Rental Properties

Landlords – Your Country Needs You

By 2040 Ireland’s population is expected to reach almost 6 million with a need for 550,000 more homes and 660,000 additional jobs. The need to provide in excess of half-a-million more homes over the period to 2040 corresponds to the long-term trend of 25,000 new homes every year.

Rented accommodation continues its upward trend with 497,111 households renting in 2016, an increase of 4.7% on 2011. Renting from a local authority showed the largest increase in this period, up 11% from 129,033 in 2011 to 143,178 in 2016. The number of households which were rented either from a private landlord or voluntary body rose by 2% from 320,319 in 2011 to 326,493 in 2016. This means that renting was the tenure status for almost 30% of all of occupied dwellings in the last census.

The collapse of the Irish property market in 2008 led to significant difficulties in the residential rental sector. Landlords who had paid significant prices for properties were either unable or unwilling to invest further in their rental properties to stay in line with minimum standards.

At the same time, Ireland’s property crash and government policy resulted in cash-rich international investors taking the opportunity to invest in Irish property, paving the way for a new wave of larger scale institutional landlords in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). These overseas investors saw the opportunity to capitalise on future gains and were instrumental in the advent of Build-To-Rent (BTR) schemes – Irish Life Investment Managers (ILIM) reportedly paid over €100 million for 262 units in Fernbank in 2018.

Institutional investors can avail of tax incentives on property investments through fund structures such as Qualifying Investor Funds (QIFs) and Irish Collective Asset Management Vehicles (ICAVs). KPMG’s Jim Clery indicates that despite the tax benefits of such funds for large investors, the cost of administering them requires a minimum investment of approximately €25 million to justify the outlays which he suggests is beyond smaller, domestic investors.

Knight Frank describes the Dublin residential market as “a unique opportunity for investors” and although delivery of new stock increased in 2017 to just over 6,000 units according to figures from the Department of Housing, that figure is below the 11,000 units required annually in the capital according to this agent’s in-house research, the majority of which should be for rent.

With the prospect of lucrative gains, why is Ireland’s PRS stock lagging and why are individual Irish landlords despondent?

Landlord costs, rent controls and taxation are often cited as the three biggest property investment deterrents. While tenants in Ireland enjoy higher standards than their European counterparts, the additional expenditure on improvements to ensure compliance with minimum standards legislation can further impact smaller scale landlords.

Where there is outstanding debt on a rental property held by a small-scale landlord, soaring rents are often insufficient in helping to offset the cost of loan repayments. Budget 2019 reintroduced 100% mortgage interest relief for landlords on rental properties but according to financial experts, with all other costs considered (income tax on rental payments, USC, property tax, etc.) this tax relief will make little or no impact for landlords. Tax benefits associated with investing in property through a pension fund could help to incentivise small-scale landlords to invest. However, guidelines around the use of pension funds for property investment and perpetual uncertainty around taxation and regulations remain a constant threat to investment stability.

Given the continued growth of PRS stock and the policy of linking inspection funding to inspection performance, it is likely that inspection activity should increase into the future. Available statistics from the RTB and Department of Housing indicate that only 4.8% of registered rental properties were inspected in 2017, despite a target of 10% for that year, far behind NOAC’s recommendation to ensure all rental dwellings would be inspected every five years.

The evolution of Ireland’s PRS is indisputable. Continuing its successful growth trajectory depends on supply and quality of output as well as preservation of existing stock, neither of which can be achieved without confidence and buy-in from the nation’s landlords.

Looking Beyond the Lens

Homeless figures released by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for November 2018 show that in the last week of November a total of 6,157 adults were recorded as homeless in Ireland.  Of those, almost half were accommodated in Private Emergency Accommodation (hotels, B&Bs, etc.), and just over half were accommodated in Supported Temporary Accommodation (such as hostels with ‘onsite support’).

Analysing available alternatives to emergency accommodation for vulnerable tenants reveals that the problem can run deeper than a straightforward supply shortage.

The standard of accommodation in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) remains inconsistent, despite prescriptive standards and regulations having been established. The permanency sought by those who are placed in temporary emergency accommodation could be tainted by the reality of poorly maintained, deficient dwellings neglected by landlords, some of which may remain undetected if not inspected frequently.

The social housing sector in Ireland has been significantly transformed in recent decades.  According to the ESRI “a greater role has been given to the subsidisation of households renting in the private market”, with growth in the use of the PRS for socially-supported housing rising from 28% during the boom years to 33% by 2016.  Successive Irish governments have largely suppressed the traditional, direct provision of social dwellings in favour of new government-backed schemes such as the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Assistance Scheme (RAS), which provide monetary subsidies to social tenants, to assist them in obtaining PRS accommodation. A review of housing support expenditure in 2017 revealed that there was almost €153 million allocated to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and a further €134 million allocated to the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

Regardless of the current demand and supply mismatch which continue to play out, national and local governments have a responsibility to protect vulnerable tenants.

In 1993 the government issued the first set of minimum standards for rented accommodation nationally which have evolved over time to the latest iteration in 2017, Housing (Standards in Rented Houses) Regulations. These regulations exist with a commitment to highlight non-compliance through periodic inspections of rented dwellings. Ultimately, these measures are to ensure that sub-standard properties are brought in line with regulations, delivering safe and reasonable conditions for all tenants.

Inspex delivers professional, impartial and streamlined PRS inspection services.  From experience, Inspex reveals that private rental accommodation standards can vary greatly.  Quite often landlords are caught unawares when it comes to their regulatory obligations vis-à-vis minimum accommodation standards and their duty to remedy any shortcomings identified in a property.  Things can become more concerning if landlords choose to ignore the regulatory requirements and standards.  In a small number of cases, dwellings inspected by Inspex show squalor-like conditions of Irelands’ historical tenements – damp, mould-ridden and structurally precarious – in the face of which the emergency and temporary accommodation alternative appears almost preferable.

With political preference for the voluntary and private sectors to be the main, if not sole, providers of rental accommodation in Ireland, the growing need for consistent independent inspection regimes throughout the sector becomes ever more apparent.

Despite the sometimes-harsh realities of poor conditions facing vulnerable tenants, perseverance is vital. Local Authorities must persist in their efforts to meet inspection obligations and targets set by the Department of Housing to safeguard the integrity of newly established national ‘social housing’ measures and to enforce on landlords who, in their unwillingness to remediate serious defects, fail to comply.

Landlord ignorance is no excuse and better efforts must be made by many landlords to understand what is required of them and to ensure that compliance is achieved.

Future of Renting

Forever Renters Come Full Circle

“Throughout the 19th Century in Ireland, landownership was the preserve of a privileged minority” (Estate Ownership).  With the average Irish person priced out of the property market and conceding to life as a ‘Forever Renter’, has the market come full circle?

During 18th Century,  leases in Ireland were often held for 99 years or more. By the beginning of 19th Century leasing norms were changing; leases tended to be for shorter periods of one life or 21 to 31 years. In some cases, tenants held their lease from year to year with the law presuming continuation of the lease unless surrendered by the tenant. If a landlord wanted to change a tenancy, he could only do so by litigation and could not evict a tenant without giving 6 months’ notice to quit (Estate Ownership).  So, while historically Irish tenants were similarly subject to a lifetime of renting, the key difference is that tenants-past had the benefit of longevity on their side.

In 1991 the average age of a first-time home buyer was 26; by 2016 that average had risen to age 35.  Research shows that the number of renters aged between 40 and 50 increased from 28,037 to 35,909 between 2011 and 2016, and those in the 45-49 age bracket increased from 19,328 to 23,998 during the same period (CSO).  According to Daft the average asking price has risen nationally by 56.3% since its lowest point in Q3 2013, while in Dublin prices have increased on average by 70% since their lowest point in Q2 2012. The average list price nationwide is now €257k, while in South and North County Dublin the price is €603k and €315.5k respectively.

With the increasing age profile of renters in Ireland, coupled with soaring property prices, latest data shows that home ownership is at its lowest level since 1971 (Independent).

In parallel to rising house prices, Central Bank lending rules impose loan to income (LTI) and loan to value (LTV) restrictions on prospective buyers.  First time buyers are required to have a deposit of 10% of the property value up to €220,000 with a 20% requirement on the balance above €220,000.  Anybody who has previously owned a home must have a deposit of 20% of the full value of the property.  All buyers are restricted to a mortgage of 3.5 times gross annual income.

CSO figures state the average weekly wage at Q3 2018 was €740.32.  This means the average person with the average annual salary of €38,500 was eligible to borrow €134,750.  In other words, the average single person is effectively priced out of the market.  A two-income household with an average salary of €77,000 is eligible to borrow €269,500, meaning they are restricted in their choice of location and potentially priced out of purchasing in Dublin.

With rental prices also increasing (Daft) the difficulty for people living in rented accommodation is to save the required 10-20% deposit required to obtain a mortgage.  This creates a cycle where people are paying rents higher than mortgage repayments for equivalent accommodation and cannot afford to accumulate enough savings to meet mortgage lending requirements.

Professor Tony Fahey from UCD School of Social Policy has suggested that the next generation “may be the first generation since the mid-20th Century, unless things change, that will be entering middle age with possibly a majority in private renting” (Irish Times).  An increase in the needs of social housing tenants follows a similar rise in the overall quantum of tenants in the PRS, translating into a greater national need for the Irish government to provide social housing supports.  Albeit that social housing tenants are increasingly being accommodated in the PRS, the government must, in tandem with its financial supports, continue its support of inspection schemes and targets for Local Authorities.

Irrespective of the factors influencing some tenants remaining in the PRS, it is imperative for both security of tenure and accommodation standards to be prioritised to protect and uphold basic living conditions. Landlords must engage with legislation and regulations already in place for these purposes, while allowing Local Authorities to continue to work towards the inspection targets set to assist in ensuring compliance in the sector.  The status of ‘Forever Renter’ need not have negative connotations if the guidelines and standards within the sector can be protected to ensure safe, comfortable and lengthy enjoyment for tenants and stability of investment for landlords.

PRS Landlords Under Pressure

Residential Tenancies Amendment

With pressures mounting on the government to quell the swelling tide of housing shortages amidst rising demand, it is interesting that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has this year prioritised the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, seeking Cabinet approval for a range of measures to bolster the powers of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

The stated purpose of the proposed new Bill is to change legislation to strengthen rights of tenants and help reduce the risk of homelessness, aiming to tackle the housing crisis with the introduction of fines and costs of up to €30,000 that will apply to private landlords who illegally increase rents above the Government’s cap of 4 per cent, under the new arrangements being considered by Cabinet. However, these changes could pose a greater risk to supply overall by introducing barriers to entry and disincentives to remain in the market for private landlords.

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 was enacted in Ireland at a time when Ireland’s PRS was gaining momentum and the sector appeared to require some structure. The 2004 Act introduced several key provisions to the sector including the introduction of minimum obligations on both landlords and tenants, the establishment of the RTB, security of tenure for tenants in situ for more than six months, mandatory rent reviews, new lease termination procedures and outlined new dispute resolution protocols. The Act placed new administrative burdens on landlords in Ireland while it was supposed that the corresponding benefits to tenants, who previously may have been perceived as being vulnerable, deemed the newly enacted burdens on landlords as warranted.

According to submissions made by the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning & Local Government, assigned to review the contents of the proposed amendment bill, the 2004 Act was already “needlessly complex” and suggested that the amendment bill effectively be “paused” in favour of a more “detailed review on the subject of the private rental sector in the interest of supply”.

While carrying out PRS inspection services on behalf of Local Authorities, Inspex has found the assertion of confusion to be true in many cases. Landlords seem to be increasingly overwhelmed by the obligations imposed on them.  The frequency at which legislative and regulatory changes are being passed seems to outpace the speed with which landlords can catch up with exactly what they are supposed to be doing, in what manner, at what regularity, and to what standard.

Threshold purported that significant transformations of PRS regulations were required as far back as 2014 when it reported that private rents were beginning to approach unaffordable levels. It advised that reform of the sector was required “to attract long-term stable investment into the rented sector”, suggesting that stable and consistent regulation is required to ensure that existing and potential investors in the PRS are not dissuaded from remaining in or entering the market.

Further regulation, in addition to existing obligations facing landlords in the Irish PRS, could endanger the integrity of the market and existing regulations, including the minimum housing standards.  From its experience in PRS inspection, Inspex notes that the majority of landlords are willing to cooperate and wish to comply with the regulations, but many small-scale landlords are struggling with the existing burden of mounting regulatory requirements.  The proposed new rules risk causing more harm than good for the existing and potential new supply of PRS stock.

With the increasing overlap of Ireland’s social and private rental markets through schemes such as HAP and RAS, it should come as no surprise that the Government aims to gain a level of control on the PRS since many of the tenants in situ are, in effect, socially housed.

The efficacy of the proposed new amendments is still an unknown, with the Oireachtas Committee already noting in its review document that an analysis of potential adverse effects on housing supply, amongst others, should be considered prior to passing the new bill into law.

With such a hefty collection of regulations and obligations already bearing down on landlords and with a real risk of additional measures driving landlords out of the PRS, incentivisation for landlords would be a better way of achieving a steady supply stream in the market.

In 2017 the Department of Housing set out inspection guidelines and targets for all local authorities, advising that initially 15% of PRS properties should be inspected, equating to approximately 51,000 properties nationally (based on 340,000 tenancies reported to have been registered by the RTB in 2017), increasing to 25% of properties, or 85,000, by 2021, assuming the quantum of tenancies remains stagnant. Achieving these targets set out by the Department of Housing would continue the helpful and informative approach for landlords and at the same time improve accommodation standards generally.

Inspex believes that a consistent and streamlined approach to PRS inspections is key, with the aim always to eliminate confusion amongst landlords and tenants, thereby alleviating barriers to compliance with existing regulatory standards.

Carbon Monoxide - A Silent Killer

Carbon Monoxide – A Silent Killer

Gardaí are investigating the death of an elderly couple at their home on the outskirts of Kilkenny last Wednesday. It is understood they may have died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is hard to detect because it has no smell, taste or colour, meaning it is easy to inhale without realising.  The gas is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood do not burn fully.  Exposure to CO can cause illness or death.

In recent years there has been a push to create awareness around CO, the dangers associated with it and the preventative measures that should be taken.  A public safety initiative ‘Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week’ organised by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and supported by public bodies and organisations involved in the energy sector stresses the importance of regular maintenance and servicing of fuel burning appliances to raise awareness of the potential dangers and eliminate unnecessary risks and save lives.

According to HSE, approx. 40 people in Ireland die each year from accidental CO poisoning.  Further NSAI research shows that over half of Irish households (55%) don’t have a CO alarm while almost 65% of people admitted they could do more to protect themselves from CO poisoning.   Although there is a relatively high level of awareness of the importance of regular maintenance and servicing of fuel burning appliances, one in five admitted it had been 2 years or more since they have last had their boiler serviced, while one in ten households admitted to not knowing when their boiler was serviced last.

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017 Regulation 6(6) requires that ‘each house shall contain, where necessary, suitably located devices for the detection and alarm of carbon monoxide’.

With the benefit of PRS inspection experience, Inspex can confirm that Local Authorities interpret Regulation 6(6) to mean that CO alarms should be provided in accordance with TGD J5.  This means that the CO alarm should be installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions, in working order and within its ‘end of life’ indicator.  Additionally, CO alarms should:

  1. Comply with I.S. EN 50291- 1:2010 / A1:2012;
  2. Incorporate a visual and audible indicator to alert users when the working life of the alarm is due to pass; and
  3. The manufacturer should have third party certification confirming compliance with the standard.

A sample of properties inspected by Inspex in the last 9 months shows that 100% of properties are in contravention of Regulation 6 of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017 provision of a RGII Gas or OFTEC CD-11 Certificate with 66% of these properties remaining in contravention following the second and follow-up inspection stage.  At the same time 88% of these properties are in contravention of Regulation 6 CO detector requirements at the first inspection with 31% of these properties remaining in contravention following the second follow-up inspection.

Greater awareness is needed amongst landlords and tenants along with an increase in the maintenance and servicing of appliances and use of carbon monoxide alarms if a reduction in the number of accidental deaths from CO poisoning is ever to be achieved.

The Regulations are in place to protect tenants in rented properties from the harmful effects of CO.

Fire Safety a Grave Concern

Fire Safety – Elusive Evacuation

Fire Safety is a Grave Concern but Evacuation Plans Remain Elusive

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017 provide guidance on the delivery of fire safety measures in private rented dwellings.  Under Regulation 10 (Fire Safety) it is provisioned that ‘each self-contained house in a multi-unit building shall contain an emergency evacuation plan’.

A sample of properties inspected by Inspex in the last 3 months shows that 96.21% of apartments in a multi-unit development (MUD) were in direct contravention of Section 10(3) of Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) 2017 at the first inspection stage and just over 59.1% remained in contravention of the same regulation at the second, follow-up inspection stage.

The responsibility in respect of fire safety in rented dwellings was not conferred on to landlords until the introduction of the Housing Regulations (2008), despite the first iteration of these Regulations being in effect since 1993.

A small number of those remaining in contravention could be considered as purposely contravening Regulation 10(3) but for the majority, Inspex research shows that landlords are genuinely confused as to what their obligations are and how to bring a residential unit in a multi-unit development in line with the Regulations.

Landlords must be familiar with their obligations under Fire Services Act 1981 that refer to the “person having control” of premises in terms of fire safety, to ensure safeguards are in place and safety measures followed to protect those occupying and enjoying use of the premises.

Similarly, Section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 includes ‘standards for rented houses’ and the areas for which a landlord may be held accountable as provisioned by the Department’s office (1993 Regulations for rental properties duly followed).

The design and construction of buildings is regulated under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 and the Building Regulations set out the basic requirements to be observed in the design and construction of buildings.  Both measures are intended to secure the safety, health and welfare of people in and around buildings.

The process of ensuring ‘fire safety’ in buildings is governed by the Building Regulations 1997.  TGD Part B refers to fire safety vis-à-vis the fabric and layout of a new building while a Fire Safety Certificate is the certificate issued by the Building Control Authority.  These Certificates state that the works or building to which an application relates will, if constructed in accordance with the plans and specifications submitted, comply with the requirements of Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations 1997.

Once the fire safety certificate is issued, and the building is completed, a developer, as per the Multi Unit Development Act 2011, must ensure that an ‘owners’ management company’ (OMC) is set up to which all common areas of the building must be transferred before the sale of any of the individual units.  As the OMC is only responsible for the common areas of a building, emergency evacuation plans for individual residential units do not form part of the process at this stage.

Some or all of the units may then be sold by a developer to a new landlord(s), at which point the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017 take effect.  These regulations place the responsibility on landlords to provide for an Emergency Evacuation Plan in an apartment in a multi-unit development.

With the benefit of PRS inspection experience, Local Authorities interpret Regulation 10(3) to mean that an Emergency Evacuation Plan should be provided and permanently located inside the front door to each apartment. The Evacuation Plan should have a floor plan showing exits and location of fire equipment, the exact address of the apartment, relevant contact phone numbers, and the actions to be taken in the event of an emergency.  Although not the responsibility of the OMC, this information should be readily available from the OMC Common Area Evacuation Plans and Procedures.

National Government appears to have made some progress with the urgent need to increase the rate and improve the quality of private rented sector (PRS) inspections.  The Government's commitment to set aside separate funding from 2018 onwards for inspection and compliance ‘activity’ in the PRS is a welcome development.

According to the Fire Safety in Ireland – Report of the Fire Safety Task Force 2018, the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) confirmed it had notified all registered landlords in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster to highlight the standards set out in the 2017 Regulations, with further information being provided on the RTB website.

Despite legislative, regulatory and practical efforts by the legislature, the Department of Housing and the RTB respectively, complying with Regulation 10(3) remains an area of confusion and concern amongst landlords.  The confusion on the part of property owners coupled with persistently high rates of properties contravening the standards, it seems that not enough has been done yet to sufficiently highlight to landlords what their responsibilities are.

Airbnb

Clampdown to Limit Use of Airbnb

Another initiative to tackle the ‘housing’ crisis sees the Department of Housing (DHPLG) announce new regulations for short-term lettings, such as Airbnb.  These new regulations put restrictions on owners of buy-to-let properties and come into effect from Summer 2019.  Landlords of such properties will require a ‘change of use’ planning permission from Local Authorities if they want to use their rental houses or apartments for short-term lets, for more than 3-months of the year.

Local councils will have the power to refuse such permissions in areas where there is a high housing demand. Minster for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said it is “unlikely that permission would be granted” in these areas.

The regulations will not affect properties already classified for tourism, i.e. bed and breakfast accommodation, owner-occupiers when letting rooms in their principle private residence or long-term ‘rent a room’ schemes, such as student digs.

Only owners of second properties will be restricted by the 90-day limit per calendar year. The regulations have been introduced as popularity of short-term lets has resulted in landlords withdrawing their houses and apartments from the traditional private rental market.

A recent report showed that of the available homes to rent in Dublin, over 53% were being listed as short-term tourists lets on sites like Airbnb, rather than to those seeking long-term tenancies.

Property owners found to be in breach of regulations will risk criminal prosecution with extra resources being provided in Dublin City Council to help enforce the rules.

DHPLG anticipates that by introducing these regulations, the number of rental properties for long-term renting in the traditional sense will increase.

RTB/ESRI Rent Index

RTB/ESRI Q1 2018 Rent Index

RTB/ESRI Rent Index shows average rents grew nationally by 7.1%

The RTB/ESRI Rent Index Quarter 1 2018 highlights that low unemployment and an improvement in wages are contributing to strong inflationary pressures in the housing market.  Positive economic performance combined with demand-side pressures continue to put upward pressure on the private rental market with an average increase nationally of 7.1% annually.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) is the public body that supports the rental housing sector including both the private rental sector and not-for-profit housing providers or Approved Housing Bodies (AHB). The Rent Index is based on the RTB’s national register of tenancies and is considered the most accurate rent report on the private rental sector in Ireland.  At the end of 2017 there were approximately 340,000 tenancies registered with the RTB; of these 313,000 were private tenancies with the remainder made of up tenancies managed by Approved Housing Bodies.  The number of tenancies registered with the RTB in Q1 2018 was 19,879.  The overall landlord profile remains relatively stable with the majority of the 174,000 landlords (86%) owning 1-2 properties.

The Dublin rental market is the largest in the country. RTB research shows on a year-on-year basis, Dublin rents were up 7.8% in Q1 2018, an increase in the growth rate from 5.1% year-on-year growth in Q4 2017.  While rental pressures are evident in Dublin, many of the surrounding counties are also facing increasing rents.  As of Q1 2018, the average national rent for a house was €1,060 per month, up from €998 one year earlier with the corresponding figures for apartments €1,162 for Q1 2018 up from €1,081 per month in Q1 2017.  Year-on-year, rents for houses increased by 6.2% while apartment rents increased by 7.5%.

According to the CSO, average weekly earnings have increased by 2.4%.  In other words average earnings are not increasing in line with increasing rents making it increasingly difficult for people to afford rents.  Affordability pressures are a significant issue as demand for rental accommodation continues to grow, supply remains restricted and rents continue to increase.

Landlords co-operative and willing

PRS Housing Stock in Good Shape

The Government's Housing Policy Statement 2011 articulated its vision for the private rented sector.  While home ownership may continue to be the tenure of choice for the majority of the population, the policy statement recognised that a balanced housing system needs a strong and well-regulated rented sector.

The Government's Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness - Rebuilding Ireland - identifies the private rented sector (PRS) as key to solving Ireland's current housing difficulties and ensuring that suitable housing is provided to meet Ireland's changing demographic.

Housing standards have evolved over time in line with changes in economic growth and general standards of living. Regulations relating to the standard and quality of housing generally seek to ensure that dwellings do not impinge on the health and safety of tenants; that the accomodation is fit for purpose and that all facilities are in working order. It can be argued that regulations protect both landlords and tenants.

Responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations rests with the relevant local authority supported by a stream of funding provided from a portion of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the Residential Tenancies Board.

A recent Report by the National Oversight and Audit Commission identified that currently there are low rates of inspection carried out by Local Authorities, few enforcement processes and low rates of compliance. This however is changing.

The Government's Action Plan increased the resources allocated to standard inspections and enforcement functions and has set a target of inspecting 25% of all rental properties by 2021 and annually thereafter.

Every landlord is obliged to ensure that rental properties comply with the relevant legislation including that which is set out in the Housing Acts 1966 - 2014 (as Amended), the Fire Services Acts 1981 & 2003 and Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017.

Under Section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 a person authorised by a housing authority may inspect a house to which regulations under this section apply. So, with ambitious inspection targets set for 2021, Local Authorities are outsourcing their inspection needs to the Inspex team.

Inspex is an indigenous company that has invested and developed unique mobile technology to deliver a standardised approach to PRS inspections and compliance reporting. Currently Inspex partners with several Local Authorities around the country.

Through the Inspex inspection and follow-up inspection process it is determined whether properties meet the standards for rental accommodation.

Where properties do not comply, and landlords are uncooperative, prohibition notices and legal proceedings can be utilised by the revelant local authority.

Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 as amended by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 Section 34(1) states that any person failing to comply with an improvement notice or re-lets a property in breach of a prohibition notice, can be found guilty of an offence and on summary conviction be subject to a fine of up to €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. Additionally, where a person is convicted of an offence under the Act, the court can order the person to pay to the local authority costs and expenses.

On a more positive note, from experience, Inspex has determined that the majority of both private and professional landlords are co-operative and willing to keep the rental housing stock in good shape provided they understand what is expected of them.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Appoints Inspex

Dun Laoghaire Appoints Inspex

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has appointed the Inspex team to carry out inspections of private rented properties in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Area.

The current minimum standards for rented accommodation are set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017.  These regulations specify the requirements in relation to a range of matters including structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, lighting, fire safety as well as the safety of gas and electrical supply.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations whether part of a housing payment scheme or not.

Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations is with the Local Authorities supported by funding from DECLG and in part from the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by RTB.

If the Government's 2021 25% annual inspection target is to be achieved, Local Authorities, must outsource this to an inspection team with the mobile technology that supports its objectives.

Inspex Ltd. is carrying out inspections of HAP properties in the Area over the coming weeks and will be making contact with Landlords in this regard.

For more information contact Inspex Ltd. at 01-5653927 or email inspections@inspex.ie.