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Action promised on rental overcrowding after 'shocking' Prime Time investigation

The revelations prompted a strong reaction online.

An image from the undercover footage.
An image from the undercover footage.
Image: Twitter/RTÉ_PrimeTime

THE GOVERMENT HAS reiterated its pledge to increase powers for local councils to enter rental properties after last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme.

The programme outlined people living in overcrowded conditions with one particular apartment in Dublin observed to have 11 people saying in it, with four people to a room and mattresses on the floor.   

The revelations prompted a strong reaction online with Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan describing the scenes as “shocking but not surprising”. 

In a statement today, a spokesperson for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the programme demonstrated the “very real need” to increase inspections and to ensure regulations are complied with. 

The department says that funding for inspections is to be increased to €10 million next year as part of a 25% inspection target for 2021 that was set a number of years ago. 

“The issue of overcrowded housing is dealt with in Part IV of the Housing Act 1966 and Local Authorities are responsible for the enforcement of this legislation,” the spokesperson said.

The Minister fully acknowledges that the provisions of the Act are dated and the department is currently working on proposed legislative changes by way of a Residential Tenancies Bill. 

The department states that the new bill would give local authorities the power to enter properties to check for overcrowding and to “quickly deal with any serious threat to life or to health and well-being” as a result of overcrowding. 

It’s also planned that greater penalties will be introduced for landlords who permit overcrowding and do not provide accurate information to housing authorities. 

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Speaking after last night’s programme, Labour’s Moynihan said that promises about housing standards have been made before and have not delivered upon.

“When Fianna Fáil were in opposition, their then Housing Spokesperson Barry Cowen introduced the Overcrowded Housing Bill: 2018 setting out updated minimum space requirements for tenants by providing new regulations and setting out penalties for breaches,” she said.

It is clear from what we saw this evening and in previous programmes that while fire safety legislation can be used to tackle issues such as overcrowding, it does not cover everything or encompass quality of life standards.

“This Bill is currently and Third Stage and the startling revelations in this Primetime programme show why it urgently needs to be implemented. “

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Rónán Duffy

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