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Friday, March 31, 2023

Government leaders agree to lift eviction ban at the end of the month

The Government leaders have agreed to lift the current ban on evictions as planned at the end of the month.

he moratorium, which was introduced last October, will come to an end on March 31 following a meeting of the leaders and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.

The legislation underpinning the ban provides for the moratorium to be phased out over the coming months to ensure there is not a sudden wave of evictions before fully ending in June.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tanaiste Micheal Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan along with Mr O’Brien held a lengthy discussion on the eviction ban.

Mr O’Brien will now bring a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining plans to allow the ban lapse while also telling colleagues he will seek a significant budget package for renters and landlords.

A minister’s spokesperson said: “Minister O’Brien discussed the winter eviction moratorium this evening with the three leaders.

“It was agreed that Minister O’Brien would bring a detailed memo to Cabinet tomorrow morning where there will be further discussions with Government colleagues.”

The Cabinet will also discuss measures to help tenants buy their first homes and give housing agencies the first refusal on property sales in certain circumstances.

Tenants will have first right of refusal on the sale of a house they are living under Government plans to tackle the housing crisis.

The move which is similar to legislation in France will give renters the option of putting a bid on the house they are living in if the owners put it up for sale.

Cabinet will also look at measures for increasing social housing and student accommodation supply. Budgetary measures for landlords will be announced later in the year

Landlords could get tax breaks worth €14,000 a year at cost of up to €794m for the taxpayer as part of a Government plan to keep them in the rental market.

The Coalition is examining a number of proposals aimed at securing tenancies and reducing homelessness.

A confidential options paper drafted for ministers said “significant fiscal incentives” for landlords will be needed to “withstand legal challenge” if the ban is extended.

Ministers were warned incentives will have to be “substantial in nature”.

The research document outlines a series of tax packages specifically aimed at encouraging landlords to stay in the sector.

This includes introducing a new €14,000 tax break for landlords modelled on the rent-a-room scheme which gives homeowners a tax relief on rental income for renting a room in their own home.

The Department of Finance said the proposed tax exemption could cost between €397m and €794m.

Another option would see landlords given a €9,600 tax exemption similar to the Accommodation Recognition Payment which is paid to people who have housed refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine in their own homes.

This would cost between €317m and €634m, according to the research paper.

The document also proposes a Local Property Tax deduction for landlords or cuts to PRSI or USC.

“A combination of smaller measures could be considered, but would need further examination to see if they would sufficiently compensate for interference with landlord’s constitutional proper rights,” it added.

The options paper suggests the tax cuts will be necessary if the Government extended the no-fault clause eviction ban for another two years.

It also suggests introducing a so-called ‘winter truce’ model based on the system in France which sees evictions banned during the colder months.

Speaking at an evening in Waterford today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is seeking to balance the rights of tenants and landlords.

“I think anyone who’s been following this debate understands that it’s not a black and white decision. There are pros and cons. We have to weigh that up, and Cabinet will make a decision in the morning,” Mr Varadkar said

“It’s a balance of a number of different rights so one of the things that we’re facing at the moment, which is a real difficulty, is people coming home from abroad.

“30,000 people come home from abroad every year – some of them own houses and apartments and are not able to move back into them. People who have bought an apartment or a house for their kids to use when they go to college – not being able to access them is an issue for property owners,” he added.

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