THE number of people being illegally evicted from their homes by landlords is rising, according to housing agency Threshold – some for arrears as low as €50.
Speaking in advance of today’s launch of Threshold’s annual report for 2008, chairwoman Aideen Hayden said there has also been a surge in the number of landlords refusing to return deposits.
She warned that more people than ever in private rented accommodation face the threat of homelessness.
“It is even worse than it was last year. We have come across people who have been literally thrown out on the street with their belongings put in a black sack outside the door. Some of these tenants have children and they end up sleeping in cars which is a deeply traumatic experience for them.”
Ms Hayden said it was a myth that only those who were significantly in rent arrears were evicted from their homes. “That is not necessarily the case at all. Sometimes the amount owed is very small. We came across a case recently of someone in Kerry who owed only €50 and was evicted because of that. That is a horrifying thing to happen in this day and age.”
She said in most cases, evictions are carried out illegally: “Of the almost 200 performed eviction cases we have dealt with in the past year, only one landlord actually went through the proper process and dealt with the situation legally.”
“In 2008, we dealt with 196 cases of performed illegal evictions, up from 141 the previous year.”
Ms Hayden said that one of most notable developments in 2008 was the rise in landlords refusing to return deposits by tenants. “We dealt with 3,688 cases of unreturned deposits last year, compared with 1,603 in 2007.”
Calling for immediate Government intervention to safeguard deposits, Ms Hayden said that for many tenants the rental deposit was their only savings and failure to return deposits would leave some destitute and facing homelessness.
Threshold has seen an increase in the numbers seeking its help since the onset of the recession. Last year, more than 20,000 people contacted the organisation and more than half of these required direct support.
There is also a growing number of landlords seeking advice from Threshold. “They are mostly what we call ‘accidental landlords’, people who bought property in the hope of making capital gains but found that they were forced to rent it out to make ends meet.
“Although we remain primarily a tenant-focused organisation, we are happy to give landlords whatever advice we can and try to help them out. Last year we advised more than 700 landlords.”
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