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We need fines of €1 million for 'unscrupulous' landlords, says senior Dublin City Council official

An RTÉ investigation last night showed widespread breaches in terms of health and safety standards across the private rental sector.

A bedroom at the Crumlin property.
A bedroom at the Crumlin property.
Image: RTÉ Investigations

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL’S deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny is calling on the government to introduce fines of up to €1 million to landlords who breach health and safety regulations.

Last night, an RTÉ Investigates documentary found widespread breaches in terms of health and safety standards across Ireland’s rental sector. Following the investigation, Dublin Fire Brigade closed three buildings being used as accommodation.

Researchers found dangerously overcrowded accommodation in sub-standard buildings with multiple fire safety breaches throughout the course of a six-month investigation.

Three multiple occupancy buildings with more than 120 tenants between them have since been closed after an inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade.

‘It shouldn’t have happened’

The investigation found one property had been converted into multiple occupancy bedrooms, with a total of 64 tenants living in the building.

RTÉ said that a resident contacted Dublin City Council on numerous occasions in relation to breaches of fire safety standards in the building, but that the council was slow to respond.

When contacted by RTÉ for a statement around this, the council declined to comment.

Speaking on RTÉ News at One, Kenny apologised about the manner in which the complaint was dealt with.

“We’ll put our hands up. That particular situation should have been referred to Dublin Fire Brigade much earlier,” Kenny said.

“It’s an administrative situation that shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

We have to fix our system, we have to make our system better and more suited to people and what we want to do is encourage people to make contact with us.

Kenny said that when the housing crisis first began to escalate in Dublin, the council tried to deal with it through planning enforcement. However, he said that it soon became clear that the “only way to deal with these issues is through the fire brigade and fire safety and that’s what we’ve been doing”.

Dublin Fire Brigade is currently dealing with 25 cases of overcrowding and substandard rental accommodation, according to Kenny.

A Freedom of Information request from RTÉ Investigates showed that only 4% of registered rental properties in Ireland were inspected to ensure they were compliant with regulations last year.

Of these, 69% failed to meet standards. The investigation found widespread failure in inspection rates across different local councils.

Kenny stressed his belief that the government needs to introduce legislation and new regulations for force “unscrupulous” landlords to ensure their accommodation meets requirements.

“The government needs to introduce legislation and regulations that provide serious penalties for landlords who do this,” he said.

If there was a fine of €1 million or €500,000 for this type of thing, if we had the power to injunct landlords, that will stop it rather than inspecting every property in the city.

Dublin City Council told TheJournal.ie that it is “compiling a report on the issues raised in the programme” and will present it to city councillors at next Monday night’s council meeting.

Earlier today, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the government has zero tolerance for landlords who would provide the type of accommodation featured in the programme.

“Clearly that was disgraceful,” Fitzgerald said.

We have absolutely no tolerance for anybody who would provide that sort of accommodation.

“It’s about monitoring, it’s about inspection and the changing role of the Residential Tenancies Board so that it has a more proactive role in terms of going out and examining those situations and taking action,” she said.

Read: 16 people in a single bedroom, 64 people renting a house: Documentary shows state of Ireland’s rental ‘nightmares’

More: Murphy hails ‘progress’ housing people but numbers in emergency accommodation hit record levels

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