Last Thursday’s Primetime Investigates show exposed very well what some landlords are allowed to get away with, even in the face of undeniable evidence of their wrongdoing.
The nightmare at No. 4 Harbour Hill in Cobh was revealed as part of the RTÉ programme; the tenant has no hot water, no shower, no cooking or cloths washing facilities, there is damp everywhere and a leaking roof, and now even the toilets are blocked.
One tenant has been resident for nearly 19 years, but when the current landlord took over last year conditions deteriorated. When complaints were made the response of the landlord was to seek evictions – in some cases this succeeded.
The Cobh tenant featured on the RTÉ show has already won two separate Residential Tenancy Board (RTB) adjudications, but it made no difference.
In the middle of attempting to evict some tenants others were taken in, even while the Fire Officer had ordered repairs and safety upgrades.
Earlier during the summer the landlord resorted to changing locks on the front door, and later having the electricity disconnected – illegal actions for which he was not called to account by any authorities.
Many public bodies have neglected their duty of care to the tenants at Harbour Hill, including the County Council, the Department of Social Protection, the HSE/Mental Health Services, An Garda Síochána and the RTB itself.
However, make no mistake, it is the local authority who has legal responsibility to enforce the law regarding MINIMUM STANDARDS, in this case Cork County Council are that authority.
While the Council have offered emergency accommodation (B&B) to the tenants, who are currently living in slum conditions, this is inadequate to their needs and doesn’t address the landlord’s neglect – the rogue landlord should be prosecuted with the full force of law and with all the resources of the County Council behind this effort.
Why is it that the state agencies are somehow ineffective in enforcing the law in regards to minimum standards? A recent report from County Council confirmed that about 96% of private rental units in its area failed the minimum standard test, i.e. 733 out of 756 inspections failed, and no one was prosecuted!
Why are the public bodies not held to account for allowing the nightmare that exists at No. 4 Harbour Hill and other such tenancies to exist?
The matter will be raised on Monday next at the regular meeting of the Cobh Municipal District Council, members of the public are entitled to attend, the meeting starts at 3pm in Carrig House, Cobh.
Cllr Diarmaid Ó Cadhla
Member of Cork County Council