Rogue landlords who subject tenants to overcrowded conditions face lifetime ban from renting out properties
Housing minister plans stiff penalties for breaching rules
Rogue landlords who breach fire regulations or subject tenants to overcrowded conditions will be banned from renting out property and hit with hefty fines.
Criminal sanctions will be imposed to include fines levied based on the amount collected in rent, and some landlords could be hit with a lifetime ban, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said.
He pledged that one in four rental properties would be subject to annual inspection by 2020 to ensure that tenants are fairly treated and provided with good-quality accommodation.
His comments come amid concerns that low-income households are forced to live in overcrowded homes, often in breach of fire safety regulations and where basic standards are flouted, due to rising rental costs.
The latest data shows the average national rent now stands at €1,056 per month, up 9.5pc over the last year. In Dublin, it's €1,518. Almost 900,000 people are living in rented accommodation, the highest since records began, according to estate agents Savills. This figure has increased by almost 40,000 in the last year.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Murphy said sanctions would be introduced for those who "abused" regulations around fire safety and overcrowding.
He said there was "basically no threat" for errant landlords, who could only be fined if they fail to comply with an improvement and prohibition notice from a local authority which found the property to be in breach of regulations.
A new system will oblige landlords to annually self-certify with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) that their rental property meets the standards, with legal action to immediately arise if breaches are discovered.
"If you're a rogue landlord, when we catch you we will be able to enforce strict penalties immediately," the minister said. "Ideally I'd like the penalty to be meaningful, calculated on a percentage of what they're taking in, rather than a flat fee. If you're overcrowding, you could be taking in a significant amount of money and a flat fee might not be a disincentive.
"We also want to make sure where there's conditions that a landlord is in a significant breach, to make it impossible for them to be a landlord again."
Data from Census 2016 shows that just over 95,000 people - a 28pc increase since 2011 - are living in overcrowded dwellings, where there are more people than rooms. The legislation is being discussed with the Attorney General, the minister said, and he wanted breaches to be a criminal offence.
"I want to be very clear, it will be a criminal offence. It's not about going after good landlords, or to make it difficult for them to do their jobs. It's for the people we have seen recently exposed, people who are breaching people's human rights, where they are lying to the State about their duty of care to their tenants. It will be meaningful sanction on them."
He said that inspections would increase to 25pc of rental properties in each year by 2020, and that the RTB may enter into service level agreements with a local authority to complete inspections on its behalf. If a landlord was in breach, the RTB would prosecute.
Mr Murphy also said that some 350 new tenancies were being supported every week, and that a target to place 16,000 households in private rented accommodation would be exceeded for 2017.
He said that new apartment guidelines would help reduce costs, and that international firms would also seek to build 'shared living' accommodation, where workers shared kitchen and living areas.
"I have had a few conversations with some businesses who are in the process of approaching large multi-nationals with accommodation solutions for them," he said.
"They have a large workforce, used to sharing working spaces, and they're moving around from country to country so those multi-nationals would get great benefit from that."