FIRETRAP HAD RENTAL INCOME OF €13K A MONTH
Property housed 52 at the height of its occupancy
A ‘FIRETRAP’ rental property that was evacuated by court order this week would have been earning up to €13,000 a month at the height of its occupancy.
The Irish Mail on Sunday visited the property in Crumlin in Dublin this week, and the shocking pictures of the cramped and dangerous conditions are published for the first time inside. At one time, 52
people lived in the rooms behind two shopfronts on Old County Road, Crumlin, the High Court heard, and more than 20 were still living there this week – despite there being no fire escape or fire alarms. Questions were being asked last night about how thorough an investigation had been carried out when the property was first reported to Dublin City Council for a potential planning violation by a TD based next door.
A council spokeswoman said it first heard about the premises – comprising two semi-detached houses – at the start of September. However, the MoS has seen an enforcement file that proves the property was first brought to the council’s attention in December by Deputy Joan Collins, whose constituency office is next door.
The fire officers who investigated the property – after an RTÉ report about the dangerous building – found the rear entrance bricked up, according to Ms Collins.
A Facebook advertisement – posted in April – details that spots in the property were being rented at €250 per berth.
In the section of the house the MoS accessed this week there were five bedrooms. In each of the two bedrooms we saw, there were four beds – meaning up to 20 people could likely have lived in that part of the house. At €250 per month, somebody was collecting €1,000 per room and €5,000 for just one part of the house every month, if all the rooms had four beds.
The house was seemingly arranged into four units – with two upstairs rooms blocked by a locked door – which would allow more beds to be rented and house the 52 people that, the court heard, were present at one stage. That many people, at €250 a bed, would result in revenue of €13,000 a month.
The semi-detached houses are linked by a labyrinth of corridors in an extension to the original buildings, which appear to be disused shops. Bedrooms with barely enough space to stand with arms outstretched and fitted with bunk beds, were off networks of corridors that felt like a rabbit’s warren.
One of the rooms of the original shop was a living space strewn with rubbish and a floor that looked like an old shop storeroom. The other contained at least seven bikes and five mattresses.
Legal wrangles started on Wednesday as the council applied for a court order for the building to be vacated after an inspection found no fire escapes and no fire alarms inside. Council fire officers inspected the address after an RTÉ documentary team flagged it up.
One of the young women living there told RTÉ that she did not know where she or the other tenants, mostly Brazilian students, would go and added that houses like this are common in Dublin.
Judge Seamus Noonan ordered that the people living there vacate the premises by 10.30am on Friday. He also expressed concern about his order leaving a number of people homeless.
When the MoS visited the address, fire protection officers were putting up copies of the court order and telling tenants what was going on. None of the tenants, including the
‘First brought to council’s attention in December’
two Brazilians who allowed the MoS inside the building, wanted to answer any questions. However, one man said that ‘around 20 people’ were facing eviction.
Documents presented to the court hearing on Wednesday named the owners as step-siblings John and Yvonne McEleney. A man called Alex, the court heard, collected the rent on behalf of someone with the same name as the McEleneys. But on Friday, in a second court sitting, the McEleney’s lawyer, Brendan Brady, said they only legally owned 12 Old County Road and did not have a beneficial interest in the property. The court heard that two men were also linked to the property, Eddie and John McEleney. Both were added as named respondents for the next hearing. Conleth Bradley for the council, said he believed the two John McEleneys to be uncle and nephew.
In an email to the council that was presented in court on Friday, John McEleney claimed to have lived in England for a number of years and was rarely back in Ireland. He said he had heard about the court order in the media and contacted his stepsister Yvonne about it.
Mr Brady asked the court to adjourn to allow his clients to submit evidence about who owns and controls the property. Judge Noonan agreed and adjourned the case for two weeks. Our attempts to contact the McEleney family were unsuccessful but Ms McEleney’s partner Paul Doyle said she wouldn’t be commenting.
Speaking to the MoS, Ms Collins said she was ‘absolutely appalled’ when she heard details of the danger posed by the house and the number of people living inside.
Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, said: ‘I have no doubt that there are other houses and buildings of equally unsafe fabric made available to desperate people who have no alternative, and someone is making a lot of money off it.’
‘Collecting €13k a month from the 52 occupants’
‘Barely enough room to stretch your arms’