FLAC responds to comments from Taoiseach relating to ‘notices of termination’, the role of the Courts and advising tenants to seek free legal advice
29 March 2023
FLAC has today responded to comments made by the Taoiseach in which he repeatedly advised tenants facing eviction to contact FLAC. During Leaders’ Questions yesterday, Leo Varadkar TD stated that “FLAC or others… can outline to [those faced with a notice of termination] what their best options are and what the consequences are of the different options.
In recent days, the Taoiseach has also made a number of comments seeking to differentiate notices of termination from ‘evictions’, and implying that judges will be ‘reluctant’ to enforce determination orders of the Residential Tenancies Board.
FLAC Chief Executive, Eilis Barry, responded:
“The Taoiseach’s comments do not reflect the legal or social reality of tenants faced with a notice of termination. A valid notice of termination extinguishes a tenant’s legal right to remain in a property. The Residential Tenancies Acts provide that any determination order made by the Residential Tenancies Board in relation to the validity of such a notice is ‘binding on the parties’. While the Taoiseach’s comments imply that the Courts have a wide discretion in relation to whether such orders may be enforced, the legislation provides that the District Court must enforce a Residential Tenancies Board determination except in a narrow set of circumstances arising from procedural or legal errors on the part of the Residential Tenancies Board. There is no basis in legislation for the Courts or the Residential Tenancies Board to set aside a valid notice of termination on the basis of the personal circumstances of a tenant.”
FLAC Information Line Coordinator, Erin Brogan added:
“FLAC cannot advise callers to overhold in their tenancies in circumstances where there is no apparent fault with a determination order and where the District Court has extremely limited powers to overturn that order and may also order the tenant to pay their landlord’s legal costs.
The harsh reality is that the vast majority of calls which FLAC receives in relation to evictions relate to legally valid notices of termination. The Taoiseach comments may be construed as encouraging tenants to overhold until ordered by the Court to leave, notwithstanding the risks this creates in relation to costs.”
Eilis Barry added:
“While we agree with the Taoiseach’s suggestion that tenants facing eviction sound seek legal advice, FLAC’s services already face overwhelming demand and we can only answer one-third of calls made to our telephone information line. The majority of calls which FLAC receives concern family and employment law – we do not have the resources to meet the demand in these areas, let alone to respond to the legal queries arising from the eviction ban lapsing.
It is notable that the mitigation measures discussed by Government do not include any proposals to enhance the availability of legal information, advice or representation to tenants. At present, the State scheme of civil legal aid does not provide for representation in disputes heard by the Residential Tenancies Board and, more generally, legal advice and representation is only rarely provided by the Legal Aid Board in landlord/tenant disputes.”
Notes to Editors:
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights and equality organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an Independent Law Centre, FLAC takes on a number of cases in the public interest each year and operates a Traveller Legal Service, Roma Legal Clinic and LGBTQI Legal Service. Over the last five years, cases concerning housing and homelessness have consistently been the area in which FLAC most often provides legal representation. FLAC also operates a legal information and referral telephone line and a nationwide network of legal advice clinics where volunteer lawyers provide basic free legal advice.
A valid notice of termination is the mechanism through which a tenancy is ended under the Residential Tenancies Acts. If that notice is not challenged in the Residential Tenancies Board, it has the effect of ending a tenancy (and a tenant’s right to remain in a property) from the date specified in the notice.
FLAC’s experience is that challenges to the validity notices of termination are dealt with promptly by the Residential Tenancies Board. The legislation provides that determination orders issued by the Residential Tenancies Board on foot of such challenges are ‘binding’. A landlord may then seek to have that order enforced by the District Court. For the relevant legislation, see sections 123 and 124 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended).
For the recent comments of An Taoiseach, see:
- The Journal (24 March 2023), Taoiseach calls for 'accurate' language, says notices to quit are not evictions.
- The Irish Times (24 March 2023), Judges will be ‘very reluctant’ to enforce evictions, Leo Varadkar says.
- Dáil Éireann debate (28 Mar 2023), Leaders' Questions.