Credit: The Journal.ie
TENANTS WHO WERE evicted from a privately owned Dublin property yesterday have now regained access to the building, activists have said.
The building, which has been involved in a legal dispute, was sold two months ago by a property fund to another entity.
Video footage emerged showing security staff moving the belongings of tenants at the north Dublin property out onto the street yesterday.
At least three gardaí also attended the scene.From the footage, it appears tenants had initially called them for assistance.
In the video, one of the gardaí tells a tenant that the security firm had handed in documentation to gardaí, adding “you have no right anymore to be here”.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Garda Commissioner to request information about the presence of gardaí and the public order unit at the eviction yesterday.
The ICCL said: “Video footage emerged this morning which showed gardaí inside a private dwelling as an allegedly illegal eviction was occurring, interacting with the tenants and informing them they ‘had no right’ to be there.
“It is reported that the tenants had not received proper notice of the eviction and that at least one of them is in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).”
The council said it has also asked the Commissioner for an update on guidelines on garda attendance at private evictions
“ICCL considers An Garda Síochána should not be playing a supportive role in private evictions unless it is a necessary and proportionate response to actual or threatened criminal behaviour.”
Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon also said he has written to the local Garda Chief Superintendent to ask why gardaí allowed the eviction to go ahead.
‘Quickly stood down’
In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, An Garda Síochána said legal representatives for the owners of a premises on Berkley Road attended Mountjoy Garda Station to inform gardaí that they intended to secure their premises.
“Gardaí noted the proposed activity but did not attend the premises at the time. At approximately 11am a number of garda units attended the same address following a 999 emergency call. The number and type of units attending was based on the contents of the call and the majority were quickly stood down.
“Subsequently a number of garda personnel remained at the scene with the primary function to prevent breaches of the peace and ensure the safety of all persons involved.
“No injuries occurred and no damage was caused. An Garda Síochána liaised with local councillors at this incident and emergency accommodation was arranged for all affected persons.”
In relation to the footage of the eviction, it said An Garda Síochána “does not comment on video footage published online, the context and reliability of which cannot be determined”.
‘No court order’
The property has been involved in a legal dispute, with proceedings started by property finance fund Beltany against the landlord in 2017.
A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs, which controls the fund, said the property was sold on 2 June, but for confidentiality reasons they could not disclose the identity of the buyer.
There has been speculation online that KBC Ireland currently owns the building but the bank has confirmed to TheJournal.ie that it does not hold the loan associated with this property.
Solicitor Gary Daly, who is representing two of the tenants, told TheJournal.ie “there is no legal document circulating which would form the basis for a lawfully authorised eviction”.
“My clients have not been served with one and to best of knowledge gardaí were not in possession of a court order or order of Residential Tenancies Board authorising the eviction of tenants from the property,” he said.
The Inner City Helping Homeless charity has said it arranged and paid for accommodation for the tenants last night.
CEO Anthony Flynn said they are still trying to establish who currently owns the property.
“There seems to be a dispute between two companies about it but whatever the dispute is, that’s between the companies. In the documentation there is a cease and desist notification and it seems to be on that basis that they were asked to remove themselves and their belongings from the property. There is no court order.”
Flynn said gardaí have been informed of the legal advice and the nine tenants have now gained access to the building they had been renting.
However activists say there is damage to the property, including the toilet facilities.
A spokesperson for Dublin Central Housing Action told TheJournal.ie that internal doors were removed and the property was left in an “uninhabitable condition”. The spokesperson said some property belonging to the tenants, including laptops, were also damaged when they were removed from the building yesterday.
He said neighbours and the local residents’ association have offered their help today and some of the damage is now being fixed.
“Regardless of who owns the property, tenants are still tenants and the sale doesn’t void their rights. Some of them are living there for eight years and then they’re woken up with no notice whatsoever,” he said.
‘Evictions like this will continue’
Just Transition Green TDs Peter Kavanagh and Neasa Hourigan have called on the government to re-introduce a ban on evictions during the pandemic.
A blanket ban was recently lifted, with protection from eviction now limited to tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent due to a loss of earnings as a result of the pandemic.
“The eviction ban recently legislated for by the government does not provide the necessary protections for most people, and unless we act now, evictions like the one yesterday will continue,” Hourigan said today.
“The narrow requirements of the legislation passed just before the Dáil break, to stop evictions based on rent unpaid due to Covid, do little to protect tenants like those in Phibsboro.
“As we have witnessed with the reintroduction of lockdown measures over the last week in the midlands the pandemic has not gone away. Pushing families into homelessness at this time is not in the public interest and is not best practice in terms of public health during this crisis.”
Kavanagh said events like those seen in Phibsboro are “what was feared when the government allowed evictions to continue in any form”.
“People are being put out on the street, and forced into already under-pressure homelessness services, in the middle of a pandemic, right as the ‘R number’ for the disease begins to rise again.”
The Department of Housing said it does not comment on individual cases. However it said under the Residential Tenancies Act 2005-2019, “carrying out an illegal eviction which includes prohibiting access to the property or making the property uninhabitable by disconnecting services, can result in damages of up to €20,000 being awarded to the tenant”.
“The Residential Tenancies Board can seek an injunction from the courts to reinstate the tenant and will continue to prioritise these cases during the emergency period. Additional powers and functions were conferred on the RTB through the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 to investigate and administratively sanction landlords (up to €30,000) who engage in improper conduct, including non-compliance with the enhanced tenancy termination provisions.”
The department said the national housing charity Threshold can provide advice to those experiencing tenancy problems and households at risk of becoming homeless can seek assistance from their local authority.