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Essential that Tenancy Protection measures adapt to the constant changes posed by the pandemic and housing crisis - Threshold Annual Report 2020

1 December 2021

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  • Threshold’s advisors assisted 18,707 households across 20,728 cases in 2020
  • Charity prevented 5,173 households from entering homelessness last year

The Covid-19 crisis has shown that it is possible to tackle key problems in the private rented housing sector, according to national housing charity Threshold, which it highlighted today at the launch of its 2020 Annual Report, 2020 Vision: Lessons from the Frontline of Saving Homes.

Aideen Hayden, Chairperson, Threshold said: “Last year our advisors worked on 20,728 cases and answered an average of 219 calls every day from tenants needing support. For many, this involved advice to help them understand their rights and protections afforded under the new pieces of legislation introduced that year. For others who were worried about losing their rented home, we prevented 5,173 households from entering homelessness services in 2020 – that’s 7,121 adults and 4,026 children who were prevented from becoming homeless.”

With Threshold’s intervention, these households were able to remain in the home in which they and their families were renting. At the beginning of this year, Threshold had almost 1,000 termination cases carried over from 2020 – despite the various moratoria in place throughout 2020 – pointing to the crisis facing many tenants as incomes fell and housing supply reduced. In response to changing needs, Threshold launched a webchat service in August of 2020, attending to almost 4,000 webchat queries by the end of 2020.

Throughout 2020 the Government passed four pieces of legislation affecting private renters, introduced wholesale changes to the rent supplement system and delivered the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, all of which provided much-needed support to private renters.

John-Mark McCafferty, CEO, Threshold added: “These measures resulted in immediate reductions in family homelessness and evictions, and reduced the likelihood of renters accruing arrears. It showed what could be done in a crisis. During the year we also advocated that more needed to be done on affordability. In this regard, legislation currently going through the Oireachtas aims to reduce the level of rent increases and will eventually halt the ability of landlords to end tenancies for no reason after six years.”

According to Threshold, much has still to be done to improve the private rented sector and protect tenancies in response to the constantly-changing circumstances posed by the pandemic and the housing crisis. That said, Threshold’s long-standing policy and advocacy work achieved real wins in 2020 in terms of both temporary measures, and setting the foundations for more long-term, positive reform of the sector and people’s experience of it.

Report highlights

  • In 2020, Threshold advisors assisted 18,707 households, across 20,728 cases
  • The organisation prevented 5,173 households from entering homelessness in 2020
  • Advisors worked on 20,728 cases in 2020, an increase of over 1,000 cases on 2019
  • Threshold launched a webchat service in August of 2020 and, by the end of 2020, its advisors had responded to 3,993 queries via webchat

Key issues

The three fundamental issues in 2020 on which Threshold’s advisors provided tailored advice and support were, in descending order: tenancy terminations; advice on leases; and standards and repairs.

Tenancy termination remained the number one issue facing tenants in Ireland’s private rented sector in 2020. It did, however, account for a lower proportion of cases than in the previous year, down from 35% in 2019 to 28% in 2020. This can be accounted for by the moratorium on rental evictions put in place in early 2020 in response to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Sale remained the primary reason for a landlord to end a tenancy in 2020, accounting for 27% of the notices of termination brought to Threshold last year. However, 47% of terminations brought to Threshold in 2020 were ultimately found to be invalid; this included invalid notices of termination, illegal evictions and threatened evictions.

Advice on leases

Advice on leases was the second most common query received by Threshold’s advisors in 2020, accounting for 9% of queries, the number doubling between 2019 and 2020. This was driven by the impact of Covid-19 restrictions. With tenants in the private rented sector disproportionally impacted by Covid-19-related job loss and third-level institutions closing, renters and students contacted Threshold as they sought to end their tenancies and return to live with family, where possible.