Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley has said that vacant and abandoned homes are causing problems in every town in the county.
“People living adjacent to these abandoned properties in housing estates are left to suffer and their lives are made hell with the hassle and torment they cause. In the summer months in particular some children and teenagers often use these as venues for anti-social activity. This can include general vandalism and damage and fires are also a concern.
"Typically these homes are just abandoned by people who had unsustainable mortgages and may have emigrated. Some may have been repossessed by banks and vulture funds and just left idle until house prices increase. One house I am dealing with in Mountrath was never occupied and the Developer has long since abandoned his responsibilities," he said.
Residents in Esker Hills, Portlaoise spoke to the Leinster Express about their difficulty in trying to find the owner of the vacant house that was on fire last week.
"Real problems are caused when the houses have no registered owner or the current owner has deliberately not registered it in their name. This allows them to evade responsibility for maintenance or potential derelict sites levies imposed by the Council.
"Both myself and the two Laois Sinn Féin Councillors have dealt with dozens of these in the past 6 years and it can be very frustrating for those living adjacent to them. With the help of Laois County Council, local residents and sometimes staff in financial institutions, we have identified some the owners and had the necessary work carried out. Laois County Council would have been able to serve derelict site notices on the owners of some properties and this would result in improvement works being carried out.
"Three years ago I introduced a Bill in the Dáil which would give stronger powers to Councils. This would be in terms of pursuing the owners of derelict sites, or Councils carrying out work and putting "a charge" on the property i.e. when the house would be sold the Council would be reimbursed. It would also speed up the process of putting a levy on the owner and increase that levy. This legislation can be progressed in the Dáil but only with the support of either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael,” he added.
“We need to be clear that responsibility for damage to vacant houses rests with the perpetrators. Parents need to be vigilant as to where their children, including teenagers, are and what they are doing. There is also a role for the Gardaí in terms of greater levels of community policing in urban areas," he concluded.