Deputy Chief Executive apologises to tenants for delay in responding to fire safety concerns.

Friday 03 November 2017 17.57
This emergency exit door at 12-14 Old County Road led straight into a concrete block wall.
This emergency exit door at 12-14 Old County Road led straight into a concrete block wall.

Dublin city council has apologised after it was revealed it took eight weeks to respond to multiple reports about a dangerously overcrowded rental property with 64 tenants.

The city council was alerted four times by an undercover researcher from RTÉ Investigates before it finally passed on the information to Dublin Fire Brigade, which immediately inspected the property.

The only emergency exit door in the building led straight into a concrete block wall which was recently built.

The building was subsequently deemed to be a fire trap by a judge in the High Court and it was closed down.

The case featured in the programme, RTÉ Investigates - Nightmare to Let.

Today, the deputy Chief Executive of Dublin City Council Brendan Kenny said the city council should have responded much earlier after being repeatedly alerted about the property at 12 to 14 Old County Road in Crumlin.

Speaking on the RTÉ News at One, Mr Kenny said: "In that particular case, we put our hands up. It should not have happened."

Asked if he was apologising, he said: "Absolutely…that particular case should have been referred to Dublin Fire Brigade."

Three overcrowded properties featured in the programme have closed down or are in the process of being closed down following the expose.

Mr Kenny said the council's "system needs to be fixed" and has given a "cast-iron guarantee" that complaints will be taken on board in the future.

Mr Kenny described the problem with overcrowded properties as "rampant" in the city.

16 women slept in this bedroom at the house in Kilmainham, Dublin.

He said: "There's some more. At the moment we are dealing with 25 different cases.

"But we do think that the legislation does need to be enhanced. There needs to be severe penalties on landlords and that would kill this type of activity."

The 6 month long investigation by RTÉ Investigates revealed that more than half of rental properties in almost every county are failing to meet national standards if and when they are inspected by local authorities.

In some counties, 100% of registered properties fail inspections.

The investigation also featured a 3 bedroom property in Rathmines. This property was shared by a total of 23 tenants who had to observe a 10pm curfew.

The house had just 1 shower and 2 toilets, while 2 small dining tables were used on a rota system. Tenants were charged €250 per month. It was described as overcrowded and unsafe by experts.

An undercover researcher reported her concerns about the property in No 5 Charleville Road to Dublin City Council. 

Dining room converted into a bedroom at Charleville Rd.
Charleville Rd where a dining room is now used as a bedroom to facilitate additional tenants.

We informed the Council that the property was overcrowded, that 8 women were sharing 1 of the bedroom, and that the house was not safe because people would not be able to get out on time if there was a fire. 

The Council wrote back to our researcher saying that to carry out an inspection, the council would need an existing tenant to make a complaint.

The council said it would be obliged to contact the landlord as part of the investigative process and that this could cause existing tenants some concern.

Our researcher emailed back, saying she would be happy for this to happen.

Two weeks later, Dublin Fire Brigade inspected the property. The rental operation is now in the process of being vacated.

The deputy chief executive of the council, Brendan Kenny said the response in this case was not acceptable. "The case should have been referred to Dublin Fire Brigade much earlier and action taken then," he said.

The man who collected the rent at the property is Tomislav Cubic, a restaurant worker from Croatia. 

However, RTE Investigates understands that the rental operation was also connected with a Dublin man Christian Cater, from Dunedin Drive, Dun Laoghaire.

Mr Carter was previously a director of a company called Red Sky Property Management, which was linked to an overcrowded property at the Pines in Cabinteely. 

This property featured in a court case where it was described as dangerous and unhealthy. Mr Carter resigned as director at the time of the court proceedings and was replaced as director by Tomislav Cubic.

In a statement, Mr Cubic said he had a lease on the property which featured in our programme, No 5 Charleville Road. He said that Red Sky Property Management was not connected with No 5 Charleville Road and that he was operating there in a personal capacity. 

He also said he was not in breach of fire safety regulations. 

The investigation also featured a former commercial premises in Kilmainham in Dublin 8 where tenants were charged €350 per month in rent.

A total of 42 people were living on the premises, which included a bedroom accommodating 16 people. 

The narrowness of the passageway in this bedroom prevented more than one person from passing through it at a time. It was described as a serious fire hazard by experts.

RTÉ's undercover researcher reported concerns about this rental accommodation to Dublin City Council.  Two days later Dublin Fire Brigade inspected the building and contacted the company providing the rented accommodation, Global Academics.

The company is owned by Jason Orr and Joshua Cantwell. 

The inspectors told the company, the building was a potentially dangerous building under the Fire Services Act 1981.

Two weeks later, a Fire Safety Notice was served and the company was required to close the premises. 

The RTÉ Investigations unit sent a list of questions to the owners of Global Academics.

In a response they said they were co-operating with the relevant authorities in relation to the property at 79 old Kilmainham Road. They said they had closed the premises and were now taking steps to remedy the defects identified by the inspectors.

They also claimed it was not within the remit of RTÉ to carry out an investigation into alleged breaches of legislation governing private rented accommodation.

The biggest rental operation featured in the programme centred around a property located on Old County Road in Crumlin in Dublin in which an RTÉ undercover researcher rented a bed at €250 per month.

4 people lived in this bedroom at 12-14 Old County Road, Crumlin.

The multi-occupancy property housed 40 tenants across 10 bedrooms. The building did not have a properly maintained fire detection system or properly maintained fire fighting equipment.

During RTÉ's investigation building work also began on an extension at the rear of the premises. It housed 24 additional people - bringing the total number of tenants in the building to 64.

The RTÉ Investigations Unit established that the person at the centre of the rental operation at 12-14 Old County Road was Andrew O'Neill. Mr O'Neill owns three other rental properties, at 47a Bangor Road, 49 Bangor Road and 72 Windmill Road, generating a potential gross income of more than €26,000 per month.

Mr O’Neill introduced himself to our undercover researcher, saying "Hi, I’m Andy, I’m the landlord." He was also filmed escorting fire inspectors at the building and directing the man who carries out repairs and collected the rent.

In a statement, Mr O’Neill said he was not the landlord at 12 to 14 Old County Road, nor was he the landlord for the three other rented properties.

RTÉ's undercover researcher reported concerns to Dublin City Council in relation to the Crumlin property 4 times before a report was passed to Dublin Fire Brigade in September. Dublin Fire Brigade sent in 6 Officers to carry out a full inspection at 12-14 Old County Road.  5 days later, the Fire Service obtained a High Court Order to evacuate the premises.

The programme also revealed low levels of inspections of rental properties by local councils.  

In total there are 325,000 rental properties registered in Ireland. Responsibility for inspecting these properties rests with local councils. 

Dublin City has the biggest concentration of rental properties in the country - yet it has one of the lowest levels of inspections. 

Data released to RTÉ Investigates via Freedom of Information revealed that just 2.4% of rental properties were inspected by the City Council last year, and of those that were inspected, 79% of properties failed to meet national standards.

The figures revealed that countrywide, 69% of properties failed the inspections by local authorites.

There was a 100% failure rate in four districts - Kilkenny, Louth, Offaly, and Limerick city and county.

The record was almost as bad in Clare at 99%, Carlow 98%, Galway County 97%, Meath 90%, South Dublin 88% and Sligo 88%.

RTÉ Investigates - Nightmare to Let featured the story of Patrick who has lived in a multi occupancy dwelling in North Dublin for 20 years.

He told RTÉ Investigates that substandard conditions at the property mean he has been unable to use the shower for 504 days.

In October 2016, the Council carried out an inspection at the dwelling and requested the landlord to carry out repairs to the ceiling, the lights and shower.

When RTÉ Investigates filmed almost a year later, many of the same problems persisted. Following correspondence from RTÉ, the landlord has since installed a new cooker, fridge, shower and a fully functional fire detection system.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the Government has absolutely no tolerance for anybody who would provide the sort of accommodation featured in the programme.

Asked what the Government was going to do about it, Ms Fitzgerald said it was about monitoring and inspection, and the changing role of the Residential Tenancies Board, so that it had a more proactive role, going out examining those situations and taking action.

"Clearly that was disgraceful," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"We have absolutely no tolerance for anybody who would provide that sort of accommodation."