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'I don't see why not': Jail time could be the penalty for substandard accommodation

“We’re talking about criminals who are abusing people’s human rights,” the Housing Minister said earlier today.

MINISTER FOR HOUSING Eoghan Murphy has said that he’s considering measures to clamp down on those who rent out substandard accommodation to tenants – measures which include jail time and “very large fines”.

It follows an RTÉ Prime Time exposé that showed dangerously overcrowded accommodation in sub-standard buildings with multiple fire safety breaches over a six-month period.

“We’re not talking about landlords here,” Murphy told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke. “The majority of landlords are doing a very good job. We’re talking about criminals who are abusing people’s human rights.”

When asked whether jail time would be included as part of the penalties faced by non-compliant ‘landlords’, Murphy answered, “I don’t see why not”.

“If someone is in breach of the law, if someone is abusing people’s human rights to such an extent as we saw on that [RTÉ Prime Time programme, Nightmare to Let].”

He said that he would also consider barring people who have been in breach of minimum living standards from being a landlord, saying that these are people who are “subverting the law to make a profit over other people’s wellbeing and we can’t accept that”.

At the moment, there isn’t sufficient deterrent at all.
There’s legislation in place where a landlord hasn’t registered with the RTB that they are non-compliant with the relevant standards and when they are caught, we can move immediately to criminal and other proceedings and sanctions and very large fines.

Promises and bedsits

Murphy said that his Department has ring-fenced funding for increased inspections for rented accommodation, and are considering implementing new guidelines on the standard of living.

He also said that he’s still considering bringing back bedsits if it succeeds in freeing up new homes for people, but that controversial issue is still under review.

He also defended the government’s response to the homeless and housing crisis, saying:

“Next year we will almost double the number of social houses that are being built by the State to about 3,800 but when you add in the number of vacant social housing homes that are being moved back into use, the number of homes that will be acquired as social housing homes and the number of homes that will be long-term leased, it will be about 7,900.

That’s almost 8,000 homes, which I think is a good measure of progress given that a few years ago it was almost nothing.

Murphy claimed that the current homeless figures of 8,374 people, with over 3,000 children among that number, had already begun to decline.

In Dublin in September we saw for two months in a row and this is the first time that this has happened in three years, more families exited emergency accommodation than entered.

He said that the work that the government has been doing for a number of years “is starting to show results” and cited a 50% increase in planning permissions and construction commencement notices each year.

“What that tells us about next year is that… there is going to be a significant ramping up in the number of homes being built and any new home whether it’s for a student, elderly person, a new family will take pressure off other parts of the system.”

Read: Leo Varadkar has been criticised for calling houses starting at €315,000 ‘affordable’

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

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