A landlord who “threatened and intimidated” a student while attempting to evict her from an apartment during lockdown has been ordered to pay €5,000 in damages by the rental watchdog.
The tenant claimed that men “disguised as fake police” called to the property on Meath Street in Dublin 8 and that the landlord attempted on five occasions to evict her because she wanted to move new tenants in.
The tenant, who moved to Ireland to study and take part in a working visa programme, had been living in the apartment for just a couple of months when the owner of the property attempted to evict her.
She took a case with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and gave evidence of how she suffered from depression and panic attacks “because there was always somebody knocking on the door every afternoon” trying to get her to leave.
The landlord’s niece had previously been living in the apartment but returned to China for a period and could not come back to Ireland because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The landlord rented out one of the rooms in the apartment to her niece’s friend and advertised the other room on a website used by Chinese people in Ireland.
The tenant got in touch as she was being “kicked out” of a rental property and had no place to stay.
The landlord told the RTB that she felt sorry for the tenant and agreed she could rent her the room on a temporary basis.
She claimed there was no formal agreement and no fixed term. She stated that the tenant paid a deposit of €850 on February 24, 2020, and moved into the bedroom on March 1, 2020. In her evidence, the landlord claimed that the tenant informed her at the end of April that she planned to move out as she was going back to China.
The next day the landlord arranged viewings for new prospective tenants.
The tenant disputed this and said she had agreed a two-year lease but did not have any documentary evidence to prove this.
The landlord claimed the tenant did not pay any rent for May 2020 and sent a text message to say that she was not going to leave unless she was paid back her deposit and damages for issues she had with appliances in the house.
On May 23, the landlord called to the property with a locksmith and attempted to gain access to the apartment.
There was no dispute from the landlord that she gained forcible entry into the dwelling despite the tenant being in the apartment and expressly asking her not to enter. The RTB said that while the evidence of both parties was contradictory and hard to follow, it found that relations between the tenant and landlord were very strained.
It said there was sufficient evidence to uphold a complaint of threats and intimidation, and that the landlord breached her obligations to allow the tenant to enjoy peaceful occupation of the property after the tenant provided video and audio of the attempted eviction.
The RTB ruled that the tenant should receive €5,000 for the distress, loss and inconvenience she suffered due to the landlord unlawfully gaining access to the dwelling on May 23.
However, it found there was insufficient evidence that the previous visits to the dwelling amounted to a breach of obligations or attempted evictions.
The landlord was also allowed to keep the €850 deposit to cover the unpaid rent.