Spot Check: Are Landlords Ignoring Prohibition Notices?

Some of the properties Dublin City Council has said are unfit for habitation, and shouldn’t be rented out to any new tenants before they’re fixed up, are listed for rent on property websites.

As of May 11, there are 212 properties with prohibition notices on the Dublin City Council website. Local authorities can serve landlords with these when they fail to comply with an earlier kind of notice, known as an improvement notice.

They might give out prohibition notices for a range of reasons, from mould and damp to dangerous wiring or fire-safety concerns.

They mean the landlord can’t re-let the property until the issues cited in the original improvement notice are addressed. Tenants already in place can stay put.

Some of the prohibition notices on the council’s list have been in place since March 2014. The most recent additions to the list are from March 2016. Many properties have multiple listings for different flats within their walls.

Spot Check

We decided to have a look and see if we could find any properties with prohibition notices that were up for rent. This didn’t take too long.

Numbers 95 through to 100 on the list, as well as number 171, feature a single address: 33 Rathmines Road Lower.

The first entry includes the house generally, and the following six specify apartments that didn’t meet Dublin City Council’s standards: flats 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

But for the past three weeks, an apartment to rent at this address has been advertised on Rent.ie. The ad says it’s available from 1 June 2016.

We left a voicemail with the person who placed the advert, but haven’t heard back.

Entry 105 on the list also made an appearance in our search: Flat 6 at 87 South Circular Road.

An advert featured on FastRent.tk in March, although that particular flat — as well as the house generally — was given a prohibition notice back in January 2015.

However, it should be noted that this post was for a year-long flat share, so it isn’t quite a re-letting. It is possible that the landlord did not know that the apartment had been reposted, or that somebody was desperate for a roommate to help cover the rent. There were no contact details for the advertiser in this case.

Similarly, a search for number 141 on the list, a house at 141 North Circular Road, also brought up a recent advert for a room share. Again, it’s unclear if the landlord was aware of the letting, but the number provided was disconnected.

We also came across a house in south Dublin on the list that was currently up to rent on Daft.ie, but when we contacted the property owner, he said the property had been completely renovated since earlier this year.

In the case of a handful of adverts for flats to let, it was unclear whether they were featured on the prohibition list or not. That’s because the ads didn’t list the flat numbers being rented, just the street addresses.

Some addresses have prohibition notices that relate to certain flats within them, making it difficult to tell whether they were the same rooms or not.

Keeping an Eye

Dublin City Council’s Press Office did not respond by the time this was published to a query asking how many prohibition notices have been given out in past years, or for the number of cases it has taken against landlords found to have breached them.

If a landlord breaks a prohibition notice, they can be prosecuted. If convicted, they face a fine of up to €5,000, or imprisonment for up to six months — or perhaps even both.

If, even after a conviction, an offence continues, landlords face a daily fine of €400. And on top of that, he or she will be ordered to pay for the council’s cost of investigation and prosecution.

But it’s possible that landlords could be tempted to breach a prohibition notice. With the initial fine capped at €5,000, some might take the risk.

Daft’s most recent report shows that, in the first three months of this year, the average rent paid in Dublin city centre was €1,455 a month.

A Struggle to Maintain Standards

Mick Byrne of the voluntary Dublin Tenants Association (DTA) said housing standards are the main issue that tenants approach the group about.

He’s come across a whole mix of problems with standards; he’s even come across a tree growing out of the roof of a house. But mould is the most common issue.

The DTA has helped several tenants win cases on the issue through the PRTB, which deals with monetary compensation, he said.

But if you want to compel a landlord to improve conditions or fix something, it’s the local authority you have to approach. He finds they’re proactive, but as he sees it, the policy is flawed.

“If your landlord refurbishes the property, then they can legally put out your tenancy,” he says.

So people can be fearful about complaining to the council about standards. “So the solution to your mould problem is to become homeless. That’s not a solution,” he says. “It’s ludicrous.”

When the property is refurbished, the landlord does have to offer it to that tenant before putting it out on the market, but as they are re-letting it, the rent can be put up.

The DTA makes tenants aware of these dangers. Byrne says that because of the risks, this area of Dublin City Council’s work should be linked closely with its housing and homelessness departments.

Fintan McNamara of the Residential Landlord’s Association Ireland says the organisation is happy with most of the current regulation.

Local authorities give landlords plenty of warning and time to fix problems with accommodation before affixing a prohibition notice to the property, he said.

But while the association is happy with local authorities enforcing standards that ensure fire safety, it takes issue with their insistence that bathrooms cannot be shared, and that they must be within the confines of the unit.

Both landlords and tenants have in the past complained about that policy.

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Author:

Louisa McGrath: Louisa McGrath is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at lmcgrath@dubinq.com.

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