Shocking video footage has shown a family of eight being evicted without notice from rented accommodation just days before St Patrick’s Day.
The Brazilian-Portuguese couple evicted from their Donegal home were told that their children could be taken from them, the father would be arrested for burglary, and accused of stealing and taking drugs by a group of men who came unannounced to evict them after dark.
In the video, obtained by the, the landlord, who is a Northern-Ireland-based businessman, is seen changing locks while the other men pack up the family’s belongings, including baby food and toys, into refuse sacks and placing them outside in the rain.
The men are heard telling the father of the family they know he is a “bully” because a recording device they have installed in the house next door has been recording his children and their mother crying “all day and all night”.
In the footage, the father can be heard struggling to verbally defend himself against the accusations in broken English. During the incident, the mother and six children, including an 11-month-old, are in an upstairs bedroom.
The shocking footage shows their personal belongings being removed from the property and the locks being changed, with the family left with nowhere to go.
When contacted by this newspaper, the landlord said: “I have no reply to make. I have no response to make” and hung up.
Sligo-based Fine Gael councillor Sinead Maguire, who is working with the family since the incident, said: “There was absolutely no notice given.
“The landlord was with the men and they were told they had to leave immediately. They took the father’s mobile phone and returned it to him when they were finished.
"I saw footage taken by the man on a camera while the men were packing up their belongings, putting everything, including the children’s toys, into refuse sacks, and placing them outside the front door.”
The family say their belongings were withheld for four days by the landlord and they then had to negotiate their return. The mother has developed pneumonia since the eviction and was admitted to hospital in Sligo. The father and their six children are staying with friends in Sligo.
The family was told by the landlord that a room was booked for them in a local hotel. However, when they arrived at the hotel they were told no room was booked and that they would need a second room costing €300, which they could not afford.
They stayed with a friend that night. The next day they presented at a local community centre where staff were unsuccessful at finding accommodation for them. They ended up travelling to Sligo and are currently staying in the spare room of a friend, on “a very temporary basis,” according to Ms Maguire.
The family is now homeless, despite both parents having jobs. The mother works as a cleaner and the father works in a hotel. They had lived in the property for two months.
“I’ve been in contact with Sligo County Council homeless services on their behalf, and I’ve been advised that they should present themselves as homeless in Donegal as that was the last place of their residence,” said Ms Maguire.
Focus Ireland Sligo manager Mary Jameson said hotels and B&Bs are currently very busy with tourists, and finding emergency accommodation is a challenge.
The family has filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
According to An Garda Síochána’s policy document on repossessions and evictions, in the case of spontaneous evictions that occur without prior notice given, the relevant Superintendent carries out an on-the-spot risk assessment based on the legality of the eviction, among other considerations.
Housing charity Threshold would not comment on the case.
However, an expert source within the housing sector confirmed that landlords must serve a notice of termination of tenancy first and must have a valid reason for doing so. The tenant is then obliged to move out and if they do not, a dispute must be raised with the RTB.
If the tenant still does not move out, the landlord must take the issue to the court and a judge will rubber-stamp the notice. The landlord then goes to the bailiffs and only then can a bailiff evict tenants.
Both videos were filmed by the father of the family, who walks in and out, frantically searching for his phone while the men empty the family’s belongings into black refuse sacks.
The mother and their six children are in an upstairs bedroom to shield them from what’s going on.
The landlord, wearing a company jacket with his name emblazoned on it, is seen changing the lock on the front door, beside black refuse sacks containing the tenants’ belongings stacked up against the hall wall.
The father goes outside and points to the bags piled up outside the front door. He returns indoors and we can see three men putting their things into more black sacks.
One man has an army khaki jacket, another keeps his hood up at all times while the third keeps a hat on. The father approaches the landlord as he changes the front door lock and says: “I pay your rent”, but he is ignored.
A Portuguese friend arrives. The father returns to the kitchen, where the three men are emptying the cupboards. As the man in the khaki jacket brings a sack out, he is seen lunging at the camera, saying: “I haven’t given you permission.”
The father replies that he has not given the men permission to enter his house, which prompts the man to laugh back: “It’s not your house. Call the guards.”
He accuses the tenant of damaging the house and not repairing it, which the tenant denies.
"You have to go tonight,” says the man in the khaki jacket.
The landlord tells the father that he has spoken to the local hotel and made a reservation. [The family refutes this, claiming that when they arrived at the hotel not only was there no room booked, but they would have to pay for two rooms, which they couldn’t afford.]
The landlord tells the father: “You can’t come into the house”, at which point there are sounds of a struggle and the mother can be heard yelling.
“My family is upstairs,” says the father.
“They can come down,” says the landlord.
“No, they stay here,” replies the father, to which the landlord replies: “phone the Garda”.
The landlord tells the tenant he no longer has a key for the door and therefore no longer lives there.
The tenant insists that he will wait for the Gardaí to arrive before he goes anywhere with his family.
“The lock is changed here,” the landlord said.
"You’re no longer resident here. The garda will tell you the same. You’re now trespassing, simple as that."
The landlord goes on to say: “You can come in and go up and help your girlfriend to get her stuff together and do the mannerly thing and be a man and take your girlfriend and her children to the hotel, but it’s finished, it’s over here.
"Do you want a criminal record? You’ll be charged with burglary. That’s not very smart. It’s better for you to get your girlfriend and your children and just go down to the hotel.”
During the video, the mother, clearly upset, says to the landlord: “my children”. He responds by accusing her of lying to him about the number of children they had.
“This is not a f*****g hotel,” he tells the father.
He is heard repeatedly offering to take the family down to the hotel in his car, but the tenant insists on waiting for the gardaí to arrive.
The landlord then asks the father: “Where’s the drugs? The weed? You’re smoking cannabis?”
The man continues searching for his mobile phone while a baby cries upstairs.
The tenant again, asks the landlord about his phone.
“I don’t know,” replied the landlord.
He then says: “You do realise, when the guards come if you don’t take care of the children, they will take the children away.”
As the baby continues to cry, the landlord says: “Social services will come for the children.”
The mother goes into a bedroom to tend to the children while the father returns downstairs to watch the men packing up. Outside, the bags pile up.
There are baby bottles in laundry baskets, bicycles against the wall. The rain pours down on their baby bouncer and baby chair on the ground. Inside, a carton of milk is still on the kitchen counter beside the rolls of black refuse sacks brought by the landlord.
The landlord then gives the father an ultimatum, telling him he has 10 minutes to “sort your family out” or he is going to turn off the “water, electricity, everything off in the house.”
Upstairs, the six children huddle on the floor and bed of a bedroom while the hooded man stands at the bottom of the stairs, staring up at the mother.
The landlord asks the father again if he wants him to call the gardaí and further adds that he is turning off the electricity again.
“Listen, your time is up,” he says.
The landlord and the three men accuse the father of being "a bully" and claim they have recordings of his wife and children crying.
The man in the khaki repeats that a room is waiting for them in the local hotel. He then shouts up to her: “Tell your lawyer that yous have no right because the key is changed in the door. You’re no longer a resident here.”
The mother is seen on the phone, speaking in Portuguese. She then passes the phone to her husband and goes in to tend to the baby while the other five children mill around her.
She emerges again and is seen crying while trying to keep all the children in the bedroom.