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Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Unless anti-eviction bill passes we're all going to be homeless' - Over 50 families protest outside 'vulture fund' offices

Protesters and residents outside the Vulture fund Val Issuer Dac on Molesworth Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Protesters and residents outside the Vulture fund Val Issuer Dac on Molesworth Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Abu Slehchy and his daughter Nusaiba Chowdhury during a protesters outside the Vulture fund Val Issuer Dac on Molesworth Street Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Allison Bray and Aoife Walsh

A group of residents facing eviction from their homes protested outside the office of their "vulture fund" landlord's offices today.

The residents - all from properties at Rosedale Terrace, Richmond Street and Grove Drive in the capital - were protesting against eviction notices that have been issued to over 50 families by Val issuer DAC (Designated Activity Company).

The residents fear they will be made homeless if Val Issuer DAC is successful in appealing a ruling by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) which found the eviction notices invalid.

The appeal comes after the "vulture fund" made a separate application to Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála in February requesting planning permission for an additional two floor levels and a balcony at Rosedale Terrace and Clanbrassil Street Lower.

The Bord refused the application as the development would cause shadowing, a loss of privacy and threaten the sustainable development of the area.

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Resident affected by attempted eviction Ramon Cernuda Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ramon Cernuda (41) was among the protesters gathered outside the Molesworth Street offices today.

The IT manager, who is originally from Madrid, Spain, has been living at his one-bedroom apartment at Rosedale Terrace for the past seven years, paying a monthly rent of €950.

He has been looking for alternative accommodation since he got the eviction notice, but has found nothing acceptable, let alone comparable, at the same rent.

"I have nowhere to go," he said.

The RTB ruled in June that the Notice of Termination (of the lease) it served on Mr Cernuda on April 2 for his apartment on Rosedale Terrace was invalid, for a variety of reasons.

Among them was that "on receipt of the notice of termination the tenant was not armed with accurate information with regards to the proposed duration of the works, which was information to which the tenant was statutorily entitled pursuant to s. 35(9)(b) to use when deciding how to act following the termination of the tenancy."

An agent acting on behalf of the landlord had told the board that the project manager, Logical Real Estate Consulting, would be hiring contractors to commence the renovations on November 18, 2019 and "are expected" to last for a period of eight or nine months but no specific date of completion was provided.

However, speaking to Independent.ie on the eve of an appeal hearing at the RTB on Wednesday for another tenant facing eviction, Mr Cernuda said he fears the landlord will find some loophole to get around it.

"Until the anti-eviction bill passes in the Dáil, we are very much screwed," he told Independent.ie.

"Most of the building are on social welfare. We are all going to be homeless," he said.

He also believes that the landlord’s claim that substantial renovations are required is just an excuse to evict the tenants in order to jack up the rent.

The renovations listed include replacing windows to make them more energy efficient and replacing bathrooms and kitchens.

But he said none of these renovations are urgently required.

"The building is okay, nothing is falling apart," he said.

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Abu Slehchy and his daughter Nusaiba Chowdhury during a protesters outside the Vulture fund Val Issuer Dac on Molesworth Street Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Another resident at Rosedale Terrace is Abu Slehchy (46) with his wife, 10-year-old son and four-year-old daughter. He pays a monthly rent of €1,200. Slehcy said he is being evicted for "health and safety" reasons, but as he is currently suffering with heart problems and glaucoma, he feels being evicted will pose more of a risk to him than remaining where he is.

"We are living for a long time peacefully in this apartment building. Suddenly, they want to evict us. Mainly, it is for profit. Rent is a little bit down, so they'll kick out us and bring somebody else with a higher rate," he said.

"If they kick out us I don't know. I am risking my life. Because of health and safety reasons, they have to repaint it and they say there's health and safety issues but I am feeling the other way. When they start to kick me out, it will be my health and safety at risk, not where I am now. Out on the street, a car could hit me and I'll be killed.

"Living there isn't actually health and safety, because when I go out in the street, I have no home. Especially I have heart problems so I am out of work for a while. I have stent. I have glaucoma. I was working and after a while I fall down and I had to go to the hospital.

"I am managing my diet and my heart, I have to follow a diet of food I can eat, so if I go living in a hotel or somewhere I'll be losing my life. I am struggling to return to work, but when I return to work there will be other problems.

"My wife is working not so far, I am also working not so far so we will lose the job also if we go further. My kids have loads of friends around there, so they don't want to move. They have a school just a few yards away. It will change everything," he added.

Also protesting was Harry Harun (30), a tenant living at Richmond Drive, for €1300 a month.

He said: "Obviously, it's a disgrace and with the whole process of gentrification industries in the town as a whole, I just don't see anything changing in the near future and it's terrifying.

"Some of us can find something else, but this is not the way housing is sold in any place in Europe. With Dublin booming all these years it's just unsustainable. With this sort of approach i don't see how the growth of the city can continue.

"Just this morning you could see people removing things from the houses just down the street. The whole thing is just appalling. We don't know when the time is going to come for us, " he said.

People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett told Independent.ie the behaviour of the vulture fund is "barbaric".

"It's barbaric behaviour, they don't seem to care about the human cost and stress, hardship and anxiety of families that could be turfed out onto the street. It's shocking," he said.

"The government have to do something. They have to intervene to stop these kind of evictions. They have to immediately close down the loopholes in the residential tenancy legislation. In particular, the substantial refurbishment loophole and the loophole that allows them to evict tenants if they sell."

Peter Dooley, a spokesman for the voluntary Dublin Renters Union organisation based in Portobello, said the same landlord is trying to evict more than 50 families living at Rosedale Terrace in Dublin 8 as well as tenants at the Georgian-era terrace houses at 53 to 58 Richmond Street in Portobello and 15 Grove Park in Rathmines.

"One woman was so terrified of being evicted that she went into emergency accommodation," he said.

Yesterday’s protest outside the offices of Val Issuer DAC was the second one in just over a month. In August , 50 of the families facing eviction demonstrated against what they claim is a "reno-viction."

They held up posters of the company’s director Sean O’Sullivan with the words Evicting Families across the front, accompanied by a picture of a vulture. Mr O’Sullivan was not available when contacted for comment.

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