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28 Sept 2022

Laois rent inspection 'threatening' letters may cause evictions warn councillors

Laois rent inspection 'threatening' letters may cause evictions warn councillors

The "threatening" tone and "ridiculous" requests in letters from Laois rent inspectors could end up causing further evictions as landlords give up and sell, a local councillor has warned. 

The letters are coming from Laois County Council's housing department, as the council is responsible for inspecting registered rental properties in the county to ensure they meet standards. 

So far this year, 134 inspections have been done.  The council has a target to do a total of 1,181 in 2022.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald spoke in defence of landlords, at the March council meeting.

"I've met a few people who are very worried. They got an inspector's list of 20 things to do. We want good standards for everyone but we are in a housing crisis, the last thing we want to do is have more landlords going back. These letters are too strong. 

"There are ridiculous requests on that letter. We should be very careful we don't end up with more evictions. Can people who got these letters that are over the top, be sent another letter asking them to speak to the council before they give up on being landlords," she asked. 

"The residents themselves have no issue. They are terrified they are going to lose their homes because of these letters. One was asked to put bars on the windows of a ground floor apartment. When it is over the top, it is over the top," she said.

The Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland said he will do a review of the letters.

"I am very much sorry to hear that peole feel terrified because of the inspections. The council has to follow rental standards on certain key things, like safe electrics, plumbing, fire exits, areas like damp which affect health. 

"I'll certainly instigate a review. The intention is to ensure standards that landlords must provide at a reasonable rent. We have 1,100 to do in any particular year. We'll take a very reasonable fair handed approach. It is not our intention to terrify, it would be the opposite, to make people more assured," Mr Mulholland said. 

Many councillors agreed with Cllr Fitzgerald's experience, Cllr Aisling Moran agreed "100%".

"People who have a spare house, they're nearly better leaving them idle than doing anything with them. It makes them want to get out of the market, then they sell to approved housing bodies or cuckoo funds, squeezing the middle," she said.

Cllr John Joe Fennelly also supported Cllr Fitzgerald.

"Only in the last two weeks, two people who spent a lot of money on their houses got a letter. To me it is sort of threatening. I know houses must be up to standard, but this is not alone disastrous for owners but for HAP tenants, because if these houses sell they are out on their ear," he said.

Cllr Aidan Mullins also agrees.

"While we all expect good decent standards, I saw a letter sent, for a house built just before the building crash. It was threatening in tone. What was being demanded was off the scale. The landlord said they can't afford the work. The tenant was happy. It was all cosmetic stuff. It puts the tenant at risk of eviction," he said. 

Cllr Padraig Fleming said he had received similar reports of "threatening letters". 

"One family owned house in a rural area, because the rent is €500 and they are being taxed €250, they are getting out, the reality is it is not worth it to stay in," he said.

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