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A Kilrush councillor has called on the Taoiseach to bring forward emergency legislation to allow local authorities remove a tenant’s name from a Council owned property to protect victims of domestic violence.

Policing domestic violence is outside the remit of the housing section which are “distinct from anti-social behaviour” as defined in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 are dealt with under the Domestic Violence Act 1996.

This act states that a tenant’s name cannot be removed from a local authority joint tenancy on foot of domestic violence alone without involving anti-social behaviour, rent arrears or a breach of the local authority tenancy agreement.

Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) recently tabled a motion before Clare County Council asking that legal advice be sought on the removal of a tenant’s name from a local authority tenancy “where domestic
violence has been proven or there is a fear for the victims’ health and wellbeing”.

He added, “In the event that legal opinion cannot identify a mechanism to remove the perpetrators name from a local authority tenancy I further request that the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, bring forward emergency legislation empowering local authorities to remove a tenant’s name from a local authority tenancy to protect the victim of domestic violence”.

Director of Service, Anne Haugh confirmed that legal advice has been sought by the Council on the termination of local authority tenancies. She advised that the termination of tenancies fall under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2014 when rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or breaches of the tenancy agreement have been discovered.

Ms Haugh added, “In the case of a joint tenant, who is no longer residing at the tenanted property, but who is refusing to surrender their tenancy, the legal advice received recommends terminating the entire tenancy by serving separate notices to quit on the joint tenants in accordance with the Tenancy Agreement and thereafter granting a new single tenancy to the tenant continuing to reside at the property”.

Domestic abuse has intensified during the pandemic, Cllr Lynch flagged. He described the process of removing a person’s name as “complex”. He admitted that a sense of fear existed when it came to reporting issues with tenancies as “everyone could lost out and not just the perpetrator”.

Chair of the Social Development SPC, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) felt domestic abuse was “the highest level of anti-social behaviour a person could witness”. He believed the Government needed to put emergency legislation in place. “It is disgraceful to think we don’t have the mechanism to take out the name of the person responsible for domestic abuse, it is frightening that innocent people could lose out”.

“You should feel safe in your own home, if the perpetrator of domestic abuse has their name on the door, you will not feel safe,” Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) felt. The increase in domestic violence over the past twelve months was described as “horrific” by Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) who acknowledged the legislation was “very complex and complicated” but that the conversation on a policy change needed to start.

Physical abuse is visible “but the mental abuse can do more damage than anything else,” Cllr Ann Norton (IND) outlined. She opined that the court system was “very slow” when it came to family law. “It does need an emergency legislation,” Cllr Susan Crawford (GP) maintained.

“This past 14 months we’ve all become very aware of situations going on in houses. I’ve been shocked by the amount of neighbours that can hear the abuse going on in the house next door,” Cllr Mary Howard (FG) admitted.

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