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Eviction ban set to be lifted next month as other protections for renters examined

​Senior government figures have said the coalition is leaning towards allowing the winter emergency ban on evictions to expire on March 31

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there has been a 'demonisation' of landlords

Hugh O'Connell and Gabija

The Government is set to allow the eviction ban to expire next month, but ministers are trying to identify measures that could avoid thousands of tenants being hit with notices to quit within weeks.

Senior government figures have said the coalition is leaning towards allowing the winter emergency ban on evictions to expire on March 31. However, there has been no firm decision, and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has yet to make a proposal to cabinet colleagues.

Mr O’Brien, who did not comment last night, previously said more than 2,200 tenancy terminations had been avoided by the imposition of the winter moratorium last October. However, politicians fear a deluge of eviction notices could be issued from the end of next month.

Senior coalition figures believe the ban has not worked because the number of people in emergency accommodation has risen to record levels, with month-on-month increases continuing since its imposition. A final decision on whether to extend the ban is expected within a fortnight.

Certain unintended consequences have emerged, including returning emigrants not being able to move into their own home and landlords not being able to move their student children into a house they own.

Some experts in the housing sector believe properties need to be released to allow people to buy them or to free up housing stock for first-time buyers. The coalition is concerned it would be legally difficult to extend the ban because the six-month moratorium was time-limited with the rationale that it was for the winter emergency period.

The Government is examining potential modifications that would remove the outright ban, but could still provide protections for tenants in vulnerable situations.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin told the Dáil yesterday the housing crisis could be made “much worse” by extending the ban, and said he did not think that if it was extended it could be done in the short-term.

A Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday heard several TDs and senators opposed to extending the ban.

Sources also pointed to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments this week, when he said the ban was creating a “new form of homelessness” because people coming back from abroad were unable to move back into their own properties.

Speaking in Drogheda yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: “I think there has been a demonisation of landlords – small landlords in particular – and that hasn’t been helpful. We need landlords – the state is a landlord – providing social and cost rental institutions and we need small landlords as well.”

However, Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe, who initially led a charge of party TDs pushing for the winter eviction ban, said it should be extended for as long as possible and a constitutional amendment should be made if required.

He said the ban had not been “as effective as we thought” and has raised the possibility of extending it with Mr O’Brien and his officials.

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