Monday 23 October 2017

Exclusive: 70 tenants told to praise overcrowded 'hostel' or lose deposits

  • Texts show rent collector ordered them to write a letter saying they were 'happy'
  • Claim they were 'made feel like criminals'
  • 'We asked them to stop bringing more people but they just put in more bunk beds'
  • Claim they were asked to pay two months' rent when the landlords learned they would have to vacate the property

The texts sent by Dillon De Brun (pictured)
The texts sent by Dillon De Brun (pictured)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Tenants who were crammed into an "unauthorised hostel" have claimed that the man who collected their rent each month threatened to keep their deposits unless they hand wrote a letter saying "how much they loved living in the house."

Texts seen by Independent.ie show how Dillon De Brun, who collected rent from up to 70 tenants living in a five-bedroomed house, sent a message to everyone ordering them to write letters to be used as evidence in court.

The messages read: "Ok so here's what's going to happen.

"I need every tenant to write a handwritten letter for me to give to the judge of the case about how much they love living in the house and how ye can’t afford to find a house elsewhere as they [sic] is nowhere as cheap or available!

The tenants were told they wouldn't get their deposits back unless they sent a video/wrote a letter saying they were 'happy'
The tenants were told they wouldn't get their deposits back unless they sent a video/wrote a letter saying they were 'happy'

"I'm going to go to the judge on Monday and hand him all these letters and speak to him myself."

Dillon De Brun was employed by Mr Christian Carter (29) to manage The Pines, Lehaunstown, Cabinteely and collected the rent each month on his behalf.

He used various usernames on Facebook to advertise the property, including ‘Dyl O’Reilly’.

Undercover recordings by Independent.ie revealed how tenants had no written leases and Mr De Brun claimed The Pines was rented to foreign nationals because "[with] their way of living… they’d agree to it a lot more".

The mattresses were removed and remaining tenants were forced to sleep on the floor
The mattresses were removed and remaining tenants were forced to sleep on the floor

Now the tenants, who were given five days notice to find alternative accommodation, have spoken out about what it was really like to live in the house.

"He threatened us about how we wouldn't get our deposits back unless we made a video or wrote a letter," they claimed.

The bathroom had mould and the drain 'constantly clogged up'
The bathroom had mould and the drain 'constantly clogged up'

"At the beginning there was very few of us and the house was like brand new. It wasn’t so bad back then. Day by day, more people arrived. There was 20, then 21, then 22 and eventually almost 50 people in the house," said Laura (28), originally from Italy.

They spoke of problems with mould, how the heating always broke down and said there was constant electricity problems.

"They just tried to put in as many people as possible. Some people had to pay incredible money for the beds. When they knew we would have to leave the house, they asked for two months' rent up front.

The Pines, Lehaunstown, Cabinteely which had up to 70 people living there at one time Photo: Tony Gavin
The Pines, Lehaunstown, Cabinteely which had up to 70 people living there at one time Photo: Tony Gavin

"We had to wait until midnight to cook our dinner and there was over 40 phone chargers and a lot of hair straighteners so it was really dangerous," she added.

Dillon De Brun declined to comment to the above claims.

'All they cared about was money'

Wilko (30), originally from the Netherlands, described the landlords as "two-faced."

"It was like they were wearing masks. They pretended they cared about us, but all they cared about was money."

The tenants were informed that a second kitchen would be built into the house to accommodate them.

However, instead, the would-be kitchen was transformed into another bedroom.

"I asked could I pay my rent by standing order and was told no. Dillon said ‘it was not secure’ and insisted we pay cash-in-hand. With €500 in Italy, you could rent a house. In Ireland, you can rent a bed," said Laura.

Other tenants returned home to their countries due to being unable to find alternative accommodation after they were ordered to vacate the property.

Diego (33) from Mexico said "they didn’t care about us."

"Nobody tried to take care of people in the house after the story. Instead of helping us to get out of the problem, we were made feel like the problem."

"We were made feel like criminals," Laura added.

The tenants expressed disappointment about the "lack of consideration" when it came to finding them somewhere else to live.

They claimed Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council "weren't very helpful" when it came to finding alternative accommodation and were puzzled as to why nobody from the council sat down to speak with them to explain what would happen.

"They just came in and took some pictures of the house," they claimed.

However, a spokesperson for the council responded:"In the course of investigations issues concerning environmental pollution also came into evidence supporting the view that the premises presented a danger and health risk to occupants and the local environment.

"The occupants were notified of the proceedings and ultimately by Order of the Court dated the 2nd February the second named defendant Christan Carter was directed to provide alternative accommodation for those persons remaining in occupation of the premises.

"However, I can confirm that the Housing Department ensured that emergency accommodation was secured and made available to all individuals who presented to our Homeless Services Section. "

'The tenants need to be the ones protected'

Edel McGinley, Director of the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MCRI), has been working with the tenants to help them find accommodation since they were ordered to vacate the property.

She is calling for new laws to be implemented to protect the rights of tenants in situations like this.

"We are very concerned that the council did not take their rights into consideration when pursuing the landlord for breaches of planning laws. Rogue landlords need to be prosecuted and tenants need to be protected in these types of situations.

"County councils have a duty of care. This is not an isolated incident and further actions by any council needs to uphold the rights of the tenant," she added.

Undercover investigation

Independent.ie first reported on the poor living conditions in The Pines earlier this year.

Following an inspection by the council after our undercover investigation, the property was deemed to be an  "unauthorised, dangerous hostel."

Mr Christian Carter, who was subletting the property from the owner Mr Richard Stanley, appeared in court in relation to the matter.

Both parties were ordered to pay legal costs of €60,000.

However, former tenants have claimed this would only be "one month’s rent" for Mr Carter, who rents a number of other houses across Dublin.

Independent.ie also exposed how Christian, along with his father Colin Carter, was renting five houses in Clontarf and Rathmines on behalf of a Mr James 'Jim' Cuddy in a similar manner.

The number of tenants in these houses was significantly reduced after Dublin City Council issued fire safety notices in respect of the properties.

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