Legislation required to tackle overcrowding – Dublin’s chief fire officer

Fire services act should not be main legislation to tackle slum conditions, says officer

Dublin Fire Brigade has called for legislation that would define overcrowding and the remedies to prevent it as legislation covering fire safety, housing, building control and planning all deal with buildings but none address overcrowding directly. Photograph: Tom Honan

Dublin Fire Brigade has called for legislation that would define overcrowding and the remedies to prevent it as legislation covering fire safety, housing, building control and planning all deal with buildings but none address overcrowding directly. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

New legislation is required to target overcrowding in rented properties, Dublin Fire Brigade’s chief fire officer Pat Fleming has said after RTÉ’s undercover investigation into slum-like conditions in the sector.

The programme, broadcast on Thursday, revealed severe overcrowding and dangerous fire and safety conditions in rented properties in Dublin, Co Louth and in Cobh, Co Cork.

Dublin Fire Brigade, which has closed three buildings at the centre of the investigation, has called for legislation that would define overcrowding and the remedies to prevent it as legislation covering fire safety, housing, building control and planning all deal with buildings but none address overcrowding directly.

“We need specific legislation to deal with the overcrowding issue,” Mr Fleming told The Irish Times.

“When Dublin Fire Brigade receives a complaint about a property we do our best to deal with it under the Fire Services Act that we operate under but it should not be the primary legislation to deal with this.”

Cramped conditions

The three multi-occupancy buildings that were closed had numerous rooms fitted with bunk beds and housed more than 120 tenants in cramped conditions with poor ventilation and limited access to fire exits.

Mr Fleming said that often when the fire brigade is called out due to a complaint about overcrowding, it is “coming after the event” when other legislation should have prevented the problem.

“Overcrowding poses many other issues to people in terms of general lifestyle other than fire. The legislation that deals with housing standards should deal with this,” he said.

“That is where it fits and obviously if there are fire safety issues, there is legislation there to deal with it but that has nothing go to do with overcrowding.”

He noted that the legislation on overcrowding was so out of date that the 1966 Housing Act addressed the issue by focusing on the number of male and female tenants in the same room.