The majority of notices to quit in the last quarter of 2022 were given by landlords intending to sell their property, amid projections that the private rental sector will shrink further this year.
Some 2,513 notices out of an overall 4,329 were issued for this reason, accounting for almost 60 per cent of the total, according to figures released by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
This figure will increase the pressure on the Government to prevent the wave of notices translating into a surge in homelessness, and to make good on its promises to support both landlords and renters.
Estate agent Sherry FitzGerald predicted on Monday that 15,000 tenancies could be lost from the private rental sector this year. Just 13 per cent of those purchasing second-hand homes with the firm in the first quarter of this year were investors – against more than a third of landlords who were selling their properties.
Talks are set for this week between the Department of Housing and the Attorney General’s office on legislation underpinning the Coalition’s “safety net” for renters.
Sources briefed on the Government’s plans to facilitate tenants in buying their home, or having it bought on their behalf in a State-backed tenancy, said that landlords would not be obliged to accept an offer from a tenant, Approved Housing Body (AHB) or local authority.
The Irish Times understands that the intention is that legislation will oblige property owners to offer first refusal to their tenant, or engage with a “backstop” involving a sale to the local authority or AHB. But they will be free to turn down the offer and put their property on the open market.
However, if they only receive lower offers than that already submitted by the tenant, AHB or local authority, a landlord must offer it to them again. The Coalition is attempting to balance the goal of expanding the cost-rental sector and avoiding evictions against the constitutional rights of landlords.
While legislation is under development, parts of the scheme are operating already, with tenants who want to trigger the “backstop” option being encouraged to contact their local authority’s housing officer, who will assess their eligibility. Applicants must have a household after-tax income no greater than €53,000 and be at risk of homelessness to be eligible.
On Monday, the RTB said it received 4,329 notices to quit between the start of October and the end of December 2022, which is about 350 per cent higher than the 958 notices that were issued during the same period in 2021.
However, new legislation on when a landlord must notify the RTB of a notice came into effect in July 2022, which may skew the figures when compared to the previous year.
Some 16 per cent of notices were issued because the landlord or a family member intended to move into the property, while a further 16 per cent were issued because of a breach of tenant obligations.
After the figures were released, there was an unexpected spat between veteran homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, who claimed that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had overruled Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on the question of extending the moratorium on evictions which expired at the end of March.
The Taoiseach and Mr O’Brien denied the claims. But on Monday evening, Fr McVerry told The Irish Times he believed his source. He argued that insufficient work on mitigating measures had been done while the ban was in place, and suggested this meant the intention had been to extend it.
“The public will have to decide whether to believe me or the Government, but I think the evidence points in my direction.”