97% of Cork rental homes failed safety checks

A statutory inspection has revealed an alarmingly high number of private rented properties in Cork county were potential death traps, writes Sean O’Riordan.

A local authority report yesterday divulged 97% of 756 private properties inspected failed to meet regulatory standards.

Many properties failed on basic life-saving installations such as smoke alarms, fire blankets and insufficient ventilation for open fires and solid fuel stoves.

Significantly, Cork County Council only has resources to inspect 5.1% of private rented housing stock.

A total of 733 of the 756 properties inspected showed breaches of basic safety legislation. Under regulations, all private properties have to be inspected at least once every four years.

Private landlords were charging huge prices but were failing “abysmally” to maintain standards, warned Sinn Féin councillor Des O’Grady.

Mr O’Grady, who had sought to see the report, described the inspectors’ findings as damning.

“I know there are some good landlords out there but many are failing abysmally,” he said. “We need to contact Housing Minister Coveney on this and get a proper inspection programme in place.”

Independent councillor Noel Collins said he recently viewed properties for rent at €1,100 a month and described them “as unfit for human habitation”.

“The scarcity of social housing is playing into the hands of unscrupulous landlords,” he warned.

“In 2015, 65% of these properties failed nationally but just 27 legal cases were taken. There’s an enforcement black hole. Tenants are afraid of becoming homeless and, in most cases, won’t challenge the landlord.”

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the council had the full-time equivalent of 2.4 people to conduct inspections. He said significant costs and resources were needed to reach the target of inspecting every rented house every four years.

A decision was made at the county council meeting to express members’ concerns to Mr Coveney.

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