Dr Padraic Kenna, School of Law
May 25 2016 Posted: 17:10 IST

NUI Galway researcher launches final report on home evictions in the 28 EU Member States, including Ireland, and calls for better legal protection for those at risk

  • Few EU Member States (including Ireland) monitor and record evictions in a systematic or holistic way - preventing an effective response
  • In Spain, Ireland and the UK, most evictions are from private rented housing
  • Limited reliable public data on legal evictions in half of EU Member States
  • Courts should be obliged to involve social support agencies in repossession cases
  • Significant absence of research, data or reports on illegal evictions from the informal or ‘black’ private rented housing market, particularly in relation to documented and undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers, Roma, Travellers, and some people with disabilities

NUI Galway today launched the results of an EU-wide study on home evictions across all tenures. The report shows that evictions arising from increased rents are often greater than mortgage evictions, even in Ireland. The report also highlighted the lack of human rights impact in eviction cases and calls for an EU-wide adoption of best practices, such as Poland’s ‘No evictions to nowhere’ policy.

The two-year research pilot, ‘Promoting protection of the right to housing - Homelessness prevention in the context of evictions’ was led by Dr Padraic Kenna, lecturer in the School of Law and Project Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway. It was a collaborative project with a number of European Universities and agencies, including FEANTSA – the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless.

Commenting on the Final Report, Dr Padraic Kenna said: “The findings of this research show the need to integrate accepted eviction-related housing rights standards into national and EU legal and policy norms. Creating a legal obligation on courts and other agencies, involved in possession proceedings, to promptly engage with housing and social support agencies would be a valuable first step in preventing homelessness.”

In 2008 the financial crisis had a major impact on housing systems across Europe, with dramatic increases in mortgage arrears, debt, rental costs and utility arrears. EU Member States responded in different ways, within both their financial and housing systems. This research covered the period after the crisis. The Final Report examines and analyses available data and trends on evictions, identifying risk factors, links with homelessness, and the availability and effectiveness of preventative interventions. National experts across the 28 EU States provided all available local data and information.

The Report found that constitutional, human rights and consumer law protection on the inviolability of and respect for home, is applied in a fragmentary and inconsistent manner, thus denying EU citizens equal access to their rights. An unknown number of evictions take place outside the judicially supervised process, affecting many people with deficits in the local language, support networks or resources, particularly those in the informal or ‘black’ rental market. There is a significant absence of research, data or reports on illegal evictions from the informal or black rental market, particularly in relation to documented and undocumented migrants, asylum-seekers, Roma, Travellers, some people with disabilities, and others.

Contrary to popular assumptions, in Spain, Ireland and the UK, most evictions are from private rented housing rather than mortgaged properties. EU data showed that the highest housing cost overburden in 2013 among poor households occurred in Greece (91%), while some 50% or more of poor households had utility arrears in Bulgaria and Croatia, with over 60% in Greece and Hungary, a significant eviction risk factor. The most comprehensive analysis of eviction risk factors is found in Denmark, with studies on risk of eviction among one million households in private and public rented housing.

This and other research shows that evicted households initially seek help and support from family and friends. Up to one quarter may eventually rely on homeless services, which are only widely available in north and western European countries and cities. The critical issue is preventing those evicted from becoming homeless. The Final Report suggests that access to rapid rehousing schemes, protected minimum incomes and the possibility of “fresh start” options are key factors. Debt advice and legal assistance are most effective measures in preventing rental evictions. In terms of effective preventative interventions, the report highlights adequate supply of affordable housing, legal advice and debt restructuring as significant.

The Final Report sets out eighteen recommendations for Member States and the EU, ranging from protection and promotion of housing rights, improved housing policies, responsible lending and areas requiring further research. To read the full report visit: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=7892&type=2&furtherPubs=yes

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