Calls have been made for the State to move against landlords who “exploit the housing crisis to profiteer” by letting unsafe accommodation to multiple tenants.
The issue was raised in the Dáil following a report in The Irish Times about an unauthorised prefab structure off Camden Street in Dublin, rented to 27 tenants and described as a fire hazard.
Dublin City Council has ordered the landlord Cathal Garrad to cease letting the premises by December 16th and to remove the structure. The tenants, all from outside Ireland and who now face homelessness, shared three toilets, two showers and one kitchen in the accommodation at 10 Liberty Lane off Camden Street and were charged between €500 and €600 a month plus €50 each for bills.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith highlighted the issue in the Dáil.
Ms Smith asked Taoiseach Micheál Martin what the consequences were “for criminal negligence” for “a landlord like Cathal Garrad, who rented this unauthorised structure to 27 tenants knowing that it was a fire danger”.
She asked if the State would “move against landlords who exploit the housing crisis to profiteer from it in this way in order to prevent anybody else doing what this landlord has done”.
Mr Martin said it was because the local authority enforced the fire safety legislation that “action has been taken to protect those who were in that unacceptable accommodation”.
But Ms Smith said “I asked about consequences for the landlord and criminal negligence”.
Mr Martin replied that “the consequences are in the legislation, but it is a matter for the council to pursue that. I am not going to prejudice any potential case that may arise.”
Earlier Ms Bacik said the tenants work and study in Ireland and “contribute to our economy. They are people from other countries who cannot source appropriate accommodation anywhere in Dublin.”
The Labour leader said the case was “one example of the sharp end of the housing disaster”.
She also referred to the revelation by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) on Tuesday that the rental market has shrunk by 43,000 homes in the last five years, with many landlords seeking to exit the market.
That gave a clear picture of the acute and desperate crisis facing renters, many in unsuitable and inappropriate precarious accommodation.
“If ours was a functioning housing system, many of those in such precarious accommodation would have been housed in public housing on public land,” she said.
“Instead, we saw four wasted years between 2016 and 2020, where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael squandered prosperity and did not put investment into building the necessary homes.”
She said the RTB also confirmed it did not have the power to alert local authorities to tenants receiving rental supports so they could be prioritised for the “tenant in situ scheme” of home purchase, where an eviction is pending.
The RTB said it was “a matter for Government to make a change in policy to require it”.
Mr Martin said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien had made it clear to local authorities that they could and should buy houses where tenants risk being made homeless because of the sale of the property.
“I spoke to the Minister again this morning about that and he reiterated it. The message is clear to local authorities that they can use resources to buy houses where houses are being sold and tenants could be left homeless. This is an important piece of work.”
On housing supply he said the Government is “on target between build, lease and acquisition, hopefully, to provide 10,000 social homes” this year.