Bringing back homes

National Housing Inspection System

Senator Aideen Hayden says ‘We are now looking at a situation where one in every four properties in Dublin, and one in every three properties in Galway are being rented, This rise represents a dramatic increase in the number of required inspections for the local authorities who claim they don’t have the resources to cover this. 2011 figures show that almost 17,000 properties were inspected in that year with over 6,000 (37%) failing to comply with the minimum standards. 

Senator Hayden says ‘Local authorities currently receive approximately one third of the €90 registration fee from the department of the Environment, which Landlords must pay to the PRTB (Private Rental Tenancies Board) in order to register a property for rent.’ In 2012 alone, this figure amounted to €2.4 million. Despite this however, most local authorities appear to find it impossible to ensure that each of these rented units are inspected regularly – if ever.  

 ‘With the exception of Dublin City Council who has been extremely conscientious and has a conscientious, pro-active and effective approach to private rented inspections. It succeeds in inspecting approximately 1,500 of the 80,000 rented properties annually’ is according to the Senator. ‘On the other hand, I have serious concerns about levels of inspections by local authorities. You have a situation where relatively newly built houses are being inspected; not once but twice sometimes. So when it comes to reporting on inspection figures, some local authorities get their numbers up this way. I’ve personally seen a very modern one-bedroom apartment which was inspected twice. I could easily have pointed to older houses in the same area where the local authority has not stepped up to the plate.’ Sen. Hayden recommends the targeting of those properties most likely to be non-compliant as a better use of existing resources. 

Speaking on the issue of sub-standard accommodation, she says ‘I’ve been in the most appalling places where for example, there might be faulty wiring, or mushrooms growing out of the walls. Threshold sees this issue of sub-standard accommodation as the biggest rising issue which you will see when our next report is published later this month.’ 

According to Sen. Hayden, ‘In the course of a recent survey that we [Threshold] have been conducting, thirteen local authorities that we contacted have not grasped the fact that they were legally responsible for ensuring that their rental accommodation meets the required 2008 Standards. Many of their websites contained no information at all for tenants, while others had information listed which referred to was linked to old standardisation.’ 

As the inspections issue appears to be an increasingly insurmountable problem for local authorities, Senator Hayden says ‘This is why [Threshold] we are calling for the onus of the property inspections to be shifted from local authorities to the landlords. A comprehensive certification system is the logical solution here, where every rented unit would be legally obliged to have regulation standards cert. displayed on the wall. This would be clearly visible to the tenant and the local authorities. Each certificate should have its own individual number. That way, it will be clear that health and safety; building regulations, and energy efficiency standards are compliant with the law – especially as fuel and heating costs are constantly escalating these days and many tenants are living on reduced incomes.’ 

Negative equity amongst landlords is a growing problem according to Senator Hayden. ‘As is happening with regularity, when landlords find themselves in financial difficulty, they’re priority is unlikely to be having inspections carried out on their properties’ she says. ‘It would actually be in the landlord’s own interests to have proper inspections carried out; not least of all because of the associated tax-relief benefits.’ 

Sen. Hayden says, ‘A national regulation inspection system would be better than the local authority system. We don’t see it as an outrageous proposal at all to have qualified people to do this work such as architects, engineers and the likes’