A rental property with more than a dozen tenants has been served a fire safety notice over conditions in the house, which is also subject to a separate investigation by planning officials in Fingal County Council.
The property in Rush, north Co Dublin, has 12 bedrooms, some of which contain two beds, with foreign national tenants paying about €300 to €400 a month in rent in cash.
In some cases, rooms appear to have been subdivided, with plasterboard walls put up to create more bedrooms which, in some instances, are little more than the width of the door.
When The Irish Times visited the rental property in late March, there were 10 tenants in the house and several others who were not home at the time. Wires hung down from exposed light fittings in the ceiling, with several extension cords running across the upstairs hall into bedrooms.
A small fire broke out in the house on January 18th, with six units of the Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) responding to an emergency call to put out the fire. A DFB spokesman said an electrical installation was believed to be the source of the fire.
On foot of a follow-up inspection carried out on February 1st, officers served a fire safety notice on the premises, which is being appealed.
The spokesman said a fire notice is served “when a building presents as a potentially dangerous building” under the Fire Services Act, 1981 and 2003.
Fingal County Council also said investigations by its planning enforcement unit and private rental standards inspections unit were “ongoing”.
“The Residential Tenancies Board and the Revenue Commissioners have also been notified of suspected breaches of legislation governed by these two bodies,” a spokesman for the council said.
Ottie, a tenant in his 40s, originally from Botswana, moved into the house in May last year. Initially, he said he paid €300 in rent, which later increased to €400 a month.
He was asleep when the fire started at the back of the house near his room in January, only waking after it was extinguished. “I only came out of the house after the fire was put out. They couldn’t get everybody out, they thought everybody was out,” he said.
After the fire, he said the electricity in the property was turned off for nearly two months, only being reconnected in mid-March. “It was very cold. We had a generator that had to be switched on only in the morning for the lights,” he said.
Ottie, who does not want his full name published, said after the fire, he was moved into a smaller room in the house.
“My room that I got moved from was about 3 by 2 metres, but the one [the landlord] moved me to after the fire is around 1.5 by 2 metres,” he said. “The end of the bed is touching the wall. It is so small you cannot even turn 360. There is no window,” he said.
He received an eviction notice, dated March 27th and seen by The Irish Times, stating he had four weeks to leave as the landlord planned to substantially refurbish the room.
Two days later, however, he came home from work to find his belongings outside the house in black bin bags, with the door of his bedroom locked, despite a Government ban on evictions in place at the time.
That evening, while The Irish Times was at the property, Ottie had no option but to pack four black bags and a suitcase full of his belongings into the back of a car.
While he said he had been involved in an argument with the landlord, he did not expect to suddenly find himself removed from the house.
He was able to stay with a colleague temporarily but said he is searching for somewhere new to rent “to no avail”.
Ottie, who works in construction, said he felt migrants often had to accept poor living conditions as they had no support network.
The landlord has been involved in a number of disputes with tenants heard by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) in recent years. In cases in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the RTB ruled eviction notices served by the landlord were invalid.
The rental market regulator ruled in the landlord’s favour in a 2019 case taken against a tenant overholding in the property and antisocial behaviour by two tenants.
The RTB made rulings in 2021 that the landlord was owed more than €7,700 and €13,500 in rent arrears by two other former tenants.
The landlord, who is not being named for legal reasons, did not respond to a series of questions from The Irish Times about conditions in the rental property.