Tenants of an approved housing body in Dublin’s north inner-city are being threatened with eviction for keeping tumble-dryers on landings outside their apartments.
The tenants of Co-operative Housing Ireland (CHI) in Sean McDermott Street say they have kept dryers outside their homes, on indoor landings, for over 20 years, as the apartments are too cramped to accommodate them. They have no access to washing lines, their balconies are too small to dry clothes and there is no communal laundry facility.
CHI says it is a “fire risk to have items — including tumble dryers — on landings, stairwells, door, and other access routes”. It is concerned both about escape routes being blocked and the risk of a dryer starting a fire. A spokesman said CHI was required to comply with the Fire Safety Guide for Building Owners and Operators, published by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in March 2022.
In a series of letters since July 25th, CHI told tenants to remove the dryers, with the most recent delivered by hand on October 10th. “As of today you have failed to remove electrical clothes dryer as previously requested on 31/08/2022,” it says.
“By this notice the landlord gives you a period of 14 days to remedy this breach of tenancy obligations. Should you fail to remedy the breach within this period I am entitled to terminate your tenancy pursuant to Part 5 of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2015.”
While many of the 32 households have removed their dryers, eight have not saying they have nowhere else to dry laundry, including work uniforms. Deirdre Dunne (64) is reluctantly preparing to remove hers, despite having a letter from her doctor urging that she be allowed keep it where it is. She is hanging clothes now in her bedroom and livingroom, despite being described by her GP as having a “chronic respiratory condition” and as “vulnerable”.
Christine Corcoran, who works in childcare, shares her two-bedroom apartment with her grandson and two adult daughters, has had a dryer outside her apartment for 26 years. “A lot of us work in healthcare and schools. We obviously need our clothes to be washed a lot and to be dry.”
Her neighbour, Marilyn Molloy, who works as a cleaner in the Mater hospital, is similarly upset by the new approach. “I had a dryer there 17 years. Why is it so important now when they’ve after been outside the doors years?”
A CHI spokesman acknowledged this past experience. “Historically, it had been understood that if landings were kept tidy it was appropriate to have personal items there. With the benefit of hindsight this was a mistake,” he said.
Tenants want an alternative means of drying their clothes to be provided if they can’t keep their dryers in situ. However, as tenants of an approved housing body (AHB) they have fewer rights than those in other tenancy types. Where they do not have access to an outdoor area to dry clothes, both local authority and private-rented sector tenants must have access to either communal laundry facilities or their own washing machines and dryers. But those in AHBs do not have this right.
It is a loophole that “must be closed,” says local TD Gary Gannon. “On the face of it, it seems like a simple dispute about a tumble dryer but on a deeper level it’s about how some housing associations treat their tenants. You can see these tenants are living in fear. There is an unreasonableness here that is harsh and cruel.
“I have been flabbergasted getting in touch with the CHI here, asking: ‘Where are they supposed to dry their clothes? What alternatives are you bringing? And it just seems to be none.”
The CHI spokesman said: “We have a responsibility to be proactive, to ask members to keep landings and stairwells clear and, when necessary, to remove items in these areas, including dryers.
“Our motivation is guided by health and safety requirements, protecting human life, and to prevent a worst-case scenario — a clothes dryer going on fire outside someone’s front door, preventing escape.”
He said two meetings had been held with tenants “which allowed members to voice their concerns and for all involved to explore alternatives that would be beneficial to everyone”, with a further one planned for later in the month.
“CHI understands that we need to be more proactive in engaging with members on this issue. We are hopeful this issue can be resolved.”
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