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Friday 24 May 2019

Tenants who put lives at risk by removing smoke alarms could face eviction

Task force calls for crackdown to stop Grenfell-type tragedy

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Tenants who remove smoke detectors and fire alarms, placing their neighbours' lives at risk, should be evicted, a Government task force established in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy has said.

It also recommends a crackdown on rogue landlords renting substandard or overcrowded accommodation that poses a heightened risk to fire safety.

On June 14 last year, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower in London which rapidly turned into an inferno, claiming 72 lives. A public inquiry is under way, and it has been alleged that cladding used on the building helped the fire to spread.

In the wake of the tragedy, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy directed the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management to convene a national fire safety task force to examine if a similar incident could happen here.

The 'Fire Safety in Ireland' report says the "combination of contributory factors" that apparently gave rise to the Grenfell tragedy "do not appear to be present in buildings in Ireland", but it has identified safety issues.

Local authorities were asked to survey all buildings of more than six storeys or 18 metres in height. Some 842 were identified, of which 291 were believed to have specific cladding issues - 104 were used for residential purposes, and 187 were non-residential.

The owners of 226 (105 residential and 121 non-residential) were required to conduct detailed fire risk assessments. Just 108 of these have been completed, but all are under way. In up to 20 cases, "substantial" works were required to make the buildings fire-safe, the Department of Housing said, including replacing cladding.

The report also notes that of the 695 buildings inspected which are used for social housing, 41 did not have fire detection or alarm systems in place, 49 did not have emergency lighting and in 14 buildings, escape routes were blocked. These issues have since been rectified.

The report makes 63 recommendations, and says inspections should be carried out every five years on all social housing stock in multi-unit developments. It also says that, while 90pc of households have smoke detectors or fire alarms fitted, it is not clear how often they have been tested. In some cases, they have been disabled, which puts lives at risk, and stiff sanctions should be introduced to improve compliance.

"The removal/disabling/failure to maintain smoke alarms in multi-storey, multi-unit social housing buildings could have fatal implications, not just for the individuals in question, but for other residents of any such buildings," the report says. It adds that this practice, along with "other behaviours which endanger fire safety", should be "grounds for serious sanction", including "possible loss of the tenancy" for tenants who repeatedly offend.

The Department of Housing said local authorities in the UK included similar clauses in tenancy agreements.

The report also highlights issues with landlords who rent overcrowded accommodation and "wilfully and recklessly disregard fire safety considerations", saying a crackdown is needed.

The Department of Housing said this would get under way, and target hostels, houses, B&B-type accommodation and buildings sub-divided into flats.

Irish Independent

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