Publication in pdf format - Threshold

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Publication in pdf format - Threshold

THRESHOLDWHAT WE DOthreshold is a national not-for-profit organisation established in 1978.our mission is to solve people’s housing problems and to campaign fora better housing system. We focus on those who are in greatest needof our support - the marginalised and those suffering from poverty andinequality.Over the past 29 years, Threshold has helped many thousands of people move from inadequatehousing and homelessness to become successful members of sustainable communities. Weinfluence housing policy in Ireland and provide an independent voice on housing issues. Wecontributed significantly to the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which providesincreased protections for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector.Threshold provides independent advice and advocacy services through our advice centres inDublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick and via outreach clinics in outlying areas. Through theseservices, Threshold offers support to people experiencing housing problems. We help peoplewho are homeless, as well as those who are living in private rented accommodation and socialhousing. Homeowners and landlords who are experiencing problems are also welcome to consultThreshold’s advice centres for information.We offer unique accommodation placement services to homeless people seeking housing in theprivate rented sector. Threshold’s Access Housing Unit in Dublin, sponsored by the HomelessAgency, and our regional placement services based in Galway, Cork and Limerick help people tomove out of homeless hostels and shelters by linking landlords with suitable homeless tenants. Wealso provide follow-up support to ensure that tenants are managing in their new home. We plan toexpand these services to other local authority areas around the country.Threshold also creates new housing models, particularly the Gilabbey Court Housing Project inCork city. Established in 1985, this project helps couples and families with limited financial meansto save towards buying a new home.Threshold’s advice centres run education programmes in secondary schools and third-levelcolleges, with an emphasis on students in disadvantaged areas. We offer information and trainingto community groups, while at the same time informing landlords and other housing providers onthe provisions of housing legislation.By campaigning for appropriate housing as a right, Threshold promotes the vision that everyonein Ireland has access to an affordable, secure and suitable home. We campaign for policies thatdevelop vibrant neighbourhoods and sustainable communities that promote an inclusive society.In carrying out research through our Housing Research Unit, and presenting our findings atlocal and national levels, Threshold makes the case for housing reform. Our report ‘OpportunityKnocks: Institutional Investment in the Private Rented Sector in Ireland’, supported by the IrishBanking Federation, looked at ways of encouraging Irish financial institutions to directly invest inthe private rented property market, especially at the end of the market providing for householdson modest or low incomes. Reports under completion in 2007 included an investigation ofhow RAS could meet the needs of one parent families, examining the availability of affordableaccommodation for single person households, and the housing difficulties faced by migrantcommunities in Dublin.Threshold is engaged in a joint lobbying campaign to end homelessness in Ireland, called theMakeRoom campaign, with Focus Ireland, the Simon Communities of Ireland and the Societyof St. Vincent de Paul. We also participate in Homeless Fora and the Community Platform,sit on the Private Residential Tenancies Board and work in close co-operation with CitizensInformation Services. We also work with FÁS and employ people on Community Employment andJob Initiative schemes. We are members of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), whichcampaigns at European level to end poverty and social exclusion.


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststtenants to reoccupy their homes, regain their belongings, and to secure remedy throughthe PRTB.In some cases, letting agents have either directly carried out or assisted in illegallyevicting tenants. Letting agents are professionals and are expected to act within thelaw. Landlords should be aware that they are legally liable for the wrongful acts of theiragents.While the focus of this report is on illegal evictions, Threshold helped over 22,000clients with many other housing problems in 2007. Our Limerick advice centre madeprogress on some of the most difficult housing problems in the country includingsubstandard accommodation. Our Galway advice centre developed its housing advocacyservice for older people who are especially vulnerable in rented housing. Our Cork officeoperated its busy placement service, helping people on rent supplement who face seriousdifficulties in finding a quality, affordable place to live.In Dublin, Threshold adapted its services to help people from all over the world whoare living and renting in Ireland. We also developed our constructive relationship withDublin City Council in tackling substandard housing in the city. Our Access Housing Unitin Dublin was busier than ever in 2007 as we accepted referrals directly from peoplewho were homeless or threatened with homelessness. We prioritised the provision ofnewly-refurbished accommodation for these clients through the Rental AccommodationScheme.I would like to thank Threshold’s Board of Directors and staff for their commitmentand dedication over the last year. I would also like to thank all Threshold’s funders largeand small. Without such generous support and belief in our work it would not have beenpossible for us to have helped the 22,291 clients who needed our services in 2007.BoB joRDANDirector6


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stCLIENTS By CoUNTRy/REGIoNoF BIRTH67%3%7%IrelandRest of worldEU26AfricaAsia20%3%ststchallenging the amount of a management company service charge a landlord haspassed onto a tenant.The 2006 census showed that 80% of non-Irish nationals live in private rentedaccommodation. This is reflected in Threshold’s work. 26% of our clients did not haveEnglish as their first language. 33% were born outside Ireland.Threshold has adapted its services to help tenants from outside Ireland. They havelittle experience of renting in Ireland and are often on tight budgets. We translated ourpopular, free ‘Guide to Renting’ into 12 languages - Arabic, Czech, French, Lithuanian,Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Slovak.IrelandAn animated version of the guide is available on the Threshold website www.threshold.ie. During 2007, Rest we of world helped tenants from 120 countries, but we received most queriesfrom people from Poland, the UK, Nigeria, Spain and France.EU26The Office of the Africa Minister for Integration provided funding to employ an outreachworker to assist EU10 nationals.6005004003002001000573AsiaNUMBER oF qUERIES FRoM NoN-IRISH NATIoNALS367345133 127PolandUKNigeriaSpainFrance8


1778 17101603obeabdbc abbcbcfMain ProBLeMs affeCtinGtHresHoLd’s CLientsrsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7MAIN PRoBLEMS AFFECTING THRESHoLD’S CLIENTS2000150010005000114267756047514135Invalid noticeHelp with finding housingDeposit retentionStandardsRent issuesService chargesLandlord breachIllegal evictionsTaxTaxIllegLanSerRenStaThe main advice problems affecting Threshold’s clients areoutlined in the chart. In addition to the clients with the moreserious problems recorded above, we dealt with 14,170 advice andinformation queries from tenants, landlords and third parties (forexample, Citizens Information Centres) related to issues includingdeposit retention, lease queries, giving and receiving notice oftermination, landlord registration, inter-tenant disputes, tax reliefand license agreements.pDepHelInvaThe question of the validity of notices of termination was the biggest single issue raisedby tenants with Threshold in 2007. This has replaced deposit retention as the mainproblem faced by Threshold’s clients. Since the introduction of the Residential TenanciesAct, we have observed a 170% increase in the number of queries related to notice. Theyincreased from 658 in 2004 to 1,778 in 2007.In 533 cases (30% of the 1,778 invalid notice queries), the tenants faced the threat ofillegal eviction. For example, the landlord demands that the tenant leaves the propertyimmediately or threatens to change the locks. There were a further 141 completedillegal evictions.What issues led to these threatened or followed through illegal evictions? Accordingto a sample of 70 Threshold cases, in 48% of completed illegal evictions, there was abreakdown in the personal relationship between the landlord and tenant. In these cases,there was no breach on the tenant’s part of their obligations under law. Instead, thetenant made a request of the landlord, for example that a repair be done or asked forthe landlord’s PPSN. The landlord responded by illegally evicting the tenant.Rent arrears featured in over a quarter of cases (27%). The periods of time in thesecases where rent was owing range from one day to six months. In only one case did thelandlord issue the 14-day notice of arrears and a valid notice of termination.9


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststOther cases of illegal eviction (10%) involved alleged anti-social behaviour by thetenant, for example a house party or an allegation of drug-dealing. We also dealt withcases where the landlords sought to immediately recover the property for ease of sale;to refurbish or to re-let. In a small number of cases, a tenant was involved in running acommercial enterprise from their home.In cases where the invalid notice was not followed up with a threat of illegal eviction,the notices were invalid for reasons including, the landlord did not give the requiredperiod of notice; it was not served in writing or the notice did not specify grounds oftermination.The Residential Tenancies Act gives tenants greater security of tenure and also laysdown specific requirements for a notice of termination. This legal framework givesThreshold the opportunity to intervene on a tenant’s behalf.There is an underlying lack of knowledge amongst landlords, agents and their legalrepresentatives of the rights afforded to tenants under law and the tenant’s security oftenure. Their tenancy cannot summarily be ended and they cannot be thrown out.For example, we ensure that tenants can avail of the greater security of tenure availableto them where there is a fixed-term lease in place.Threshold seeks to prevent tenants from losing their home by intervening with landlordswhen an invalid notice is issued. We do this by informing the tenant of their rights andalerting the landlord to the invalid nature of the notice served. We seek to negotiatewith the landlord and if this fails, we take a case to the PRTB.Since Threshold was established in 1978, unjustified deposit retention has been adominant issue for our clients. This is also the experience of the PRTB. The number ofdeposit cases dealt with by Threshold in 2006 was 1,977 and in 2007, 1,603. Thresholdbelieves that many of these disputes would be avoided if deposits were held, not by thelandlord, but by an independent deposit scheme.Ensuring that accommodation meets minimum standards or that repairs are done areproblems faced by 1,142 Threshold clients. Threshold contacted local authorities onbehalf of tenants to ensure that these works were carried out.Rent issues, including rent increases and rent arrears, are at the centre of manydisputes between landlord and tenant. Over 40% of Threshold’s clients depend on asocial welfare income. Many others work in low paid jobs and struggle to pay their rentif they lose overtime hours or one of the wage-earners becomes unemployed.The pressure on these tenants increased during 2007. Rents in many parts of Irelandincreased in 2007, for example rents in most areas of Dublin increased by between 8%and 12%. By the end of 2007, rents softened somewhat overall but rents remained high10


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7for single-person accommodation.We help tenants negotiate with landlords around the repayment of arrears or to makean application for rent supplement where their circumstances have changed. We alsodispute increases in rent above market rent. We intervened in 677 rent-related disputes.rsIn 560 cases, tenants approached Threshold for help with service charges associatedwith their rented home. Service charges are payments the tenant must pay in additionto rent, for example waste charges, parking fees and management fees. Our workinvolves contacting management companies and agents who impose additional chargeson tenants to seek clarity on the charges. We also negotiate with utility providers, likethe ESB, to have supply restored to a newly-rented dwelling.pThreshold helped 475 tenants whose peaceful and exclusive possession of their homehas been eroded by the unlawful actions of their landlord. This includes the landlordcalling unannounced or entering the property without permission.Our advice workers helped tenants with the tax issues arising out of their rented home.This includes rent relief and stamp duty payable on leases. We also advocated withRevenue on behalf of tenants who have been burdened with the tax liability of theiroverseas landlord.These are some, but not all, of the range of problems which Threshold offers free andconfidential advice to tenants. Threshold’s advice workers highlight the rights andobligations of landlords and tenants at every stage.11


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7st35302520151050RELATIvE AND ABSoLUTE PovERTy ByTENURE (oWNER vERSUS RENTED oRRENT FREE)16%Rented or Rent FreeOwner34.8%Relative Poverty3.7%stststoeabcdeabbcftHe Most VULneraBLeoeabcdePeoPLe in irisH soCietYabbcfin tHe rented seCtorPoSITIvE DEvELoPMENTS FoR PEoPLEstLiVe LIvING IN THE PRIvATE RENTED SECToR20.7%Absolute PovertyAccording to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB),340,000 tenants live in over 202,000 tenancies in the privaterented sector. Tenants are vulnerable because they are morelikely to be poor. They are also vulnerable because tenants havehistorically been overlooked in public policy.A disproportionate number of tenants are poor. According to 2006 Central StatisticsOffice figures, over a third (34%) have incomes below the poverty line used by theEuropean Union, and a fifth (20%) live in consistent poverty.During 2007, over 63,000 households relied on rent supplement to help with their rent.At the end of the year, 11,000 households had moved into accommodation providedunder the Rental Accommodation Scheme. Through RAS, these tenants obtained betterquality accommodation and were able to take up employment.According to daft.ie, rents increased by 12% in the period June 2006 to June 2007.Rents continued to increase through the rest of the year in urban areas. The daft.iesurveys report that towards the end of 2007 rents increased 11.2% in Limerick and8.7% in Dublin. This rise in rents took place against a background of rent caps for rentsupplement having been set in January 2007 and not changed during that year.Single-person households on low incomes face the largest affordability gap. Forexample, Rented a bed-sit or Rent Freeor studio unit in Dublin 1 typically costs €600 per month. This isout of reach of single people who rely on rent supplement as they have a maximumentitlement to rent at €560 a month.This affordability gap means that people feel they have no choice but to acceptsubstandard accommodation. We urge local authorities to step up their enforcementactivities and to ensure that improvement works are carried out on substandardhousing.A number of positive developments took place in 2007 to benefit people living in theprivate rented sector:■OwnerProgress was made in rolling out the Rental Accommodation Scheme, providingbetter quality accommodation to families and eliminating disincentives for people totake up employment;■A high number of tenancies registered at the PRTB, increasing from 133,000in 2006 to 202,000 in 2007, largely the result of tying tax relief to PRTBregistration;12


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7■Ongoing PRTB dispute resolution work, providing tenants with remedies if theirrental deposit is retained unfairly or if they are illegally evicted;rs■Commitment by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and LocalGovernment (DEHLG) to introduce new minimum standards regulations for theprivate rented sector and to encourage better enforcement by local authorities;p■Initiatives of DEHLG, Dublin City Council and the Law Reform Commission tofoster sustainable apartment living.Tenants are more likely to be poor but they are also more vulnerable because they areoften overlooked by policy makers. Threshold’s advocacy and campaigning work in2007 highlighted a number of areas where the private rented sector is overlooked orneglected. They range from the simple recording of the size of the private rented sectorto how tenants are disadvantaged by how the tax code operates.THRESHoLD WELCoMES WoRk oN HIGHERMINIMUM STANDARDSAt the launch of our 2005 Annual Report, the then Minister for Housing, Noel Ahern,TD, launched the Action Programme on Private Rented Standards – charged withdevising a new set of minimum standards for rented accommodation.This is an issue long-highlighted by Threshold. Despite the important reforms broughtin by the Residential Tenancies Act in 2004, this piece of legislation did not address theproblem of substandard accommodation.After each and every media exposé of substandard accommodation, the general publicis shocked at the extremely poor quality accommodation many people live in. They arealso shocked at what passes as compliant with minimum standards under the 1993Regulations. Threshold is very grateful to many of its clients who have invited the mediain their homes to publicise this pressing policy issue.Threshold has made submissions to Government on what the new standards shouldcontain. First, the new standards should be easy to enforce. They should be sufficientlyspecific to allow local authorities prove that the dwelling concerned falls belowminimum standards. This includes a specific definition of what is an “acceptablestandard of repair.”Second, the new standards need to raise the bar as to what is acceptable in Irelandtoday. Threshold believes that the new standards should spell the end of the bed-sit asan acceptable form of housing in modern Ireland. A bed-sit is a single room, comprisingof both cooking facilities and bed, where the tenant often shares bathroom facilitieswith others. For many of our clients, the bed-sit is their long-term home. We believe thatsuch accommodation should be self-contained and have a separate cooking area fromthe bedroom.13


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststThreshold hopes that the revised minimum standards will be progressed by Governmentat the earliest opportunity.THRESHoLD REPEATS CALL FoR A RENTALDEPoSITS BoARDDuring 2007, Threshold reiterated its call for a rental deposits board, established underthe auspices of the Private Residential Tenancies Board, to hold rental deposits.Threshold proposes that all rental deposits be held by the rental deposits board and thatit would resolve disputes between landlords and tenants over the deposit. Landlordscould call on the deposit if the tenant has breached his or her obligations but alsotenants would have access to an independent and quick means to claim the return oftheir deposit.Threshold intervened on behalf of 1,603 tenants who asked for help in getting theirdeposits back. 60% of complaints lodged by tenants to the PRTB related to depositretention cases. We believe that a rental deposits board will prevent such casesfrom going to the PRTB, thereby lifting a significant burden from the PRTB disputeresolution service.Threshold believes that there is a pressing need for a pilot deposit holding scheme asimplemented in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.RENTAL ACCoMMoDATIoN SCHEMEThe Rental Accommodation Scheme is an innovative way of providing longer-term‘social’ housing through the private rented sector. Applicants who are in receipt of rentsupplement for 18 months or more and who have a long-term housing need can avail ofRAS. It is also open for people who are homeless. Some 28,000 households are eligiblefor RAS, of which some 11,000 have been transferred into RAS accommodation todate.Threshold is supportive of RAS for a number of reasons. Threshold’s clients havebenefited from RAS by being able to get access to a higher standard of accommodationas well as pay a means-tested rent. People can take up employment and still receivehelp with their rent. This benefit arises even before someone has moved into RASaccommodation and arises when they are assessed as RAS-eligible.The Rental Accommodation Scheme has helped single-person households to move intobetter quality accommodation. This section of society has traditionally been overlookedin the provision of social housing and now RAS offers them an alternative to the bed-sit.Threshold is also assisting with the roll-out of the RAS scheme. The Director ofThreshold sits on the National Advisory Group for RAS, chaired by the Department14


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He has provided training to localauthority officials and Community Welfare Officers involved in delivering the scheme.rsThreshold has worked with local authorities in developing housing management andtenancy sustainment services for RAS projects. This allows Threshold to help peoplewho were recently homeless to live in good quality housing. Once their housing needs areaddressed, people can return to education, participate in training programmes or secureemployment. We also work closely with the private landlords and with local authorityhousing departments in making these projects a reality. In 2006, we launched our 23-unit collaborative project on North Circular Road, Dublin and we will shortly open newprojects elsewhere in Ireland.pREFoRM oF RENT SUPPLEMENT BADLyNEEDEDIn 2007, Threshold campaigned for reform of the rent supplement scheme. Rentsupplement is a significant Government expenditure. The allocation per year is some€392 million. Despite progress in the roll-out of the Rental Accommodation Scheme,rent supplement remains an important support for people on low incomes. Thresholdbelieves that rent supplement needs to be reformed to increase access to quality,affordable accommodation for vulnerable people.Threshold has consistently called for rent supplement to be paid in advance and notin arrears. The way the rented sector works means that landlords expect to receivea deposit and first month’s rent in advance. A landlord is unlikely to choose a rentsupplement tenant because they may have to wait for up to six weeks before receivingany money. “Rent supplement not accepted” is a phrase which is much too commonin letting advertisements on websites and in newspapers. Paying rent supplement inadvance would significantly improve tenants’ access to accommodation and provideGovernment with an opportunity to outlaw the practice of refusing rent supplement.Rent supplement caps should be reviewed more frequently to keep them in line withmarket rents. Rent caps for single people in particular are too low, for example, just€130 a week in Dublin for self-contained accommodation. Often tenants are forcedto pay top-ups in addition to their rent supplement in order to access private rentedaccommodation. This illegal practice by landlords impoverishes rent supplement tenantsand places them at increased risk of homelessness. Threshold calls on the Departmentof Social and Family Affairs to raise rent caps to reflect the real cost of renting.Given that the Rental Accommodation Scheme has been tasked with providing for thelong-term needs of poor households, the time is right to reform rent supplement as ashort-term housing support. This support should also be available to people who are“working poor”, i.e. those who are on low incomes and struggle to make the monthlyrent.15


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststTENANTS HELD LIABLE FoR THE TAxLIABILITy oF THEIR LANDLoRDS – THEUNFAIREST TAx IN IRELANDThreshold campaigned in 2007 for reform of a provision in the Taxes Consolidation Actwhich requires tenants to account for the tax liability of landlords who reside outsideIreland. Where tenants do not do so, they are held liable for their landlord’s tax liabilityand the tenants must pay it. This applies even if the tenants are not aware of thisobligation or their landlord’s residency status.Threshold has labelled this the unfairest tax in Irish revenue law. In his 1998 AnnualReport, the then Ombudsman, Kevin Murphy made the case for change by asking “isit reasonable to expect a residential tenant, who may be elderly or may have littleexperience of tax affairs, to be either aware of, or have the capacity to manage, thistype of requirement?” Threshold says that this tax provision is as inequitable in 2007 asit was in 1998.Threshold is campaigning for changes to the Taxes Consolidation Act to relieveresidential tenants from having to account for the tax liability of overseas landlords.This burden is more equitably placed on the banks who receive the rental payments oron letting agents who manage the properties. The Revenue Commissioners have reactedwith ingenuity when faced with the issue of income accruing on properties owned byIrish taxpayers overseas. Threshold asks that Revenue adopts similar ingenuity to thesituation of rental income from Irish properties where the landlords are registered asresiding overseas.Threshold thanks Caragh Cunniffe, BL and Danielle Cunniffe, BL for their expertassistance in devising the amendment to the Taxes Consolidation Act which wesubmitted as part of deliberations for the Finance Bill, 2008.CREDIT CRUNCH HITS TENANTS TooThreshold has called for tenants to be protected when their landlord is threatened bya financial institution with repossession. We have heard a lot about banks and buildingsocieties seeking repossession of properties held under mortgage, but we often do nothear that there are tenants living in these properties.Despite the tenants observing all their legal obligations, for example paying their rent,these tenants have no security of tenure if a bank or building society obtains a Courtorder for possession and sale. They are instead reliant on the good will of the judge.Threshold has called for an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act to give tenantswhose landlord is subject to a Court order the same security of tenure they would beentitled to under the Act. This matches the legislative provisions of other common lawjurisdictions, for example in New Zealand.16


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7PRIvATE RENTED SECToR Too LARGE To BECoNSIDERED AN ‘oTHER’Threshold believes that the 2006 Census failed to capture the number of tenants livingin the private rented sector. We attribute this to the confusing nature of the housingoccupancy question in the census.rspResearchers and Government analysts are divided about how large the private rentedsector is. Government must have an accurate idea of how many tenants and tenanciesthere are in Ireland in order to plan policy and to allocate resources.The 2006 Census suggested that there were some 150,000 private rented tenancies oncensus day. Many housing researchers believe that this is an underestimate, especiallygiven that over 202,000 tenancies were registered with the Private ResidentialTenancies Board during 2007.Threshold believes that the private rented sector is too large to be relegated to an‘Other’ category in the census questionnaire or in the household budget survey. It isinevitably confusing for respondents to have to rule themselves out of all categorieslisted in a questionnaire to conclude that they are in the ‘Other’ category. It should alsobe noted that a large number of people in the private rented sector do not have Englishas a first language. It is important that the census questionnaire be as easy as possiblefor all respondents to negotiate.17


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7ststst“THE DAy oF oUR ILLEGAL EvICTIoN WAS My CHILDREN’S LAST DAyIN THEIR SCHooL”These are the words of Mrs Jackson at a Tenancy Tribunal held by the PRTB followingher family’s illegal eviction from their home. They were illegally evicted on a Monday– a schoolday – when the landlord and 3 friends occupied the house. After hours of astand-off, tenants were forced to leave and had to wait until their children came homefrom school.As this took place in a rural area in Munster, homeless services asked the family todrive across the county to the closest city. Owing to the distance and because the familywere homeless, those children never returned to that school and never had the chance toexplain why to their friends and teachers.This family was homeless for a month and stayed in emergency accommodation. Theycontacted Threshold to get their deposit back but we took a case to the PRTB for illegaleviction.The PRTB’s Tribunal listened to Mrs Jackson’s testimony about the force andintimidation used by the landlord to get her and her family out of the house. The factthat this was the children’s last day at their school sent a powerful message.Threshold in Limerick represented the tenants at the PRTB Tribunal where a solicitorrepresented the landlord. We prepared the case and led the tenants through the eventsof the day. We cross-examined the landlord to ask why he had illegally evicted thetenants.18We won the case at the PRTB. The Jacksons found alternative accommodation inanother village in the same county and now enjoy their new home.


abbbbcbc oeabcdetHresHoLd’s adViCeand adVoCaCY WorKrsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7Increased demand has been placed on Threshold’s limitedresources over the past four years as both landlords and tenantshave been using our advice services to find out about their legalrights and obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.Threshold’s advice workers are spending longer periods of time with clients to explaintheir rights, to inform them of their responsibilities, and to give them advice on the bestcourse of action to take to resolve their problems.pThreshold’s advocacy workers are involved in negotiating with landlords, agents andothers on behalf of tenants with a view to solving disputes at the first opportunity. Ouraim is to ensure that only the most serious cases go to the dispute resolution servicedelivered by the Private Residential Tenancies Board.THRESHoLD’S ADvoCACy WoRk4%9%26%61%THRESHoLD’S ADvoCACy WoRk WITHLANDLoRDS AND AGENTSIn 2007, Threshold developed its advocacy services in each of our four advice centres.Most of our advocacy work is directed at landlords, agents or solicitors. We contacta landlord or their representative,informing them of their tenant’s rights and theirobligations, and we negotiate a settlement. The most common advocacy problems in2007 were related to landlords failing to return deposits or giving invalid notice totenants when terminating the tenancy.LandlordLetting agentLandlord's solicitorPRTBFor example, a landlord is only entitled to withhold some or all of the deposit if thePRTBtenant is in rent arrears or if there is damage to the property above normal wear andLandlord's solicitortear. In a typical case, Threshold advises the tenant how much of the deposit they areentitled to get back. Letting We agent ask them to gather evidence that the property was left in goodcondition or that all rent payments have been made. Then we contact the landlordLandlordasking him or her to justify the decision to retain the deposit and to supply evidence ofdamage or rent arrears.During 2007, we successfully resolved the vast majority of cases by directly contactingthe landlord or their representatives. In only 4% of cases brought to us by clients didwe avail of the dispute resolution service of the PRTB. This shows that our evidencebasedapproach is an effective intervention that leads to the early resolution of disputes.Threshold deals with a high volume of referrals from third parties including localauthority staff, CWOs and other voluntary organisations. Citizens Information Centrescomprised the vast majority of the 2,698 third party referrals to Threshold in 2007.This is a recognition of Threshold’s expertise in the area of housing.19


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststTHRESHoLD’S ADvoCACy WoRk AT THE PRTBThreshold’s skilled and experienced staff provide a free representation service fortenants at the PRTB. Representation is necessary because many of our clients arevulnerable but also because of the legal issues arising in every case. Many tenants whoare not represented are surprised that hearings turn on the interpretation of one sectionor other of the Residential Tenancies Act. Representation is also required because, moreoften than not, a landlord will be legally represented by a barrister or solicitor.In 2007, Threshold represented tenants at some 60 cases before the Private ResidentialTenancies Board. This is a marked increase on the previous year. We ask tenants tosign an Agreement of Service, which requires the tenant to be forthcoming with allinformation. Threshold has also prepared a PRTB handbook for internal use, so that wefocus our resources on the most vulnerable clients.27 out of 60 PRTB cases in 2007 related to illegal evictions. These are cases where thetenants were forcibly removed from the dwelling, for example, by either being physicallydriven out of their home or by the locks being changed. Threshold established an IllegalEviction Unit in 2007 with the primary role of preventing evictions.Threshold has devoted substantial resources to develop its advocacy service at thePRTB. It appointed a Legal Officer – a barrister – to coordinate this work and tocirculate legal opinions of any issues arising. Threshold has also devised regularadvocacy training sessions to help our staff better represent tenants at hearings.We have also established a review programme where members of staff exchangeinformation and feedback on their case work.Threshold is grateful for the input of Tricia Sheehy Skeffington, BL in devising advocacytraining and for her general support role to Threshold’s advocacy service.Threshold is also grateful to the Bar Council Voluntary Assistance Scheme for itsassistance. We would like to thank Jeanne McDonagh, Aoife Carroll, BL, AnthonyMcBride, BL and Niamh McGowan, BL.20


sprst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7FAMILy oF FIvE CHILDREN ILLEGALLy EvICTED AND HoMELESSThreshold brought a case to the PRTB against a landlord for an illegal evictionof Francesca, a lone parent, and her five children, four of whom are under age six.The tenants contacted the Dublin office, having been referred by a local publicrepresentative.Francesca had a good relationship with their landlord during the 3 years of her tenancy.She is a lone parent and was in receipt of rent supplement. She had very poor Englishand her eldest daughter, Maria, aged 18, managed the family’s affairs.Francesca had paid her portion of the rent up until the day of the eviction. The HSE hadsuspended their portion of the rent because they believed that the tenant was no longereligible. Francesca had appealed this decision to the HSE Appeals Office.The landlord did not wait for the appeal to be decided. When the tenants were out ofthe house, he changed the locks. Francesca and the children returned but were refusedentry. An angry stand-off developed and the police were called. The Gardaí would notget involved and left.The landlord and the friends accompanying him began throwing the tenant’s belongingsout of the upstairs windows. Some items smashed on the grounds. The tenants pleadedfor this to stop and to be let back in, even for only one night.Francesca and her family never got back into their home. Homeless services were ableto help them that Saturday evening and they stayed in homeless accommodation forthree weeks.Threshold represented the family at the hearing where a barrister represented thelandlord. We negotiated a settlement for the tenant and the return of their remainingpossessions. They were delivered by van to the tenant’s new address some weeks later.21


srst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7form of accommodation in modern Ireland and call for its phasing out.rsRENTING IN DUBLIN AT A GLANCEDuring 2007, Threshold in Dublin established a specialised advocacy section to further15060130486268806574107530assist tenants. This reflects the greater complexity of our work, in particular in the lightof dispute resolution at the PRTB. This has allowed Threshold to pursue cases wheretenants have been made homeless as a result of an illegal eviction. Our advocacy teamcan respond rapidly to a threatened illegal eviction and to seek relief for our clients atthe PRTB.pDublin 1Dublin 6Dublin 8Dublin 4Dublin 7Dublin 15oTHER DEvELoPMENTSESB Electric Aid Funding for new reception areaThreshold wishes to acknowledge the support of ESB Electric Aid Ireland which kindlycontributed towards the cost of refurbishing our reception and client consultation areain the Threshold Dublin office in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7.Our refurbished reception area offers a more welcoming and professional greeting toclients and the doubling of our consultation rooms to four allows us see more clients.Over 2007, we were able to see 46% more clients in the Stoneybatter offices.RENTING IN THE EASTERN REGIoN522079505060KildareWicklow17304143182818224080242027483671out-of-hours serviceThreshold in Dublin continues to operate an evening service from 5.30pm to 7.30pmevery Thursday. This makes our service more accessible to clients who may wish tocontact us after traditional work hours.CASE STUDIES FRoM THRESHoLD’S WoRk IN DUBLIN AND THEEASTERN REGIoNIllegal eviction is not a solution for landlordsThe landlord wanted vacant possession of the house Miriam, Leandro and Ralph sharedin Dublin 7. Instead of waiting until the end of their lease or serving valid notice oftermination, the landlord threw the tenants out of their home one Friday evening.KildareThreshold obtained an emergency Tribunal hearing at the PRTB where they were able toshow what the Wicklow landlord did was wrong.WexfordWestmeathMeathLouthCarlowWexfordWorking with Dublin City Council to tackle substandard housingWestmeathOlive took a case to the Private Residential Tenancies Board for the failure of theMeathlandlord to maintain her Dublin 6 flat to minimum standards. Following an inspectionLouthby a Dublin City Council Environmental Health Officer, the landlord carried out therequired improvement Carlow works to the flat.KilkennyKilkennyLongfordLongfordOffalyOffalyLaoisLaois23


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststTHRESHoLD TACkLES SLUM ACCoMMoDATIoN AT THE PRTBThreshold took a case to the PRTB on behalf of Tom, who is a single man living in aflat in a large, sub-divided house. Tom was put in touch with Threshold through his localCitizens Information Centre in Cork.Tom had complained to his landlord about problems in his flat and in the buildinggenerally. The damp was so bad in his bedroom, he could not sleep there anymore. Theshared washing machine had been broken for weeks and he could not wash his clothes.Tom was also concerned at the safety of the wiring in the building.The landlord’s agent refused to carry out any repairs. Instead, the agent told Tom thathis rent was going up by €50 a week and that he would have to leave. Tom was veryconcerned and sought help.Threshold prepared Tom’s case for PRTB and represented him at the hearing. Tomsubmitted photographs of the poor state of the accommodation and the PRTB awardeddamages for this. The PRTB held that the purported rent increase was invalid and thatTom could stay there. The PRTB also asked that the Fire Officer and EnvironmentalHealth Officer inspect the dwelling.24


oeabcde abbcbcCorK and tHesoUtHern reGionrsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 734414469There are over 25,700 tenancies in Cork and an additional 29,000tenancies across the rest of Munster. Aside from the large rentedsectors in Cork and Limerick, there are also significant rentedsectors in kerry and Waterford.rsRENTING IN MUNSTER AT A GLANCE25720992054855630THRESHoLD’S SERvICES IN CoRk AND THE SoUTHERN REGIoNDuring 2007, Threshold in Cork dealt with 5,296 housing queries from tenants,including 1,283 information queries, 2,746 advice queries and 1,267 advocacy queries.CorkLimerickKerryWaterfordThreshold in Cork works from its premises at South Mall as well as from an outreachclinic in Tralee. We also provide training on the Residential Tenancies Act to staffand volunteers of Citizens Information Centres in Cork city and county as well asin Waterford city and county. In cooperation with the Union of Students in Ireland,Threshold provides training to students union officers on renting and addresses thepitfalls students face.pTipperaryClareThreshold plays an active role in policy fora in Cork. We attend the Cork HomelessForum, Cork City’s Housing and Community Services SPC and the Social HousingForum.Threshold’s advocacy service represented tenants at PRTB hearings in Cork and Kerryduring 2007. Much of our work in the future will involve taking cases to the PRTB onbehalf of clients.MAIN PRoBLEMS AFFECTING CLIENTSIN CoRk AND THE SoUTHERN REGIoN8%MAIN PRoBLEMS AFFECTING CLIENTS IN CoRk AND THE SoUTHERNREGIoNThreshold in Cork helped tenants on the wide variety of issues they face in their rentedhomes.30%19%17%12%14%The biggest issue faced by Threshold’s clients in Cork was finding accommodation. 30%of our clients needed help in finding a place to live. This is a problem particularly facedby tenants who receive rent supplement to help with their rent. Our statistics for 2007show 48% of our clients whose income was a social welfare payment approached usbecause they needed to use our placement service.PlacementDeposit retentionNoticeStandards and repairsRent disputesLandlord breachThreshold’s accommodation and placement service provides comprehensive help topeople looking for housing. When we first meet a client, we prepare a Personal HousingPlan, tailored to their needs. Many of this group are vulnerable and benefit from thisspecialised housing advocacy service.We help the tenant by assisting them to apply for social housing or to complete a rentsupplement application form. If an invalid or non-effective notice is served, we help thetenant to challenge this. Threshold keeps a list of landlords who accept rent supplementand we refer clients to this list.25


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststWhy is there such demand on Cork’s placement service? In 2004, Threshold preparedan important piece of research called “Seeking a home on rent supplement”. Thisidentified three difficulties encountered by recipients of rent supplement:■■■Only 30% of advertised flats were within reach of single-person householdsreceiving rent supplement. Those not available were not available because the rentadvertised was above the rent cap or the advertisement explicitly excluded rentsupplement applicants;Almost a quarter of respondents had to make 10 or more enquiries to findaccommodation;21% of respondents paid illegal top-ups to landlords, above and beyond thepersonal contribution required of them.Our 2007 statistics shows that these trends continue today. People who rely on socialwelfare were much more likely to need Threshold’s assistance in finding a home.We deal with a great many deposit retention complaints. Many tenants are at a realrisk of homelessness when their deposits are withheld without justification. They simplycannot come up with the money for a deposit for their new accommodation. Thresholdassists a great many newcomers to Ireland in getting their deposits back. They havelittle experience of renting in Ireland.Greater numbers of tenants contacted Threshold in 2007 with queries regarding rentincreases. Clients ask for our assistance when faced with substantial increases in rent ormore than one increase within a 12-month period.GILABBEy CoURT UPDATEGilabbey Court is a scheme of seven townhouses in Cork city centre which offerscouples and families with limited financial means the opportunity to save towardsbuying their own home. Threshold welcomed one young family into Gilabbey Courtduring 2007. Four households moved on from Gilabbey Court to home ownership.Threshold upgraded Gilabbey Court by undertaking landscaping works in the courtyardarea.CASE STUDIES FRoM THRESHoLD’S WoRk IN CoRk AND THESoUTHERN REGIoNThreshold helps single man to find a new homeDenis was in touch with Threshold after he had been discharged from hospital and hadmoved to a homeless hostel. We accompanied Denis to view properties and helped himsecure a home. This allowed Denis to embark on a FÁS training course to become atelecommunications technician, something he had always been interested in.26


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7Tenant’s rights to continue tenancy after end of leaseThreshold helped Lucy and Eileen avail of the Part 4 security of tenure they wereentitled to under the Residential Tenancies Act. They had notified the landlord that theywanted to continue to live in their rented home after the end of their fixed term lease.The landlord told them that they had no right to stay. Threshold contacted the landlordto inform him that the tenants had Part 4 rights at the expiry of their lease and how hecould terminate the tenancy in accordance with law.rsThreshold helps tenant get deposit backThreshold helped Elena to get her deposit back. The landlord had refused to return herdeposit by first saying that she was not his tenant, but a paying guest of another tenant.He also alleged that there was damage beyond wear and tear. We went through hertenancy agreement to establish that she was, indeed, a tenant. We also countered thelandlord’s arguments about the damage. The landlord refunded Elena’s deposit of €700prior to our submitting a complaint to the PRTB.p27


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststoLDER PERSoN BENEFITS FRoM THRESHoLD ADvoCACyBridie is 72 years old and has lived for 30 years in a remote part of Connemara. Shehas been a tenant in the same cottage for the last 7 years and had a three year leaseagreement with her landlords. Her landlords, a couple, live in the house next door.The landlords wanted Bridie to leave the cottage and served a notice on her giving her28 days to leave. Bridie was very worried as this had been her home for so long. This isan isolated area where there are few alternative houses available.Bridie said she had nowhere to go and that she was entitled to more time. Relationshipsthen broke down. The landlords started harassing Bridie, demanding that she leave.They called to Bridie’s door unannounced and shouted at her. Bridie felt isolated andvulnerable.Bridie asked Threshold in Galway for help. We told her that the notice given to herby her landlords was not legally valid. We spoke to the landlords and they refused tochange their minds. We took a case to the PRTB.Threshold also raised Bridie’s case with the local authority as there was a vacantCouncil house locally. We made a strong appeal on her behalf, outlining her current,difficult situation. The Council re-assessed Bridie’s situation and were able to offer her anew, comfortable home. Bridie was delighted to stay in the same area of Connemara.28


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststproviders. She has also given talks to Active Retirement and carer organisationsin Galway city and county as well as going on house visits to older people who arerestricted to the home.Threshold’s advocacy service in Galway developed its services during the course of2007. It was successful in pursuing cases through the PRTB where the landlordhad argued that the rented accommodation was outside the scope of the ResidentialTenancies Act. We established that the tenancy was within the scope of the PRTB andwent on to win the case. These successes are essential to maintaining the integrity of theResidential Tenancies Act and preventing the work of the PRTB being undermined bysham licences and other devices.CASE STUDIES FRoM THRESHoLD’S WoRk IN GALWAy AND THEWESTERN REGIoNMan with a disability helped to find a new homeWe helped Peter move from a situation where he was threatened with homelessnessto one where he was offered new Council accommodation in a Connaght town. Peterhad received an invalid notice of termination and was threatened with illegal eviction.Threshold intervened immediately with the landlord, but also explored his social housingoptions. Peter had a workplace accident and had serious mobility difficulties. We helpedprogress his housing application and he was offered council accommodation withoutbeing made homeless.Two friends spend nights in tent and car following their illegal evictionMarie and Natasha were illegally evicted from their flat in Donegal. The landlord madethem homeless by changing the locks. They spent their first nights out of their home in atent and a car. They missed days at work and were deeply upset by the experience. Theycontacted Threshold and we helped Marie and Natasha win their case at the PRTB.Threshold helps students who lose their deposits unfairlyEnda was a student in one of Galway’s third level colleges and was greatly upsetwhen his student accommodation provider would not repay his deposit. He had leftthe student flat spotless and there were no outstanding bills or rent. Enda’s motherhad helped him clean the flat on the last day of his tenancy and was upset at theaccommodation provider’s decision. Enda and his mother took a case to the PRTB,and with Threshold’s help, secured the return of their deposit. This is one of a numberof cases Threshold has taken against this same student accommodation provider forunfairly withholding deposits.30


abbcbc oeabcdeLiMeriCK CitYand CoUntYrsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 735%LIMERICk CITy AND CoUNTy3% 9%13%15%Threshold’s Limerick office dealt with 2,648 housing queries,including 988 information queries, 1,329 advice queries and 331advocacy queries. This means that one in every eight tenants livingin Limerick City and County contacted their local Threshold officefor help and assistance with their housing problems. Threshold hasalso established an important outreach service in Ennis.rsMAIN ISSUES AFFECTING CLIENTS INp25%Threshold is proud of the groundbreaking work done by the office in Limerick. This is acity and region with particular housing problems and Threshold has made a significantcontribution to tackling these issues.PlacementInvalid noticeDeposit retentionMinimum standardsRent disputeQuiet enjoyment43% of our clients in 2007 were in receipt of social welfare payments with 16% inreceipt of rent supplement. 24% of our clients were born outside of Ireland and 20%did not speak English as their first language. 83% of our clients live in the privaterented sector.Threshold operated its busy advice and placement office from Catherine Street. Ouradvocacy service in Limerick represented tenants at PRTB adjudication hearings andTribunals in Limerick, Clare and Kerry.MAIN ISSUES AFFECTING CLIENTS IN LIMERICk CITy AND CoUNTyA great number of tenants living in Limerick were in touch with our local office inLimerick during 2007.The Threshold placement service in Limerick plays an important role in findingaccommodation for people who are vulnerable, for example those with historiesof homelessness. We negotiate with landlords on behalf of clients and seek also toguide them through the rent supplement application process. If our client is in rentedaccommodation, we ensure that they have been served valid notice of termination.During 2007, the placement service had to work harder to find accommodation forclients. We attribute this to the refurbishment of some city centre accommodation inLimerick and its change of use to business or office accommodation. This has removed atraditional source of cheap residential accommodation for single-person households.Threshold remains concerned at the significant amount of substandard rentedaccommodation in Limerick. A concerted effort is required of local authorities toinspect accommodation to ensure that it complies with the current minimum standards.It is of great concern that some of the most distressing illegal evictions in 2007 tookplace in Limerick. Threshold has had considerable success in representing tenants at thePrivate Residential Tenancies Board.When we opened our office in Limerick, we were conscious of both the unmet needs31


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststof private tenants but also of the challenging general housing situation in Limerick.Progress was made in 2007 with the publication of the Fitzgerald Report and theestablishment of the Northside and Southside Regeneration Agencies. Threshold is verysupportive of these initiatives.CASE STUDIES FRoM THRESHoLD’S WoRk IN LIMERICkThreshold persuades landlord to pull back from illegally evicting his tenantsThreshold intervened to persuade a landlord not to take the law into his own hands andto allow Tom and his family regain access to their home. This stopped a case going tothe PRTB and a family from becoming homeless.We help lone parent to avoid falling into rent arrearsPatricia contacted Threshold for help as she was in rent arrears and was concerned thather tenancy was in jeopardy. We negotiated a payment plan with the landlord to pay offthe arrears and referred her to MABS for budgeting advice.Threshold in Limerick gets tenant her deposit back at the PRTBThreshold represented Maura at a hearing of the PRTB as the landlord had retainedher deposit without justification. We proved that the damages alleged by the landlordwere either normal wear and tear or pre-existed Maura’s tenancy.32


sprst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7DEAF PoLISH MAN HELPED To GET DEPoSIT BACkStefan, who is deaf, was moving out of his tenancy to return home to Poland for thefirst time in five years. On the last date of his notice, the landlord informed Stefan thathe was not getting his deposit back. Stefan felt that this was unfair – he had paid all therent due and there was no damage to the property.Stefan called into his local Threshold office in Limerick and asked for help. He wasvery concerned as he needed the deposit to cover the cost of his new accommodation.We phoned the landlord, asking him to explain why the deposit was being retained.The Threshold advocate informed the landlord that a deposit could only be retained oncertain grounds.We stated that there were no grounds in this case on which a deposit could be retained.We would therefore make a claim to the PRTB, seeking the deposit’s return. Even if thetenant returned to Poland, we could still take a case on his behalf.After a period of negotiation, the landlord met the tenant and returned his deposit.Some weeks later, we received a ‘thank you’ from Stefan in Poland.33


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stoeabcdeststabbcbfaCCess HoUsinG UnitThreshold’s Access Housing Unit (AHU) is funded by theHomeless Agency, and helps people who are homeless and atrisk of homelessness to find longer term accommodation in theprivate rented sector in the Dublin city and county area. We sourceproperty through private landlords and accommodation providers.HoW THE ACCESS HoUSING UNIT WoRkSPeople who are homeless and at risk of homelessness can be referred by a third party(such as a social worker) or the person can contact us directly to make a self-referral.The AHU project team looks at the person’s ability to live independently and maintain atenancy in the community. The AHU then locates suitable private rented accommodationand accompanies the person to view the property. We help the person to apply for rentsupplement and we ensure that they know their rights and responsibilities as a tenant.Once they move into their new home, we provide a tenancy sustainment service toensure the tenant has the support they need should any problems arise in the early daysof the tenancy.TENANCIES CREATEDDuring 2007 the Access Housing Unit created 52 tenancies. This includedaccommodation for 58 adults and 12 children. The majority of our clients are singleperson households, mainly single men.TENANCIES CREATED IN 2007TyPE CREATED PERCENTAGESingle males 32 62%Single females 9 19%Couples 5 10%One parent families 5 7%Couple with children 1 2%Total Households 52CLIENTS SELF-REFERRING To THE AHUSince 2003, the Access Housing Unit has taken referrals of clients from third parties,such as social workers or homeless services. In 2007 we extended our services toinclude a self-referral option to allow people who are newly homeless or those who areat risk of homelessness to contact us directly.We use the Homeless Agency’s Holistic Needs Assessment to assess the client’ssituation and to decide on the best housing option for them. If private rented is the best34


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7housing option for the client, we source the accommodation for the client. Otherwise theclient is referred to an appropriate housing provider.rsThe self-referral service has been a success because it has made the AHU moreaccessible to people who are homeless or those in danger of becoming homeless.REFERRALS To THE UNITWith the introduction of our self-referral service 2007 saw a marked increase inreferrals to the AHU. During this year, we received 657 referrals, a significant increasefrom previous years. Of the 657 referrals, 362 were referrals from third parties and 295were self-referrals. This demonstrates a strong and ongoing demand for our services.pREFERRALS To ACCESS HoUSING UNIT 2003-2007800700600657500400300200100211145299394020032004200520062007TENANCy SUSTAINMENT SERvICEThe AHU Tenancy Sustainment Service helps people make an effective 2007 transitionto their new home and to maintain the tenancy independently. We provide a rangeof practical assistance, advice and information to the tenant to help them meet thechallenges of living in the private rented sector. The AHU offers support aroundpractical issues such as rent and bill payments, housekeeping, life skills and linking inwith local community services. We also provide emotional support as moving home is abig step in a person’s life.2006200520042003One key element to the work of tenancy sustainment is a home visit. Much of thesupport provided happens in the home. This allows the tenancy sustainment worker tomonitor progress and identify issues that may put a tenancy at risk. We can then takesteps to prevent the tenancy from failing.In 2007, the Tenancy Sustainment Worker provided support in over half of the tenanciescreated by the AHU.35


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststCHALLENGES FACED By THE AHUThe most significant challenge the AHU faces is the lack of good quality affordableaccommodation available for single people. This prevents the AHU from helping morepeople to find accommodation. The problem arises because rent supplement is cappedbelow market rent levels.RENT SUPPLEMENT LIMITS IN 2007The Access Housing Unit carries out bed-sit surveys throughout the year to assesshow much accommodation is available for single people on rent supplement. Over afortnightly period, we make enquiries about every ‘bed-sit’ or unit of accommodationwhich would be suitable for a single person to determine:■■■■HoUSEHoLD TyPEHow many properties are advertised during the fortnightHow many are self containedHow many will accept rent supplementHow many of the self contained properties which accept rent supplement are underthe maximum amount allowable.In one bed-sit survey in 2007, we found that 109 properties were advertised. 32of these were at or below the rent cap and only 7 of these 32 would accept rentsupplement. In short just over 6% of the stock of accommodation advertised wasavailable to our client group. This data shows significant barriers for single people inreceipt of rent supplement to find private rented accommodation. We use this data tolobby for change.RENTAL ACCoMMoDATIoN SCHEME (RAS)LIMIT PER MoNTHSingle person in shared accommodation €425.00Single person in self contained accommodation €563.00Couple €867.00Couple / lone parent with 1 child €1000.00Couple / lone parent with 2 or more children €1200.00The Access Housing Unit is developing projects under the Rental AccommodationScheme to provide accommodation for people who have experienced homelessness.The Access Housing Unit in partnership with Dublin City Council and a private landlordoperate 23 units of accommodation in Dublin city for homeless or formerly homelesspeople. The AHU manages the property and also helps all of the tenants in sustainingtheir tenancy. We provide each household with pre-tenancy training prior to moving in36


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7and with assistance after they have moved in. This accommodation is newly-refurbishedand of a very high standard. We ensure that the property is well-managed and thatall issues arising are dealt with. This project allows people to develop their lives, forexample finding jobs or embarking on education.rsDUBLIN LIoNS CLUB ‘FLAT oUT kITS’Our partnership with Dublin Lions has continued throughout 2007 helping people intheir move to independent living.Dublin Lions have generously sponsored the cost of creating a special ‘flat-out’ kit forAccess Housing Unit clients moving into private rented accommodation. The kit consistsof essential household groceries such as milk, tea, bread, sugar as well as towels andtoiletries and one or two basic electrical items like a kettle or toaster. Threshold staffwork with the client in creating a kit that best suits their needs. While no money isgiven, the client is saved the cost of purchasing such essential items in the early andcritical stages of their tenancy.pSTEPPING SToNEIn a new partnership, the Access Housing Unit is working with Stepping Stone toprovide new accommodation and tenancy sustainment for our client group. SteppingStone is a housing charity which works with other agencies to provide homes for peoplewho are homeless. We hope to develop this successful partnership into the future.PLANS FoR THE FUTUREFrom our expertise, we believe that increased education and information for bothlandlords and tenants could avoid many of the problems which arise in a tenancy andplace that tenancy at risk. The Access Housing Unit will develop accessible pre-tenancytraining for landlords and tenants, tailored to their specific needs.37


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststTHRESHoLD’S ACCESS HoUSING UNIT GIvESHoMELESS WoMAN A NEW STARTAnna was in touch with the Access Housing Unit to ask for help in finding a new home.She is 23 and single. She was renting a bed-sit but the amount she received in rentsupplement was not enough to cover the rent. She was ‘topping up’ to make up thedifference. As she was paying the balance out of her basic welfare payment she didn’thave enough to manage her day to day expenses and fell into in rent arrears which shecouldn’t pay. Her tenancy was under threat.Anna had previously been homeless and had slept rough. With a history of drug misuseand now in recovery, Anna was anxious not to return to hostel accommodation. Annamet with a project worker and we assessed that she would be able to manage a home.Threshold provided Anna with an apartment under the Rental Accommodation Schemeproject, which we run with Dublin City Council and a private landlord. Anna alsoreceived a ‘Flat Out’ kit provided by the Dublin Lions Club.Once the tenancy began Anna was linked with our tenancy sustainment worker whomade sure she was settling in and that any problems were dealt with.Anna is now doing well and has returned to third level education. She is also workingpart time, her first stable job since her addiction. Through the new self referral serviceoffered by the AHU she was prevented from returning to previous homelessness, pastaddictions and is now realising her long-term goals.38


oeabcdabbcfProMotinG HoUsinGoeabcdereforM tHroUGHabbcfresearCH & CaMPaiGninGIn 2007, Threshold continued its important, empiricallybasedresearch work. We proposed a number of initiatives toGovernment, suggesting practical solutions to housing issues orproblems faced by tenants.rsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7RoLL-oUT oF THRESHoLD’S NATIoNAL CLIENT DATABASEThreshold’s advice and advocacy services are targeted at households experiencinghousing disadvantage, especially those at risk of homelessness. Threshold introduced anew client database in 2007 to gather more detailed information about the profile andcharacteristics of our clients, the nature of the housing problems experienced by them,and the assistance provided to them by Threshold. This web-based national databaseis shared across all our advice offices. It is crucial to the delivery of our services as itenables us to manage our client caseload, identify issues promptly, assess the impact ofour interventions, and continuously enhance the quality of our services.pCoNFERENCE oN THE FUTURE oF THE PRIvATE RENTED SECToRIN IRELANDThreshold’s conference in March 2007 on the ‘The Future of the Private RentedSector in Ireland’, sponsored by the Department of the Environment, Heritage andLocal Government and the Irish Banking Federation, made a significant contributionto thinking about the regulation and economics of the rented sector in Ireland.Speakers included DEHLG officials involved in the regulation of rented housing andthe delivery of RAS, leading Irish economists, and eminent housing academics from theUK and Ireland. Over 150 participants attended, including Government officials, localauthorities, housing associations, not-for-profit organisations, financial institutions andacademics.RESEARCH REPoRTSThreshold was involved in delivering the following research studies in 2007:open Door? Better Homes for one Parent Families under the RentalAccommodation SchemeA joint project with OPEN (One Parent Exchange and Network) and funded by theCombat Poverty Agency was based on the premise that families assessed with having along term housing need should be accommodated in suitable dwellings of good quality.This research aimed to influence the establishment of dwelling standards for the newRental Accommodation Scheme. The recommendations addressed the key features ofappropriate accommodation for one parent families living longer-term in the privaterented sector.39


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststSupply of Single Person AccommodationThreshold completed a research project analysing the supply of suitable accommodationthat may be accessed by single person households on low incomes in Dublin, Cork,Galway and Limerick, as part of a research project funded by the Combat PovertyAgency. A national survey of advertised bed-sit/one-person lettings was conducted. Wealso consulted local authorities and voluntary housing bodies. The report highlightedthe difficulties faced by single people in accessing quality affordable accommodation.The findings were discussed with officials from the Department of the Environment,Heritage and Local Government, Department of Social and Family Affairs, andSuperintendent CWOs supervising the rent supplement scheme.Minimum Standards in the European Policy ContextIn a joint two-year project led by EAPN Ireland, Threshold contributed to an analysisof the development of minimum housing standards in Ireland and the potential forEuropean-wide initiatives. The project involved seven EU states, including new accessioncountries. The project looked at different mechanisms that could be used to establishminimum standards as an appropriate way of promoting social inclusion across Europe.The final report of the project was launched at a transnational conference in June2007.THRESHoLD PoLICy SUBMISSIoNSThreshold made the following submissions to Government and state agencies:■■■■■Submission to the Private Residential Tenancies Board on amendments to theResidential Tenancies Act, 2004;Submission to the Private Residential Tenancies Board on landlords who rely onlicence agreements to deprive tenants of their legal rights;Submission to the Private Residential Tenancies Board on the need for a RentalDeposits Board;Pre-Budget submission addressed to the Department of Social and Family Affairson reforming rent supplement;Pre-Budget submission to the Department of Environment, Heritage and LocalGovernment on social housing provision;■■■Pre-Budget submission to the Department of Finance on the treatment of tenantsby the tax code;Submission to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform on the draftProperty Services Regulatory Bill 2006 and the regulation of letting agents;Submission to the Law Reform Commission on the regulation of multi-unit40


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7developments and the role to be played by tenants in management companies;■Submissions to Dublin City Council on Guidelines for Apartment Standards andmaintaining the exteriors of rented dwellings.rsEURoPEAN NETWoRk FoR HoUSING RESEARCHThreshold believes in adopting international best practice to housing in Ireland.Threshold’s Chair and Director currently lead the Private Rented Markets WorkingGroup of the European Network for Housing Research (ENHR), which is comprisedof leading international housing academics and housing experts. The working groupconvenes at roundtable events to identify international trends and share researchfindings on the private rented sector.p41


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststoeabcdeabbcbffUndraisinG rePortThreshold’s work in preventing homelessness would not bepossible without the support of our donors. Both individualsand companies donated €750,663 in 2007, which went directlytowards our support services. This allows Threshold to help ourclients with advice and support that in many cases means thedifference between a person having a home or being homeless. onbehalf of the 22,000 people who contacted Threshold in 2007, weextend our heartfelt thanks for your support and generosity.TRUSTS AND LEGACIESIn 2007 Trusts and legacies raised €62,419 to Threshold. We explore different fundingoptions to supplement our other fundraising endeavours, all of which goes towards thesupport of our clients.HoPESTAR APPEALThe annual Hopestar campaign was once again a very successful event, with manycorporate sponsors from across Ireland showing their support to Threshold throughgenerous donations which were publicly acknowledged through the Sunday BusinessPost the weekend before Christmas. The appeal raised €57,197. This year, we alsooffered the option of Threshold designed and branded Christmas cards which provedvery popular. Many thanks again to the businesses who threw their weight behind thisimportant appeal.NIGHT AT SHELBoURNE PARkFor many years now, the annual Threshold night at Shelbourne Park has been a popularChristmas fundraising event. This year almost 100 people attended the night and itwas a great success. The combined total raised including the dinner, raffle and racesponsorship was €20,445.CoRk THRESHoLD IN THE MARkETThe annual ‘Threshold in the Market’ at Cork’s English Market was again a greatsuccess. Delicious food and fine wine was provided by Kay Harte and her staff of theFarmgate Restaurant. Guests were greeted on arrival by music from Profidia, followedby a selection of singing by the combined Garda Male Choir and the Wilcollane Singers.The well known soprano Majella Cullagh took to the stage later in the evening and gavea wonderful solo performance to the delight of all those present.We would like to take this opportunity to thank most sincerely the tremendouscontribution of our Cork Fundraising Committee, and wish to express our sincere thanksand appreciation to the proprietor of the Farmgate restaurant, Kay Harte for herongoing support and assistance. This event raised over €10,600.42


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7MIDSUMMER CoNCERT GALWAyAnother fantastically eclectic mix of great entertainment, food and wine made thisevent a ‘must attend’ on the Galway Social calendar. The pianist, Morgan Cooke,members of the Bridies, Fiona Kellernan, on the cello, and the Galway Gospel Choirprovided the music. The event realised €17,144 in valuable funds for our Galway office.rsTHRESHoLD CIRCLE oF FRIENDSThreshold’s ‘Circle of Friends’ are regular donors who support our work. This importantregular income allows us to ensure the planned delivery of our services. 2007 donationsbrought in €123,327. Regular giving is a tax efficient way of donating to Threshold.pTAx REFUNDSAs an Irish registered charity, Threshold can claim a refund under the tax relief schemeon donations to eligible charities. When a P.A.Y.E. donor gives €250 or more toThreshold during the tax year, Threshold may be able to reclaim tax paid on their gift.In 2007, Threshold claimed and received a tax refund of €5,525 on donations received.Our sincere thanks to all who participated in the scheme. This enabled Threshold toderive the full benefit from their support.CHARITy SHoPSThreshold has charity shops in Ballincollig, Co. Cork and Tralee and Castleisland, Co.Kerry. Our shops sell high quality second hand clothes and other items at low prices. Theproceeds from sales goes to support Threshold’s local advice centres.voLUNTEERSThreshold needs volunteers to help with major fundraising events and campaigns.See the Threshold website www.threshold.ie for more information about becoming avolunteer.EASTER EGG APPEALIn 2007, we increased the number of local traders and companies who agreed to raffleour Celtic Chocolate Easter Eggs. This year, we raised a total of €11,235 through theappeal.PARACHUTE jUMPWhy jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane you may ask? Well, if it is helping preventhomelessness, the adrenalin rush is well worth it! Each year people collect for Thresholdto be able to take part in the parachute jump. This is a chance to see Ireland as youhave probably never seen it before as well as making a difference to those at risk ofhomelessness. This year we raised €2,310 from the 10 intrepid jumpers.43


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststDUBLIN WoMEN’S MINI MARATHoNEach year, the Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon grows as more people run, jog or walkto support Threshold. We are very grateful for the €1,462 raised through the DublinWomen’s Mini Marathon.STREET AND CHURCH GATE CoLLECTIoNSThrough the generosity of the public and, our collectors in giving their time, we raised€12,892 through street and church gate collections.GILABBEy CoURT APPEALWe raised €12,500 in our Gilabbey Court appeal to raise funds to upgrade the commonareas of Gilabbey Court – Threshold’s innovative housing project in Cork.SPECIAL THANkSBovale Developments(Charlestown Shopping Centre)Bank of Scotland IrelandUlster BankBioPower PLCJaycee QuickPrintIrish life AssuranceCentral Bank & FinanceCyril O’Neill & AssociatesSeniors MoneyHT Meager O’ReillyKilgallen & PartnersWilliam Neville & SonsJames Toomey ArchitectsEllier DevelopmentsMKN Property GroupThe Lions Club of DublinNationwide Building SocietyKemekEnferBlue WaveMichael Tynan RentalsNCBWide VarietyGrafton ArchitectsSIAC ConstructionsPJ HegartyDMF SystemsDublin Grass MachineryBHP InsuranceIrish Payroll Association44


oeabcde abbcbffinanCiaL rePort 2007rsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7Threshold incurred a substantial deficit (€93,000) in 2007. Thecost of providing our services increased by €275,000. This was dueto the extra staff recruited in 2006 to meet increased demand forour services and the full year cost of our Limerick office whichopened in july 2006.pWhile overall statutory funding increased by €117,000 our core grant was reducedby €30,000. Private fundraising contributed €751,000 or 35% of our total incomecompared to €810,000 for 2006.INCoME AND ExPENDITURE 2007INCoME 2007 € 2007 % 2006 € 2006 %Total 2,151,017 100.00 2,121,342 100.00Donations & Fundraising 750,663 34.90 810,143 38.19Grants 1,066,820 49.60 905,430 42.68Grants FAS Community 224,052 10.42 268,217 12.64Employment SchemeCharity Shops 32,331 1.50 27,778 1.31Rental Income 47,917 2.23 45,573 2.15Miscellaneous 29,234 1.36 64,201 3.03ExPENDITURE 2007 € 2007 % 2006 € 2006 %Total 2,243,706 100.00 2,129,749 100.00Direct Charitable 1,338,747 59.67 1,020,493 47.92ExpenditureFAS Community224,052 9.99 268,217 12.59Employment SchemeFundraising and437,488 19.50 489,397 22.98PublicityManaging andAdministering theCharity243,419 10.85 351,642 16.5145


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stSoURCES oF INCoME 20072%10%2%Grants50%1%35%Donations & FundraisingGrants FAS Community Employment SchemeCharity ShopsRental IncomeMiscellaneousststSTATUToRy FUNDING/GRANTS 2007 € 2006 €Total 1,290,872 1,173,647Government Subsidies 330,000 360,000FAS Community Employment Scheme 224,052 268,217Homeless Agency 289,965 281,519Dublin City Council 60,000 60,000Cork County Council 16,000 15,000Cork City Council 10,000 8,000Galway City Council 16,871 12,000Galway County Council 15,000 3,500FUNDING IN 2007Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown CountyCouncilOther Statutory /Combat PovertyAgencyMiscellaneousRental IncomestSTATUToRyCharity ShopsGrants FAS Community Employment SchemeGrantsDonations & FundraisingTaxIllegal evictionsLandlord breachService chargesRent issuesStandardsDeposit retentionHelp with finding housing7,500 7,000South Dublin County Council 5,000 5,000Fingal County Council 5,000 5,000Kildare County Council 0 500Wicklow County Council 0 500Southern Health Board 29,497 16,500Western Health Board 34,300 32,500An Pobal 201,404 92,482Dublin City Council RAS 46,283 00 5,929Invalid notice46


abbcbfrsoeabcdeContaCt detaiLs andstaff MeMBers 2007rsrst h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7HEAD oFFICE21 StoneybatterDublin 7Tel: 01 678 6310headoffice@threshold.ieDirectorHead Office AdministratorAccountantRAS Development ManagerResearch OfficerLegal Officer21 StoneybatterDublin 7Tel: 01 635 3623fundraising@threshold.ieDevelopment & Marketing ManagerFundraising ExecutiveCommunity FundraiserEASTERN REGIoN ADvICE CENTRE21 StoneybatterDublin 7Tel: 01 635 3651info@threshold.ieServices CoordinatorFÁS Community Employment SupervisorAdvice WorkersAdvice Workers (FÁS CE)Reception/Administration (FÁS CE)Bob Jordan/Patrick Burke(until February 2007)Emma Farrell/Nichola Clancy(until April 2007)Edward KiernanRussell ChapmanLillian Buchanan(until March 2007)Kevin BanehampMark RobinsonZadrhiena NooneMonica CaffreyStephen LargeCarol FitzmauriceSharon Clinton, Sheila Dunne, ClaireLane, Patricia Martin and Teresa SnowSinead Burke, Samantha Davy,Jennifer Dowling, Alison Dunne, PhyllisGrant, Gerard Grehan, Angelo Incrocci,Siobhan McKenna, Uzoamaka Ndu-Nwogu and Miriam TyrrellLouise Cormack, Yvonne Davies, LindaFlanagan, Jacqueline Keating andJames McMahon47


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststSoUTHERN REGIoN ADvICE CENTRE22 South MallCorkTel: 021 427 8848threshold@eircom.netServices CoordinatorSenior Advice WorkerAdvice WorkersAdvice Workers (FÁS CE)Volunteer AdministratorWESTERN REGIoN ADvICE CENTRE3 Victoria PlaceMerchants RoadGalwayTel: 091 563 080thresholdgalway@eircom.netServices CoordinatorAdvice WorkersAdvice Workers (FÁS CE)Advice Worker (FAS JI)LIMERICk ADvICE CENTRE26 Catherine StreetLimerickTel: 061 405 400limerick@threshold.ieServices CoordinatorAdvice WorkersAdministratorMargaret O’NeillCatherine O’SheaEvelyn Gibney and Joanne KielyJo Anglin, Mary Cremin, Olive Kelly,Eileen Lynch, Patsy Lynch, LindaO’Flaherty, Joanne Shine, Paul Tarpey,John Thornton and David WalshePeggy ManningDeirdre MurphyNicholas Dowling, Sinéad Roche andKarina TimothyFrances DermodyMartina KellyLouise Kennedy (until November2007)/Iris DenieffeMary HynesMary Harvey48


st h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7ACCESS HoUSING UNIT21 StoneybatterDublin 7Tel: 01 678 60 94ahu@threshold.ieProject CoordinatorProject WorkersCHARITy SHoPSCoRkUnit 5Ballincollig Shopping CentreWest VillageBallincolligCo. CorkTel: 021 487 7251ManagerEmployees (FAS CE)VolunteersrsAine Daly (until July 2007)/LouisaSantoroBernadette Boylan, Gary Byrne, IreneDunne, Thomas Hanlon and DanielleMcLaughlinpGeraldine McLoughlinEileen Barry, Angela Maher, DenisMulhaly and Sheila NoonanMary Doyle, Brian Gilworth, JeanHarnett, Mary Hogan, May Howe,Sheila Kelleher, Matt McGrath, AoifeMcLoughlin, Regina Mulcahy, KarenNagle, Chris O’Callaghan, AnneO’Regan and Betty Penny49


t h r e s h o l d a n n u a l r e p o r t 2 0 0 7stststCHARITy SHoPSkERRy11 Edward StreetTraleeCo. KerryTel: 066 710 2685ManagerEmployees (FAS CE)Volunteers41 Main StreetCastleislandCo. KerryTel: 066 716 3742ManagerEmployees (FAS CE)VolunteersHelen Coyle (until June 2007)/CelineDalyNoreen O’Halloran, Helen Phillips andAmal SafarAnn Brosnan, Mary Connelly, GinnyO’Sullivan and Seif TaherSuzanne ScanlonMary Kennedy and Frances KennelyMary Ann Casey, Bernie Hogan,Margaret O’Connor, Sean Ward andKay Wren50


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www.threshold.ieProduced by True North Job No. 912

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