Belfast Telegraph

Anger after derelict house torched

An arson attack was carried out on a derelict house less than an hour before a meeting between council staff and residents to discuss empty houses being allowed to fall into serious disrepair.

The house in Argyle Street, Londonderry, was deliberately set on fire on Tuesday just as councillor Maeve McLaughlin was preparing to raise residents’ concerns with council staff.

Ms McLaughlin said the fire demonstrated the serious issue of empty houses and absentee landlords who must be called to account.

She added: “There are several issues here, not least, of course, is the very real risk to life.

“This particular house has been used by street drinkers for shelter so someone could have been in this house and been burned in the fire. But even without that the fire could have spread to other properties if it had been at night-time, so it is fortunate no-one was hurt this time.

“A fire in an empty mid-terrace house will spread very quickly to other properties, especially if they too are empty, which is the case in Argyle Street.

“The wider issue is the number of vacant houses, not just in Argyle Street but in the Rosemount area generally, which could be used to help address the high number of people who are on the housing waiting list.

“New legislation that comes into force in October means that landlords are responsible for 100% of the rates, so that will encourage them to keep their houses occupied and in better repair, but there is also an issue of absentee landlords with these houses too.

“I understand that in some cases there will be genuine reasons for a landlord letting a house fall vacant and then into disrepai, but this is not the always the case and these landlords must be held to account.”

Two fire appliances from Northland Road attended the fire on Tuesday.

It started on the first floor of a mid-terrace unoccupied house. The Fire Service said the blaze was started deliberately.

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