In Rathmines, a Landlord Looks to Evict Two Buildings of Tenants

Oyunbileg Tungalag says she didn’t know where to turn when she received an eviction notice in August.

The notice says that the landlord is selling her one-bedroom apartment at 96 Lower Rathmines Road where she lives with her son. The deadline to move out – given before the eviction freeze – was 10 February 2023.

“I didn’t know what I should do,” she says. “At first I complained to Dublin City council.”

Council staff advised her they couldn’t help but that she could go to Threshold, a housing advice charity, she says, and staff in Threshold tracked down details for her landlord.

There are more than 20 homes across the two buildings at 94 and 96 Rathmines Road Lower, according to an old sales listing for the property.

All of the households were issued eviction notices at around the same time, says Tungalag.

“I have lived here longer than I lived with my parents,” says Vasile Hauca, a tenant of 96 Rathmines Road Lower. It’s more than 20 years, he says. “It was a real shock, I was expecting a rent increase but not an eviction.”

Staff in Threshold told Tungalag that the “Tyrrelstown amendment” normally prevents a landlord from evicting 10 or more households at once.

But – as in this case – a landlord can claim an exemption from that rule if they argue that he or she can get 20 percent more for the homes if they are vacant, and in addition, that losing out on that money would be “unduly onerous on the landlord, or would cause undue hardship”.

When adjudicators for the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) had to rule on two separate cases in 2019 in which landlords had tried to avail of the exemption in the Tyrrelstown amendment – one in Dublin and the other in Galway – they ruled against the landlords.

A spokesperson for the RTB said it doesn’t know how many times the exemptions to the Tyrrelstown amendment have been claimed, as it only comes to its attention if a tenant challenges a notice.

But across the city in Kilmainham, more tenants living in Tathony House are engaged in a similar dispute with their landlord, having all been given notices that they would have to leave.

Hazelwood Walk Holdings Limited didn’t respond to queries sent by email to the agent or a phone call to the office of a connected company.

Hazelwood Walk

Hazelwood Walk Holdings Limited owns more than 70 apartments around the city, property records show. The bulk of those are in Santry in the Hazelwood accommodation complex.

The company bought 94 and 96 Lower Rathmines Road eight months ago in March, show company records and the Property Price Register, paying €3 million for the buildings.

Its most recent acquisitions were in September this year, when the company purchased homes at 26 Buckingham Street Lower, 5 to 8 Buckingham Street Lower and 102 Upper Dorset Street all in the north inner-city. It also bought 10 Richmond Hill in Rathmines.

In total, Hazelwood Walk Holdings Ltd paid around €8.6 million for those properties, according to figures on the Property Price Register.

Its most recent financial statements show that as of June 2019, the company owned €21.4 million of investment property, up from €13.9 million the previous year. More up-to-date details aren’t yet available.

Driven to Avoid Homelessness

Hauca says he is praying for a miracle.

Together with his neighbour Neil Thompson, and local organisers from People Before Profit, he plans to protest at the Dáil on Wednesday, he says.

Hauca says he thinks they should protest outside Dublin City Council too. “We are going to be the new homeless,” he says. “I hope I’m wrong but I don’t see too many opportunities.”

Rates of homelessness are rising and rents are only going up, says Huaca.

His rent is partly covered with the help of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), a rent subsidy. He can’t pay more than €1,000 for rent, he says, and is unlikely to find anywhere for less than that.

He expects he will end up living in a tent, he says. He has heard such bad stories about homeless hostels that he doesn’t think he could stay in one.

“It’s not only the landlord’s fault,” he says. “Business man wants to make a profit, the government needs to do something.”

Tungalag works for a food company in Dublin 1, she says. She pays €1,295 a month to rent her one-bedroom flat, she says, and she is also worried about finding anything else she can afford.

“I’m very worried because my son just turned 18 and went to college,” she says. “I am a single mother and it’s very hard to find a place.”

She has emailed loads of places since she got the notice but so far she hasn’t even got a viewing, she says.

Her neighbour, Thompson, also in 96 Rathmines Road Lower, says he was homeless for 10 months before he found his one-bedroom apartment in Rathmines Road.

“I was never homeless before that situation,” says Thompson, who works as a cleaner. “I’m very driven to avoid going back homeless.”

He has good references, he says, but there just aren’t enough homes to go around for everyone who needs one. Since receiving the notice in August, Thompson says he has emailed landlords and agents every day but has had only one viewing

Thanks to the eviction moratorium his notice now ends in April or May 2023, he says. “By the time the end comes, I have to be realistic. There is a very strong chance I won’t find something.”

He knows the company landlord has other properties and he had hoped they might offer him alternative accommodation elsewhere he says.

But they haven’t responded to his efforts to contact them, he says. “They are completely blanking me.”

He doesn’t accept that selling the homes with the tenants in them would cause the landlord hardship, he says, because the landlord is a corporation.

Unduly Onerous?

A spokesperson for the RTB says the Tyrrelstown Amendment, which restricts notices to quit when selling 10 or more homes, comes with caveats.

It doesn’t apply if the landlord can get 20 percent more for the property by selling it vacant, they said, and that selling for less would “be unduly onerous on the landlord, or would cause undue hardship on the landlord”.

The RTB did not respond directly to queries for clarification regarding the meaning of “unduly onerous” and “undue hardship”.

In January and again in June 2019, the RTB found in favour of the tenants in two separate apartment complexes where they had disputed their landlords’ reliance on the exemption.

One case concerned 13 homes in the Sraith Fhada apartment complex near Galway city. The landlord argued that she could get €2.6 million for the complex vacant or €1.9m if it were tenanted, according to a report in The Times.

The landlord’s submission to the RTB said that she was a 61-year-old woman with seven children, four of whom were in full-time education, and she had no pension and no other property, the report says.

The submission said she wanted to use the money to provide for her children and that getting €700,000 less from the sale would be “unduly onerous” for her.

The RTB found that while the landlord met the first test – that the property was 20 percent more valuable vacant – the board didn’t accept that complying with the Tyrrelstown amendment would be “unduly onerous”.

On Rathmines Road Lower, the three tenants say that they and other neighbours have filed cases with the RTB.

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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