Sheriff’s Notice of Eviction: What can be done?

By Finbar Markey
Often times at the National Land League we have spoken about the “Tsunami” of evictions looming in Ireland. We have spoken about how hundreds of thousands of men, women and children face eviction over the coming two years. We had been commenting in the future tense, about what is coming. Things have changed dramatically over the last number of weeks.
At 8.30 am last Thursday morning one of our Louth Volunteers received a call from a lady that was to say the least distraught. Apparently it took ten minutes to calm her to the level that she could speak. She had just received a letter from the Sheriff’s office to say she is to be evicted alongside her ill husband and daughter. She spoke of “going to the river”. Over the day our volunteers calmed her and outlined a strategy to try to address the threatened eviction, and in keeping with her wishes to do so without fuss if possible. We remain in daily contact with the lady.
Calls like this lady’s call were once a rarity. They are now happening daily and it is bringing our volunteers to a new level of caring and demand that we must better prepare for. In the last three weeks we have been contacted by fourteen families notified of imminent eviction, and we see that rising dramatically over the coming weeks and months.
The County Sheriffs are themselves under immense pressure. They have been avoiding carrying out evictions over the last year or two and they have at times when offered the opportunity given a certain amount of lee-way to home owners to stall the process. This has led to a build-up of Orders to be executed. With an avalanche of Orders coming through as we speak, the County Sheriff’s are feeling left with no choice but to repossess as many homes as they can over the coming months and as quickly as they can.
In terms of our response to such calls other than staying in contact, offering social and psychological supports etc, we currently act as follows (although our strategy is fluid and reflexive) ….
If a notice from the Sheriff, we can take one of two approaches, or more likely in many instances take both. On the one hand it is still possible to get the banks into talks about coming to an arrangement. We advise home owners to send such a letter off to the bank/building society, to the effect that we have a number of proposals we think may be satisfactory to both parties…. and so on. Copy the letter and send it to the Sheriff with an accompanying letter seeking forbearance and patience in these matters. If and when the bank responds accepting negotiations, copy that letter and send to the Sheriff’s Office. Do your best to get into talks and do come up with proposals, think what you can afford. The important thing here is that even if the bank refuses in the end, this hits the pause button and grabs vital time.
Failing reaching a suitable agreement, there is always the opportunity to seek an extension of time in which to appeal the order. Whilst applying for an extension of time to appeal, one should ask the court for a stay on the order until such time as the appeal is heard. Again if nothing else this will get you more time.
On a final note, ask to see the original Order in the Sheriff’s office. If it is signed by the County Registrar then it must also have the County Court Embossing Seal upon it. The seal is necessary in place of a Judge according to the Court Rules. If there is only a Registrar’s signature and no seal it is a Void Order, in other words it is not and never was an Order of the Court……
In the meantime we must spread the work of the National land League throughout the nation. In doing so we will freeze the apparatus of eviction and achieve legislative change to fix the problem of evictions once and for all.