FLAC responds to Varadkar’s comments on notices of termination

FLAC responds to Varadkar's comments on notices of termination

Eilis Barry

FLAC has responded to comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in which he repeatedly advised tenants facing eviction to contact FLAC.

During Leaders’ Questions this week, Mr Varadkar said 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”.

FLAC chief executive, Eilis Barry, said: “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.”

Ms 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.”

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