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Temporary ban on all evictions is to be introduced for duration of coronavirus crisis

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THE Government is set to announce a temporary ban on evictions for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, Independent.ie has learned.

A moratorium on rent increases for those whose incomes have been impacted by the pandemic is also being considered.

The emergency measures for renters have been discussed at a Cabinet meeting in Government Buildings and are likely to be announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy later on Thursday.

Emergency legislation will be voted on the Dáil next week to introduce the unprecedented new laws to tackle the crisis. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are understood to have agreed measures for renters in principle during government formation talks.

The measures being announced on Thursday, which will require legislation, will effectively make it illegal for landlords to evict a person from their home during the period in which restrictions are in place on public movement, according to government sources.

Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesperson Darragh O’Brien said the measures such as a rent freeze would only apply to people who lost their income due to social distancing measures introduced by the Government.

“We have to ban evictions during the crisis and introduce a moratorium on rent in the short-term but only on the basis that a person can’t work because of the Covid 19 crisis,” Mr O’Brien told Independent.ie.

“People have to treat these measures fairly and honestly and we need to implement them for a time-limited.”

The temporary nature of the measures are being seen as a way of getting around concerns that an outright ban on evictions would be unconstitutional as it infringes on a person’s private property rights.

A government source said “the public good outweighs private property” during the emergency. “It will be illegal to evict during the crisis,” they said. A separate government source said an announcement was “imminent”.

Mr Murphy has been working with housing bodies and NGOs in recent days in a bid to find solutions for renters whose incomes have been affected by the crisis.

There have been widespread calls for a ban on all evictions as increasing numbers of people are being forced to self-isolate in their homes. Housing charity Threshold has called for emergency legislation to put in place a ban until the end of April.

The temporary ban follows the announcement on Wednesday that landlords and other homeowners will be given a three-month break on their mortgage repayments if their income has been hit by the restrictions in place as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

At present schools, childcare facilities, pubs and other public facilities are closed and the holding of mass indoor and outdoor gatherings is effectively banned. Emergency legislation being debated in the Dáil on Thursday will give the Minister for Health special powers to enforce these closures and restrictions.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe warned landlords who avail of a break in loan or mortgage repayments being offered by banks for the next three months against evicting any tenants – but he acknowledged that the Government could not enforce this. He said he would examine enforcement measures to ensure people are not given notice to quit during the crisis.

“In relation to our ability to enforce the use of this flexibility with landlords, I’m going to be talking to my colleague minister Eoghan Murphy in relation to this. As you know, from all of the discussions in relation to rent freeze and rent pressure zones there are legal constraints in place in relation to the ability of any government to intervene in the contract between landlords and tenants,” Mr Donohoe.

“But what I will be doing is through our banks and through the Department of Housing, I will look at any data source that is available to us, to ensure, to see and monitor is there any evidence at all of any landlord using this flexibility and during that period of flexibility going ahead with an eviction.

“We are putting in place really significant measures to our banking system to help those who have loans and mortgages at a time of great risk.

“For any landlord then to use that to treat their tenants in a way that is not fair to them, I believe, will not be accepted by broader society and will raise great concerns. We don’t at the moment have the legal ability to enforce that, but I will work on that issue with Minister Murphy and see are there any steps that we can take.”

The Department of Housing declined to comment when contacted.

From The Irish Independent.