The Housing Policy Statement 2011 provides a commitment to making the private rented sector a stable and attractive housing option for all who wish to rent in the short and long terms.
The Housing Policy Statement of June 2012 recognises that 'a balanced housing sector needs a strong, vibrant and well-regulated private rented sector'.
In 2002, 11% of households were in private rented accommodation and while this declined slightly between 2002 and 2006 to 9.9%, the past number of years has seen significant growth in the sector. In 2011, the proportion of households in the private rented sector reached 18.5% or 305,3077 households representing a 116% increase in the period from 2002-2006 or 160,060 additional households since 2006.
It is estimated that around 99,000 households receive State support for housing in the private rented sector, or 96,207 (32%) of all PRTB registered tenancies, when leased properties are excluded. These figures exclude the 103,016 dwellings let by local authorities as well as over 27,000 properties managed by AHBs.
To simplify the current benefits system under Rent Supplement, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 (Commencement of Certain Provisions) Order 2014 (S.I. No. 404/2014) came into operation on 15/09/2014 and provides for a new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) that will replace the existing supplement scheme.
Eligible households have to find their own accommodation under HAP within the private rented market but unlike previous schemes, the local authority pays the rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. This is very significant as it means that rent payments to private landlords will be guaranteed. In order to be included in the HAP scheme, the accommodation concerned must meet the statutory standards for rented accommodation.
Regulations in the private rented sector have been introduced in an attempt to change the behaviour of landlords and/or tenants.
Regulations on standards also act as an incentive for landlords to invest in their property, particularly where it is associated with rent levels.
It is the responsibility of Local Authorities to inspect rented properties and enforce standards regulations to ensure compliance with the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 and the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009.
The average number of inspections in the last 5 years was approx. 20,000 per annum. Despite slight decreases in 2011 and 2012, the total number of inspections in 2013 was 21,233 a 211% increase on the 6,815 carried out in 2005.
In 2013, the Dublin areas of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin and Dublin City accounted for 28% of all inspection activity with Dublin City and South Dublin accounting for the majority of these. A total of 615 inspections took place in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and the remaining 435 inspections took place in Fingal.
The percentage of dwellings found to be in breach of regulatory requirements after inspections has been on a steep upward trend since 2010 and reached 47% in 2013.
There is little doubt that a lot has been achieved over the past number of years but even more could be achieved if Local Authorities were appropriately resourced to improve the pace and quality of the inspection process.
Inspex is the technology to deliver on both pace and quality as well as the idea that an Inspection Certificate showing compliance with minimum standards be issued.