Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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Gleneaney House: The Trouble With Landlordism

Finnian O Donnell of People Before Profit Donegal and creator of Facebook page, No Bones About It, talks about how truly difficult it is to catch and expose a rogue landlord. Here he speaks from a personal capacity.


A few weeks back I received a text message from a friend of mine trying to get back on his feet. He sent me pictures of mold rising up behind a radiator and plaster peeling off the walls of a room. My Friend then told me of the state of the building in Letterkenny. He told me of the dire conditions he had to live in and informed me of the rogue landlord letting out the rooms of Gleneaney House. I was also informed of the lack of heating and hot water for the tenants of the building when he told me that the heating would only be turned twice a day for an hour and sometimes not at all. These rooms being rented out are previous hotel rooms and still contain a bedroom and bathroom and nothing more. All for 65 euro a week.

To help out my friend who was trying to get his life together and find some stability, I decided to post the pictures he sent me with a message explaining the situation to highlight this issue. To my surprise, we received many similar message and comments below the post. The same theme of mold, lack of hot water and heating, high rent, bullying and even theft by the rogue landlord of tenants possessions such as electric radiators kept popping up. One gentleman commented that he had to pay up to 200 euro a month on electricity bills.

The very next night, after the high exposure of the post, I got a late night call from my friend and he told me The landlord of the building, accompanied with two Garda Siochana, evicted him and left his belongings outside in the cold. The next morning I went to Gleneaney were my friend was holding a one man protest outside the building. He informed me of the situation and I took pictures of him at Gleneaney with his belongings still remaining outside. I then posted again on the PBP Donegal page. The two posts together had reached over 100,000 people in total. To highlight the issue even further PBP Donegal held a public protest outside Gleneaney House. We had managed to expose this rogue landlord and were confident that something was going to be done. We had used social media and people power out on the street to address this issue but still nothing was being done. It was all well and good posting on Facebook and shouting from a mega phone on the streets of Letterkenny however, more direct action was needed and we knew it.


Tumbleweeds come to mind

Myself and another member of PBP Donegal called local councillors and TD’s to see what they could do. I emailed local independent councillor Dessie Shiels and even Facebook messaged him four times to see if he could look into this matter and help out in anyway. No Reply. Local Sinn Fein councillor, Gerry Mc Monagle was also contacted. No Reply. Independent TD, Thomas Pringle was emailed and facebook messaged also. Yes you guessed it, No Reply.

I, along with another PBP Donegal member, called the local council office to see if any inspections could be done on Gleneaney. When I asked if I could talk to anyone about the council making an inspection of the premises, the lady on the phone told me that only current tenants can make a complaint about their residence and there was nothing I could do. The other PBP member was told the same. Due to the rogue landlord’s past and current behavior towards the tenants of Gleneaney House, those still residing in the building, who had privately messaged PBP Donegal, were too afraid to speak out in case they too were evicted immediately, leaving them with nowhere to go.

We were then left with two more options. Inform the Fireservice of Donegal to see if they could make an inspection of the place and call the RTB (Residential Tenancies Board) to check if the building was registered. I called the fire service and they informed me that I would Have to email them with a complaint. I did so but once again, No Reply.


Last resort

And so now we were clutching at straws here. We had exhausted any social media exposure through facebook, we had gathered the people and held a protest outside Gleneaney, we had informed time and time again the one TD and Councillors we thought would help us, we exhausted all avenues through the local council and local fireservice and still nothing has been done. Until maybe now.

After calling the RTB, I asked the gentleman on the phone if Gleneaney house was a registered tenancy. He informed me that unless the premises is under a different name, Gleneaney House would be in fact, not registered. The penalty for a non registered tenancy is 4,000 euro fine or 6 months in prison or both.

After the phone call with the RTB, I emailed the Registration Enforcement Section, filled in a referral form, sent it and have received an emailed that the RTB will ‘‘actively pursue the Landlord in question’’ . So, all we do now, is wait.


Questions to be asked?

This is why it is so difficult to catch a rogue landlord. When exposure through social media with over 100,000 views isn’t enough. When a public protest with over 30 people with placards and banners and mega phone speeches isn’t enough. When two members of PBP Donegal, calling on behalf of frightened tenants isn’t enough. When Councillors ignore your calls and the fire service doesn’t even reply a simple email isn’t enough then isn’t it about time we all realise that the current system doesn’t work for the people of our communities but rather protects those who profit from the poor and the vulnerable?

If the RTB do pursue Gleneaney House and expose its rotten corruption, It will have nothing to do with the local authorities because they done nothing to help. I fear that the full force of the law will not fall hard on these rogue landlords. No prison time for the corruption they continue to deal in, no change in how they treat their tenants. A few grand to pay to which they will sign off as loose change, no doubt.


Finnian O Domhnaill is a political writer from Donegal, currently living in Derry. He is the creator of the political page No Bones About It.



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