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Dublin City Council initiated proceedings against Godart, a Luxembourg businessman with significant property holdings in Ireland. Laura Hutton/

Landlord Marc Godart avoids prosecution but companies fined over unauthorised Airbnb lettings

Two companies, directed by the accused, have been fined €7,500 and have accepted responsibility.

LANDLORD MARC GODART has avoided prosecution for “egregious” breaches of planning laws with unauthorised Airbnb lettings in Dublin.

However, two firms he directs have accepted responsibility and have been fined €7,500 plus “substantial” legal costs.

Dublin City Council had initiated proceedings against Godart, a Luxembourg businessman with significant property holdings in Ireland.

He is a director of Green Label Property Investments Ltd and a secretary of Capel Grand Inn Ltd, both listed as defendants.

His mother, Denise Godart, had faced three related charges as a Green Label Property Investments Ltd director.

Initially, Godart had faced six charges, Green Label Property Investments Ltd had five, and Capel Grand Inn Ltd had a single count on its summons.

The offences were under section 151 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 – 2003.

Conviction can result in fines of €5,000 per charge and a conviction, under the same section of the Act, of up to six months in jail.

The case stemmed from complaints about unauthorised short-term lettings, booked through the Airbnb website, at three properties in Dublin 1: 11 Capel Street, Block G, The Foundry, Beaver St, and Unit 2A, The Forge, Railway Street.

The offences were detected following inspections between 4 and 6 June last year, revealing some of the bedrooms were windowless and others in former shop fronts.

In January, the council sought an “urgent” hearing date at Dublin District Court, which was expected to be in April. It was also listed for mention about preliminary issues during this week’s sittings of the council’s prosecutions.

However, the council withdrew the charges against the Godarts and dropped most charges subject to guilty pleas on three counts.

They related to lettings at the three properties, operated by Capel Grand Inn Ltd and Green Label Short Lets Ltd, which was amended from Green Label Property Investments Ltd.

Evidence provided to the court gave a through-the-keyhole look at how the properties were run.

Dublin City Council planning enforcement officer James Cosgrave gave evidence and told Judge Mark O’Connell that he responded to complaints made on 2 June last year and carried out inspections at the three properties.

He found several tourists from Ireland, Europe, and North America had used them for stays ranging between one and seven days.

He agreed with prosecution solicitor Michael Quinlan that he was satisfied offences had taken place based on his inspections.

Photos of the properties during the inspections were tendered into court as evidence.

The Godarts were not present for the hearing or required to attend.

The inspector agreed with defence barrister David Staunton that the company director facilitated access, and it was demonstrable that alterations had been made to buildings or were about to commence at one of the locations, which is currently unoccupied.

The two firms had no prior convictions and Staunton said the guilty pleas were of value as it would now be difficult to obtain some evidence from parties no longer present at the three locations.

In mitigation pleas, counsel said the defendants agreed to pay costs “which were not unsubstantial” and he asked the court to note the evidence of cooperation.

In closing submissions, Quinlan said the council had instructed him to remind the court that, at the time, these were “quite egregious breaches of short-term letting regulations”.

Judge O’Connell agreed but noted the mitigating factors and imposed fines totalling €7,500, which, along with the costs, must be discharged within four months.

Capel Grand Inn Ltd was prosecuted over 11 Capel Street, which was inspected on 6 June.

Planning enforcement officer James Cosgrave told the court the property comprised four flats over three floors.

“In flat one, the occupant had travelled from Canada and had booked a five nights stay; she said her room was fully booked, and the other bedroom was occupied by two persons. Evidence would suggest that all the bedrooms were in use.”

The second flat was vacant.

“Flat three, second floor level. There, the occupant in bedroom two had travelled from France and had booked a seven-night stay,” he said, adding that two others were using the flat for seven nights.

Two occupants of flat-four booked separate rooms for one and two-night stays.

Green Label Short Lets Ltd admitted similar offences at the other two properties. Cosgrave told the court that Unit 2A, The Forge, Railway Street, was originally a commercial unit converted to a residential unit.

Godart, the owner, gave four months’ notice to the council of his intention to turn it into a two-bedroom unit.

The occupants provided access, and the planning officer found the property comprised of a kitchen, a shower room and a four-bedroom suite.

The occupants in bedroom three had booked a one-night stay. Each bedroom required a code pin to enter.

The council official returned two days later for a full inspection and then witnessed the entire layout of the property, which now had no occupants.

“My inspection, judge, revealed that bedroom one had a bunk bed and a single bed fixed shop window because it is a commercial window; the shop front had not actually changed. They just put up dry-lining to kind of turn it into a room.”

“Bedroom two had a double bed and no window actually in the room, judge.

“Bedroom three had two single beds with no window in the room; that was the room that was previously occupied during my inspection on June 4.”

The fourth bedroom had a bunk bed and a fixed shop front window. Fire safety signs throughout were for previous use and did not reflect the new layout of the building.

The court heard that Cosgrave inspected it again last week when he met Godart, who confirmed he was the owner, provided access and “the property had been completely reconfigured”.

“It still comprised of four bedrooms, but only one of the bedrooms now had no windows,” he said.

There were also two bathrooms and a kitchen, and it was vacant because the planning officer thought the work had just been completed.

Block G, The Foundry, Beaver St, comprised two units, one with a kitchen and two bedrooms, and the other had four bedrooms.

He met two occupants from Ireland and mainland Europe who let him in and said they booked three and five-night stays via the Airbnb platform.

“However, they stated that given the condition of the property, they were actually going to vacate the property immediately,” Cosgrave said.

He returned two days later and found a different party from the United States staying there after booking through the Airbnb platform.

They told him the other bedroom was occupied, but he could not access that room.

Last week, the council official returned, and it appeared from the number of tools on site that work was about to take place to “bring it in line with regulations”, and it was vacant.

The court heard that Godart did not mention to the official how much he charged for the accommodation.