Overcrowded and unfit house.
A house is deemed overcrowded at any time when the number of persons ordinarily sleeping in it and the number of rooms in it are such that any two of those persons be over 10, not of the same sex must sleep in the same room or are such that the free air used in a room or sleeping apartment for a person has less than 400 cubic feet, the height of the room being deemed eight feet if it exceeds eight feet.
The housing authority may require the owner or occupier to provide details within 14 days of particulars of the size and dimensions or rooms, number of rooms, purpose for which they are kept, occupants, sanitary and cooking facilities and such other particulars as are referred to.
The authority may serve a notice specifying the maximum number and categories of persons who may occupy the house or any room without overcrowding. The owner may be required to publish this in such manner as they specify.
The housing authority, where it is of the opinion that a house is unfit for human habitation in any respect shall, unless it is of the opinion that it is not capable of being rendered fit, at reasonable expense serve on the owner or other person having an interest in the house specifying the matters in respect of which it is alleged the house is unfit for human habitation.
The notice may require the owner to execute works within 28 days of the date of notice. The works must be such as are necessary to make the house fit for human habitation. It may specify the works which are in the opinion of the authority necessary to make it so fit and to prevent the structure from deteriorating. The owners/occupiers and their agents are obliged to comply with the requirements / works. The owners may enter the land for such purposes even if it is let out or other persons have rights.
The owner has the opportunity to respond and request a hearing in relation to the authority’s proposal for the house. The housing authority may accept an undertaking to carry out the work. If no undertaking is given, the authority may make a closing or demolition order or an order requiring the house to be vacated.
If the requirements of the order have not been complied with within 21 days (unless an appeal is pending) an offence is committed, and the housing authority may do anything required by the notice for that purpose. It may enter the land, do the works and recover the costs and expenses.
Local authorities have powers to serve orders to prevent overcrowding and limit or cease the use of accommodation which is unfit for human habitation. The local authority may serve notices on the owner of an overcrowded house requiring cessation of the overcrowding.
A house may be deemed overcrowded, when the number of persons ordinarily sleeping in the house are not such that any two people over 10 of opposite sexes must sleep in the same room or the free air space is less than 400 cubic feet.
The local authority may serve a closing or demolition order if it is of the opinion that a house is unfit for habitation. The authority is have regard to a range of practice in considering whether it is unfit including stability, resistance to fire, safety of staircases and common passages, open spaces, resistance to moisture, transmission of heat, resistance of sound, resistance to infestation, water supply, sanitary arrangements, drainage, airspace, ventilation, natural and artificial light, facilities for preparing and cooking food and building regulations compliance.
Where a house is unfit the Housing Authority may issue a repairs notice requiring the house be made fit for habitation. A closing or demolition order may be made if the costs are excessive. Failure to comply with a repairs notice, a demolition order or an overcrowding notice is an offence.
The Local Government (Multi-storey Buildings) Act 1988 required local authorities to prepare a register of multi-storey buildings. These were buildings more than five stories and constructed before 1988. A certificate of compliance was required. This followed an incident involving the collapse of flats in Sandymount
In practice, the building regulations have provided detailed housing standards applicable to new properties or where there is a change of use. In addition to building regulations. standards for a range of construction materials have been specified. See our separate section on building regulations.
In exceptional cases the courts have held that there is a sufficient relationship so that public authorities are liable for damages in a civil action for failures to ensure compliance with housing standards. Some of these negligence cases, however, were decided at the high point of judicial activism in pushing out the boundaries of civil liability for negligence
Houses are overcrowded if the available rooms to persons ordinarily sleeping in the house is such that
- any two of those persons being 10 years of age or more of opposite sex not being persons living together as husband and wife sleep in the same room or
- where the free air space in any room used for sleeping is less than 400 square feet assuming a ceiling height of eight foot. The definition is somewhat antiquated.
The Housing authority may serve notice in writing on the occupier requiring him to give a written statement of particulars relevant to facilities in the house including
- number and dimensions of rooms and the purpose for which they are used,
- the number of occupants,
- sanitary and cooking facilities and
- such other requested particulars.
They must be furnished in writing within 14 days.
The housing authority may serve a notice in writing setting out the maximum number and categories of persons having regard to the provisions on overcrowding who may reside in the house so as to prevent overcrowding. The authority may require the owner to publish the notice; failure to do so in an offence.
If an owner is causing or permitting a house to be overcrowded, the housing authority may serve notice in writing requiring that it cease within not less than 21 days. Failure to comply is an offence, if the house is thereby overcrowded.
If the housing authority decides that the house is unfit for human habitation, it must serve a repairs notice. This is to specify in what respect the house is unfit for human habitation and require remedial works in respect of defects in order to make it fit for habitation. They must be carried out within the period, which is to be at least 28 days from the date of service of the notice.
The authority may specify the works which it believes are necessary to comply with the notice. A range of factors are set out in the legislation with reference to which the housing authority may consider the house to be unfit for human habitation including
- fire resistance,
- safety of common parts and stairways,
- resistance to moisture, heat, sound,
- resistance to infestation,
- air space and ventilation,
- water supply,
- sanitary arrangements,
- facilities for storing and cooking food,
- natural and artificial lighting
- extent of compliance with building bylaws [building regulations and housing standards].
If the housing authority determines that the house is not fit for human habitation, it is obliged to serve repairs notice unless the cost of doing so would be unreasonable. The authority must consider the estimates of costs and increase in the value of the house attributable.
It may serve a notice indicating the period in which it will require the works to be done setting out time and place at which it will consider the condition of the house as well as offers in relation to carrying out future works or undertakings as to future use which the owner may wish to make. Persons with an interest are entitled to be heard.
The housing authority may accept an undertaking from the owner that he will do the works within a specified period so as to render the house fit for human habitation or an undertaking that it will not be used for human habitation until the housing authority is satisfied that it is fit for human habitation.
If the undertaking is not given or not complied with, a closure or demolition order may be made. A demolition order requires the owner to vacate the house, secure against reoccupation and to demolish the house and clear the site. The local authority may require erection of walls and barriers with public places to secure the demolition.
If the house is not vacated within the requisite time periods specified, the authority may apply to the District Court which may give warrant to enter and do the works.
The housing authority may accept an undertaking to the use of the house for human habitation. The authority may make a closing order. This may suspend the demolition order.
If the period for compliance with the demolition order or for repairs has passed, the authority may enter the premises and undertake the works specified. The lessor or lessee may apply to the Circuit Court to terminate any lease of the premises. The court may make an order determining the lease, unconditionally or subject to conditions including provision for compensation.
Where a closing order has been made, the housing authority may make a demolition order after six months has passed. If it becomes fit for human habitation, the closure order may be terminated.
The housing authority may affix notice to a premises indicated that a repairs notice, closure notice, demolition order has been served or an undertaking has been accepted. It must specify the penalties for using the premises in breach of the order. It is an offence to remove or interfere with the notice.
It is an offence to use a premises in breach of a notice order or undertaking.
Rent may not be sought in special for the use of premises which contravenes a closing, demolition order or undertaking. Rent may be recovered by the person paying the rent or other sum.
Breach of an order is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine of €1,269 with an imprisonment up to a month. There is provision for continuing penalties.
The owner of the property may be made liable for the expenses incurred by the local authority in enforcing the notice, orders or undertaking. They may be recovered as a simple contract debt from the sale of material leftover, by attachment of the rent or by charging order.
A person affected may appeal against the repair order, closing order, demolition order, charging order or demands for reimbursement of expenses incurred or that rent or payment in rent be made to the authority to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court may confirm, modify or renew the orders, notices or requirements.
The Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1992 provides for the prescription of minimum standard for rented houses. See separately the section in relation to these standards.
Where a landlord has contravened the requirements, an improvement notice may be served. It is served in writing. It must set out that the housing authority believes that a contravention of the regulations has taken place ,specify the regulation and give reason for its opinion.
It must direct remediation of the contravention within a period specified. It must set out particulars of the right to appeal and the consequences. A copy of the notice is served on the tenant.
If landlord believes that it has complied with notice, it must give notice to the local authority which may accept the compliance. Within the time specified, it must give notice to the local authority which may or may not accept that the compliance has been effected. It must give notice to the landlord and tenant within 28 days of receiving notice from the authority.
The landlord may object to an improvement notice within 14 days. The housing authority may reconsider the objection and either confirm it or annul it. There is a provision for appeal to the District Court. It must specify the grounds. The District Court may confirm, annul or revoke the order.
The housing authority may serve a prohibition notice if the improvement notice is not complied with. It shall state that the housing authority is of the opinion that the landlord has failed to comply with the improvement notice, and direct that the house shall not be let or re-let for rent or other consideration until the contravention is remediated. It shall et out particular rights of appeal.
The landlord may appeal the prohibition notice to the District Court and a similar procedure applies to that above.
It is an offence to fail to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice. The landlord concerned is subject on summary conviction to a fine of up to €5,000 or six months imprisonment. There is provision for continuing offences.