Saturday 18 November 2017

'Caretaker' wearing balaclava refused county council access to property where up to 70 tenants were living - court hears

  • Man wearing a 'hi-vis and balaclava' tried to prevent local authorities accessing property
  • Judge ordered landlord to rehouse tenants by 5pm Saturday
  • 'They will be safer sleeping on couches somewhere than in that house'

The house where up to 70 people were living
The house where up to 70 people were living

Amy Molloy and Ray Managh

A "caretaker" wearing a balaclava refused local authority officials access to a five-bedroomed Co Dublin house where up to 70 tenants had originally been crammed at weekly rents of €50 each, a court heard today.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane said purported insurance cover for the property and anyone in it would have been invalidated because of gross over-occupancy.

She said nine tenants still living at The Pines, Lehaunstown, Cabinteely, still faced health and fire risks.

The judge ordered landlord Christian Carter to have the remaining tenants re-housed by 5 pm on Saturday and to see to it that officials of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are allowed unhindered access to the property.

The Circuit Civil Court was told there was now a serious sewage problem at the house which was used to unlawfully house a reported 70 South American and east Europeans.

Judge Linnane had directed that the house be cleared of residents by noon today but was told there were still nine remaining.

"They will be safer sleeping on couches somewhere than in that house," she remarked.

Jayne Dobson, an engineer with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, told the court that she had carried out an inspection of the house grounds following fears that a septic tank serving the premises may not be suitable for the intensity of occupancy.

She said the Ballyogan Stream, a tributary of the Shanganagh-Loughlinstown river runs almost parallel to the property and both streamwater and groundwater systems were vulnerable to pollution.

Ms Dobson told the court that the waste water treatment system at the house comprised a septic tank and percolation area.

"There were manifest issues with the treatment system which give an impression that there is a serious risk of pollution of the Ballyogan Stream as well as ground water in the area," she said.

Ms Dobson said blocked waste gullies at the side of the house was causing effluent to collect on the hardstanding car park area and a broken inlet pipe to the septic tank pit was permitting raw sewage to collect around the outside of the tank.

She said the tank was manifestly inadequate for servicing the waste from a property containing in excess of 10 people let alone 60 or more.

The percolation area was equally inadequate for treating the waste from toilets, baths, showers and washing machines.

Ms Dobson stated that suspected sewage effluent was discharging from the percolation area into the car park area and through an opening in the boundary wall into the river bank.

"I believe that in order to mitigate the potential contamination risk to the environment that intensive use of the sewage system must cease," she told the court.

Michael Binchy, who appears with solicitor Kevin O’Higgins for the owner of the house, 85-year-old Richard Stanley, of “The Pines,”

Glenamuck Road, Glenamuck, Dublin 18, said his client had been unaware of the situation.

Mr Stanley’s son, who lives in London, had rented the property to Christian Carter, who has addresses at Dunedin Drive, Monkstown, Co Dublin and at Grove Park, Rathmines, Dublin, for €4,000 a month.

Barrister Liam O’Connell, counsel for the local authority said the council was seeking an injunction restraining the continued use of the house as a multi-occupancy dormitory property and wished to proceed with its application.

Fran Rooney, who appeared with O’Brien Redmond Solicitors for Mr Carter, told Judge Linnane his client was doing everything possible to re-house the remaining nine tenants.

He had been receiving about €2,500 a week rent from the tenants.

Earlier the court heard he was receiving as much €3,500 a week.

Carter, who was in court this afternoon, provided the local authority’s law agent Dorothy Kennedy with his personal mobile phone number so they could keep in contact with him.

Judge Linnane told barrister Alan D. Brady, counsel for the remaining tenants, that he should specifically warn them of the fire and health risks they faced while remaining in the property.

Mr O’Connell had earlier told the court that the local authority had moved to obtain the injunction after learning that up to 70 tenants were occupying a living room, a dining room, bedrooms and the basement of the house in “dangerous, unhealthy and cramped conditions.”

Judge Linnane adjourned the proceedings until Monday next and ordered Mr Carter to be in attendance.

Undercover investigation

Independent.ie previously exposed through an investigation at the beginning of January how this property was being dangerously overcrowded.

Undercover recordings revealed how a man advertising the property claimed the house was rented to foreign nationals because "[with] their way of living...they'd agree to it a lot more."

None of the tenants had leases and they were paying €200 per month to live there.

When contacted by Independent.ie, Mr Carter responded:"I followed procedure with the county councils last year and had a contract with the owner. I have a lot of pride in making a good environment for tenants in affordable housing, instead of hostels at €40 a night."

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