SQUALOR like that last seen in Limerick 100 years ago is evident once more in rental accommodation throughout the city.
Speaking last week’s Metropolitan District meeting of Limerick City and County Council, Independent councillor John Loftus lashed out at the appalling conditions people are expected to live in. He also called for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to be involved in the inspection of rental standards because of the implications for public health.
“I visited the home of one young mother with two children where rain was running off the light fixture into the centre of the room. She had a bucket under it to collect the water and at any minute the electricity could have blown,” Cllr Loftus told council members.
“You have to see some of the squalor to believe it and people are being ripped off with high rents to live in these conditions.”
According to Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville, one of the single biggest issues he has seen coming up in Limerick is tenants trying to get landlords to carry out basic maintenance.
“Given the housing crisis, many landlords seem to be ignoring requests for maintenance, or simply refusing to carry out works,”he claimed.
“I’m proposing a very simple step be taken by the council, to try make sure tenants are fully informed about their rights, and who to contact if their landlord is messing them about. As it stands, the council is writing out to thousands of private renters who are on the housing waiting list. Surely the council could easily include information about tenants rights, and contact details for organisations such as Threshold in these packs?”
Cllr Prendiville went on to point out that 100 per cent of all private rental accommodation inspected by Limerick City and County Council failed to meet the minimum standards.
“Most failed on multiple counts. A majority of rented accommodation inspected didn’t didn’t meet minimum standards in terms of ventilation, or structural condition. More than a third failed on fire safety grounds. It is clear there is widespread cases of what are essentially slums being rented out, houses and apartments that simply do not meet even the minimum standards.
“The problem is these inspections are only scratching the surface. For those not on HAP or RAS, it is left up to the tenant to report the building, and request an inspection. Many don’t even know about the minimum standards, or what to do if their landlord is not carrying out maintenance.
“While the laws in Ireland generally do prefer landlords, tenants do have legal rights, and when tenants get stand up and speak out they can force their landlords to take action, and they can even win compensation. Landlords often try to bully or intimidate tenants, and tenants can feel like they are powerless to stop them. What we need now is for tenants to get organised, and take on these slumlords, and demand their basic rights are met,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh took issue with Limerick City and County Council for setting a “bad example” for the upkeep of their properties.
“We need to take a closer look at ourselves as we are reluctant to fulfil our own obligations,” he claimed.
by Alan Jacques