More landlords being ordered to bring Dublin properties up to ‘minimum standards’, figures show

Tenants forced to ‘put up with’ damp, mould, rotting floors and broken heating, charities say

There has been a sharp increase in the number of orders issued to private landlords in Dublin about bringing their properties up to “minimum standards”, latest figures show.

Tenants, however, are increasingly forced to “put up with” issues such as damp, mould, rotting floors and broken heating when landlords ignore these orders, as “they have nowhere else to go”, housing charities said.

Data from Dublin City Council show its environmental health officers (EHOs) issued 2,029 improvement letters to private landlords in the first six months of this year. This is up from 2,098 for all of last year and 1,761 in 2020, when inspections would have been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

If a landlord does not comply with an improvement letter, EHOs may escalate the case to a formal improvement notice. To the end of June, 362 notices had been served, compared with 254 for all of last year and 465 in 2020.


Where these are not complied with councils may escalate to enforcement proceedings before the courts and ultimately prohibition notices, blocking further letting of the dwelling and ceasing any payments it makes in respect of the dwelling. As of June 16th last, 73 dwellings were subject to live prohibition notices in Dublin city.

The data applies to all types of rented property inspected by EHOs, including private lettings and lettings to tenants supported by the housing assistance payment (Hap) or under the rental accommodation scheme. All Hap tenancies must be inspected by an EHO within eight months of a tenancy starting to ensure the dwelling meets minimum standards as set out in 2019 standards for rented houses regulations.

The Residential Tenancies Board has also seen a significant increase in disputes brought by tenants alleging that landlords have breached their obligations and that their homes are not being maintained properly. In the first quarter of this year, 528 such disputes were brought by tenants, compared with 338 in the same period last year.

Threshold, the tenants’ rights advocacy charity, has seen “an increase in the number of private renters seeking support to address poor standards or outstanding repairs in the home,” particularly last year.

It supported 1,569 tenants seeking repair and maintenance works last year, compared with 1,269 in 2020 and 1,092 in 2019. So far this year, the charity has supported 570 tenants in getting their homes maintained and repaired.

The most common issue is damp and mould, followed by structural issues, broken heating systems and inadequate bathroom/shower facilities, said a spokeswoman.

“Repair and maintenance is always an area that’s an issue for private renters but has been in the top three issues for the last number of years,” said Threshold chief executive, John Mark McCafferty.

He attributed increases in the past two years to renters being at home more during Covid and noticing issues they may have ignored in the past, but also to the “abject lack of housing supply”.

“In a normal market renters could vote with their feet and find a better place. Unfortunately, they just can’t now, they have nowhere else to go.” It meant there was a “real risk” more vulnerable, poorer tenants were simply having to “put up with” bad housing for fear of losing “the roof over their heads” if they complained, he said.

Case study: Life in a damp apartment

There has “always been damp” in the two-bedroom apartment Elaine Melo, her partner David Lawless and their eight-month-old son, Ian, call home.

“But it has got really bad in the last three years,” says Melo.

Ian, who has Down syndrome, also has breathing difficulties. His medical social worker says he needs a “warm home without damp or mould”.

Melo has sought help from their landlord, the letting agency and Dublin City Council, but nothing has improved. The apartment is on the third floor of an apartment block in Inchicore, Dublin. The lift, says Melo, has never worked.

In July, following a thorough cleaning with bleach and repainting by Lawless, most of the dark mould visible during the winter is covered over, though some is beginning to grow again.

An improvement notice served on their landlord by the council on June 10th provides a stark record, however. It says the landlord has “contravened” regulations under section 18 of the 1992 Housing Act and 2019 minimum standards regulations.

The notice describes “evidence of a leak on the ceiling” of the entrance hall, stains on ceilings in the livingroom and bedrooms “consistent with water damage”, “mould growth” throughout, a “sagging ceiling” in one bedroom, a “damaged and rotten” Velux window, missing tiles in the bathroom, floor coverings “in poor condition”, inadequate heating, and inadequate refrigeration and freezing facilities.

Melo has had to give up work to care for Ian. He spent the first five weeks of his life in hospital with pulmonary hypertension and has ongoing care needs. Lawless works as a security guard at a church.

The couple are supported by Hap, paying €66 a week to Dublin City Council, which pays €1,200 rent to their landlord.

“First, two years ago, we talked to the rent company about getting the damp and leaks fixed,” says Melo. “They are good, but they are depending on the landlord.

“Then last year the council inspected and said [the landlord] would have to fix some things. I thought there would be pressure, but no. So the council came again a year later. She did the report [again] and it was the same way.”

Melo feels hopeless about any improvement in their situation. “Sometimes we think we could move to the country but Ian’s hospitals and his therapies are in Dublin.”

Asked if she gets down about it all, she says she cannot talk about how she feels. “I am doing what I can and I always have to hope.”

Dublin City Council said it could not comment on an individual tenant’s case. Melo’s landlord did not reply to calls, voice messages or texts.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times