By Fiachra Ó CionnaithIrish Examiner Political Correspondent
“Slum landlords” who put people’s lives at risk by advertising unsafe black-market properties should be immediately jailed.
Sinn Féin demanded tougher action as Dublin City Council admitted that regulations more than 50 years old were not working to tackle overcrowding.
The local authority also apologised for failing to open emails warning of “fire trap” homes.
In advance of a Dáil debate on increasing overcrowding and dangers in the rental sector, Eoin Ó Broin said there was an immediate need for urgent reforms.
A Sinn Féin motion due to be debated tonight seeks a significant rise in inspection rates — which currently stand at just 2% of properties in some areas — and further advocates an NCT-type certification system for rental homes.
Mr Ó Broin said existing penalties also needed to be changed and should include prison sentences for landlords who put lives at risk.
“If you look at the very clear breaches of fire safety in the RTÉ programme last week, we need more than fines for some of those very serious breaches, and the possibility of custodial sentences where landlords are actually putting tenants lives at risk,” he said.
“This is almost like a black market rental sector. These landlords aren’t people advertising on daft.ie — they aren’t people coming anywhere close to registration or abiding by minimum standards.
“When you see 40 to 60 people crammed in like sardines in those kinds of conditions, that’s an order completely different to landlords who need to fix a pipe or deal with a bit of damp.
“And if those landlords are putting their tenants’ lives at risk with the kinds of excessive overcrowding and clear breaches of safety we’ve seen, then I think where people’s lives are being put at risk then we should be discussing whether a fine is serious enough punishment.”
Mr Ó Broin’s comment was made as Dublin City Council admitted the existing fines system was not working.
In a statement last night, the council said the properties highlighted on the programme were “grossly overcrowded, with totally unacceptable living conditions that were clearly unsafe”.
The council said overcrowding legislation dates from 1966 and is now more than half a century old, and warned “the current legislation needs to be updated and strengthened with much greater penalties on property owners who do not comply”, with large court fines and landlord bans required.
However, despite the proactive recommendations, the city council also conceded it failed to open emails warning of “fire trap” homes and that some criticism was “justified”.
Last night, housing charity Threshold mirrored the comments, saying an NCT-style system was needed to ensure lives are not lost due to people living in unsafe accommodation.
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