Saturday 22 November 2014

Nearly 60pc of rented homes fail inspections

Published 28/07/2014 | 02:30

CLOSE to 60pc of all private rental premises that were inspected by local authorities last year failed basic minimum requirements – prompting calls for landlords to be compelled to undergo 'NCT-style' inspections of their properties.

Four local authorities – county councils in Donegal, Louth, Offaly and Limerick City Council – saw 100pc failure rates.

Others came close, with Ballina Town Council in Mayo recording a failure rate of 98pc while Fingal County Council saw a failure rate of 96pc, Longford County Council 91pc and Cork County Council 90pc.

The latest figures from the Environment Department reveal that 58pc of 17,849 private residential dwellings that underwent initial inspections by local authorities in 2013 failed the minimum legal standards.

The minimum standards mean that the properties should be free from rot or dampness, have a fixed bath or shower with hot and cold running water, have a working heat source and cooker and a washing machine.

Improvement orders were served on 2,862 landlords, while 45 were issued with prohibition notices. Legal action was taken against 11 landlords, nine of whom were in Dublin.

The figures reveal a further deterioration from the previous year, in which close to half (46pc) of 16,055 dwellings that were inspected in 2012 failed to meet minimum standards.

But the 2013 figures also reveal that no inspections were carried out or inspection data was not provided to the department by 31 out of 87 local authorities.

Each local authority has responsibility for checking properties in their area. The inspections are carried out following complaints from the public, as well as random inspection of the properties on the local authority database.

Dublin City Council is currently engaged in an 'Intensified Inspection Programme', which sees it focus on "renting blackspots" in addition to usual inspections.

The problem of sub-standard rental housing is even more of an issue now as the availability of rental housing is drastically shrinking while rents – especially in urban areas – have skyrocketed, said Threshold executive director Bob Jordan.

Yet tenants are afraid to raise issues over sub-standard accommodation with landlords for fear that they will raise the rent or ask them to leave, he said.

"In the current market, tenants are suffering in silence," he told the Irish Independent.

The agency received more than 2,000 queries last year alone concerning standards and repairs in private residential accommodation. But relying on local authorities to carry out housing inspections is unworkable since they don't have the facilities to do so properly, Mr Jordan said.

Threshold has given its 2015 Budget submission to the Department of Finance, in which it noted that while Dublin City Council, for example, "has a conscientious and effective approach to private rental inspections", it can only tackle a fraction of the rental units in the capital. It inspects approximately 1,700 of the 80,000 rented properties in its area on an annual basis.

Inspected

"Given the growing number of rented properties and the limited capacity of local authorities to inspect all properties in their catchment area, Threshold is proposing that in future, the burden of proof should rest with the landlord.

"We're looking for an NCT on rental properties," he said of a certification system that would be similar to the annual National Car Test (NCT) in which drivers must have their cars inspected and carry out repairs at their own expense before they are legally entitled to drive the vehicle.

The new figures also show a large number of tenants didn't have a rent book. This means that in the event of a dispute with their landlord, they have no proof that they have been paying rent on the property.

Irish Independent

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