numbers of people in emergency accommodation have risen in recent months even while the eviction ban was in place. “This idea that the Opposition put across that notice of termination turns to eviction turns to person in homeless accommodation – that’s not how it works,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was asked about large numbers of tenants so-called “overholding” and staying on in their homes despite landlords’ wishes that they leave. “I don’t know. I think some people will overhold and I think in those scenarios the vast majority of property owners and landlords are very reasonable,” the Taoiseach replied.

“You know, they will understand that sometimes people will need more time to provide an alternative place to go, provided they’re paying the rent, a lot of property owners and landlords will be reasonable about that. There will be other cases that end up in the courts where courts will adjudicate on the matter and decide whether or not an eviction order is appropriate,” Mr Varadkar continued.

“From my experience dealing with difficult cases and constituency cases, the courts are very reluctant to evict people into homelessness for humanitarian reasons,” he added.

The Taoiseach also said cases involving housing problems, emergency accommodation, and homelessness, were often complex and not what they seemed at first examination.

Neither the Taoiseach nor the Public Expenditure Minister, Paschal Donohoe, who is also attending an EU summit, could say what the level of evictions would be over the coming months.