Two People Sitting On Couch with Book Shelves Behind in Coliving Space showing PBSA and coliving developments are two recent earmarked change-makers in housing policies

Equity Brings Conformity

There are those who say that change is the only certainty in life. Reflecting on the array of housing policies that have come and gone or which have been remastered or redefined, it seems to ring true. But creating and maintaining a set of clear rules reduces ambiguity, eliminates confusion and establishes conformity.

Soaring demand for housing and lacklustre supply of housing following the 2008 financial crash continue to prevail. For over a decade since, powerful lobby groups continue to push agendas for desired modifications in certain sectors of the housing market while successive governments and ministers have grappled with how best to cater to them.

Purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) and co-living developments are two recent earmarked change-makers in the housing market identified as a potential means of relieving pressures.

To ease cost and supply pressures in the private rented sector (PRS), by effectively removing one cohort of renters, students, the National Student Accommodation Strategy was launched by government in July 2017.

By 2018 the Irish economy had, in effect, begun to recover from the preceding decade of financial ruin and in the wake of the launch of its 2016 ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ strategy, the government released the new Design Standards for new apartment construction (2018). These standards were to provide guidance to a growing build-to-rent sector and, for the first time referenced shared accommodation, co-living, and communal living which were regarded as “new and exciting ways to meet the housing needs”.

Within twelve months the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 brought Student Specific Accommodation (SSA) under the remit of the RTB, a move that affirmed student accommodation as a viable investment sector and a valid means of increasing supply.

Co-living is a new concept in Ireland, heralded by some as a legitimate means to ending the dearth of supply, and quickly. By others it is regarded as a political quick fix which can on the face of things provide relief but one which is likely to bring new problems and, in the end, substandard dwellings.

The 2018 design guidelines were among the first in Europe to specifically set out planning and design parameters for co-living accommodation. For supporters of the co-living concept, it was a short-lived progression, as the Minister for Housing announced at the end of 2020 a de-facto ban on co-living developments in Ireland, save for those already approved for planning or under construction. This decision breached the commitment set out two years earlier in the 2018 guidelines acknowledging a “need for stability in policy”.

No doubt, co-living has the potential to form a legitimate part of the PRS, but it should not be mistaken for an all-encompassing speedy solution to a lack of housing supply. To some this type of development is a welcome step towards a more diverse and plentiful market. To others it is regarded as an opportunity for investors to reap higher investment returns by over-developing schemes using lower design requirements such as space, light, aspect, etc.

In large cities where rents are high and there is the need for ease of social integration, co-living as a sustainable segment of the PRS seems achievable when schemes are developed to a high standard, fulfilling the requirements of those who ultimately choose to reside there. London schemes such as The Collective and New York based Common demonstrate how these quasi-shared living arrangements can operate in practice offering residents a particular lifestyle choice through stylish private living spaces and shared-living experiences.

Until the amendment to the Residential Tenancies 2019 act, student accommodation was not subject to the rigours of the minimum standards, as were other segments of the PRS. This change put PBSA on the regulatory map and aimed to ensure that it, like traditional private rented dwellings, was safeguarded by the provisions of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.

The move to bring PBSA housing in line with minimum accommodation standards clearly demonstrates it is possible to mould outliers / newcomers to the housing market. The ongoing controversy with co-living development in Ireland would seem to be the legislative failure to bring such schemes in line with reasonable design guidelines and the minimum standards for rented accommodation.

Having a set of clear rules describing how things need to happen brings compliance and conformity. Standardisation reduces ambiguity and eliminates confusion.

Equity in the application of rental accommodation standards is worthwhile because no cohort of renters should be negatively impacted by virtue of tenancy type. The minimum standards should apply equally to all sectors of PRS and rented properties should be inspected on a rolling basis to independently verify those accommodation standards.

Smiling women sitting at laptop on video call prompting customer to book our virtual consultation service

Virtual Consultation Service

From the comfort of your home or office, let’s talk

Some consider Ireland’s private rented sector as well-regulated and others as overly regulated. Whichever your opinion, there are challenges that come with being a landlord, large or small, a multitude of laws to be familiar with and regulations to be followed.

Regulations and standards are important to protect investment in housing and to safeguard both landlord and tenant interests. Our local authorities are responsible for checking and enforcing standards while landlords are responsible for ensuring their rented properties meet these standards.

With so much information available, cutting through the red tape can be a challenge but the experience we’ve gained over years of working with our local authorities makes us a valuable resource at your disposal.

One of our expert team will meet you online at a specified date and time where we can discuss the findings of a Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 inspection or legislation that applies to your rented properties.

€60 – 30 Minutes

Inspex Cancellation Policy
While this may be difficult to hear, this policy has been put in place to safeguard the service. Once you have booked an appointment with us it means we have reserved time in our schedule exclusively for you. When a session is cancelled without adequate notice, we may be unable to fill this time slot by offering it to somebody else. Because of this we do not give full refunds unless there are exceptional circumstances. Appointments can be rescheduled up to 48 hours before. But cannot be rescheduled after 48 hours.
If you must cancel your appointment, we require 48 hours’ notice. For cancellations made with more than 48 hours’ notice, the fee paid can be used for a future appointment or refunded. Refunds can take up to 10 business days to process depending on the bank. Any cancellation or reschedule made less than 48 hours from the scheduled appointment will result in a cancellation fee. The amount of the fee will be equal to 50% of the reserved services or €30 whichever is more. If you are more than 15 minutes late or do not show for your appointment, we may not be able to accommodate you. In this case, the full fee will apply.

Housing coin stacks, each one bigger then the last with last one showing coronavirus and a questions mark representing the uncertainty in the housing sector during the Covid-19 pandemic

Into the Unknown

Ireland had a target of around 35,000 new homes to be delivered in 2020, aiming for supply to catch up with steadily growing demand. With the spread of Covid-19, its classification as a global pandemic and subsequent national restrictions to curb the spread, construction slowed. The pandemic had a marked impact on the housing sector with measures such as restrictions in the rental market helping tenants, even if only in the short-term.

Demand and supply of housing stock in Ireland remains a key obstacle to achieving balance in the sector, throughout the pandemic and beyond.

The stunted progress of the Irish construction sector in delivering more stock during 2020 began with the onset of government restrictions in March. Construction sites were required to cease operating by the end of March 2020 and did not recommence operations until the latter part of May 2020.

The number of completions in Q3-2020 indicates that the sector was able to make up some of the ground lost during Q2. The CSO indicates that total new dwelling completions for the third quarter of 2020 were 5,118, representing a decrease of 9.4 per cent on the same period in 2019. It does however represent an increase of 55 per cent on Q2-2020, confirming completions were dramatically affected by Covid-19 and the associated restrictions. With the worst effects demonstrated in Q2-2020 completion numbers, the sector began to catch up again in Q3.

A similar narrative unfolded globally with a slowdown in construction productivity during the initial phase of Covid-19-related restrictions in Q2-2020. In the UK construction output fell by 40 per cent in April 2020 and in the US, it fell by 30 per cent in the same period. There is evidence that as countries implemented ‘lockdown’ procedures during the year, real estate activity fell including rentals and appraisals / inspections.

Unfortunately, 2021 is already off to a shaky start with the recent announcement that construction must once again cease at least until the end of January 2021. This could hamper the industry’s attempts to make up some of the ground lost during 2020 closures and reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements on site.

With progress set to be curtailed in January with Government announcing all non-essential construction is to cease, there are some exceptions including what is described as social housing projects or “designated as essential sites by Local Authorities”.

Although the sector could not deliver as much as anticipated during 2020, it did surpass earlier pessimistic outlooks for the year. Prices held more firm than initially anticipated. The month-on-month change in the house price index shows a slight fall in the month from January to February (-0.1 per cent) and from March to April (-0.1 per cent). Although prices picked up month-on-month from May onwards, overall prices decreased by 0.4 per cent nationally in the year to October 2020.

The cost of renting also rose for another consistent year to the end of Q3-2020 marking a year-on-year rise of 1.2 per cent overall. There was a notable fall in rents in the month from March to April 2020 (down 2.1 per cent) and although they recovered considerably during the remaining months to October 2020, the rate of growth during 2020 was at a slower pace than the previous year overall. Additionally, for the first time in almost a decade, rents fell in Dublin. Rental prices reached their peak in September but began to fall back again in October (-0.8 per cent).

Covid-19 brought with it a myriad of complexities and with each wave of new infections, new restrictions including the moratorium on evictions extended from Q2 2020 offering some protection for tenants but likely to create some difficulties for landlords.

With the Government encouraging people to stay at home, limit movement and interaction with others, and to work from home where possible, people were forced to spend more time than ever before in their properties. Homeowners could take the opportunity to renovate where they had the time and money, but renters generally rely on landlords to identify and facilitate such projects.

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 stipulate a prescribed set of minimum standards for rented accommodation in a range of categories including structural, ventilation, and fire safety, among others. They represent not only a chance for renters to enjoy a minimum standard of safety and comfort in their rented homes, but also a statutory obligation for landlords to provide this.

Fire safety is an area of consistently high non-compliance across the regulations. A sample of over 1,000 rented dwellings inspected by Inspex on behalf of Local Authorities in 2020 shows that less than 1 per cent were compliant with Regulation 10 (Fire Safety) at the first inspection stage. However, a cumulation of follow-up inspection data shows that after the follow-up stage it is observed that almost 49 per cent of properties are compliant with fire safety requirements.

Although it is encouraging to witness safety standards improve throughout the inspection process, fire safety does remain a concern and requires careful monitoring through the Local Authority PRS inspection process.

The construction sector in Ireland proved during the tumult of 2020 its ability to adapt quickly to new health & safety guidelines and restrictions to limit and contain Covid-19 spread. Data pertaining to Regulation 10 compliance, as outlined above, shows that landlords in the rented sector are similarly capable of complying with regulatory requirements when inadequacies are highlighted.

Unlike the construction sector in 2020 that was subjected to the rapid introduction of several new industry requirements requiring quick adaptation, the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 represent a long-term and consistent standard. This consistency gives PRS landlords the opportunity to familiarise themselves and, ultimately, to comply.

Local Authority inspections are a necessary and reliable means of determining vulnerabilities that might exist in rented accommodation. In some cases, failure to comply with the regulations can be due to any number of factors. For the most part landlords appear keen to comply and upon receiving the summary of non-compliant areas set about rectifying problems where required.

National and sectoral responses to Covid-19 globally have shown how Government measures can impact individuals and industries. The additional problems brought on by Covid-19 highlights the importance of consistent checks of properties to ensure compliance, as landlords are statutorily obliged to do.

For Rent sign represents Residential Tenancies Act 2020 introduced new rental protections for tenants who face rent arrears and, as a result, are at risk of their tenancy ending

Residential Tenancies Act 2020

The Covid-19 2020 Act was introduced on 27th March 2020 and banned all rent increases and tenancy terminations, with limited exceptions, during the Covid-19 emergency period. This emergency period expired on 1st August 2020. From 1st August 2020, when the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 came into force, new rental protections applied to tenants who face rent arrears and, as a result, are at risk of their tenancy ending.

This new legislation introduces temporary restrictions which provide that tenants are not required to vacate their rental properties during an Emergency Period, except in limited circumstances relating to specific breaches of tenant obligations.

The Act seeks to recognise the impact that the rise in unemployment and reduced working hours associated with the pandemic has had on the rental sector, and the challenges that this presents for tenants in meeting their obligation to pay rent. The Act brings in temporary restrictions on ending tenancies when restrictions on travel outside a 5km radius of a person’s home are in place. Currently, this is in place for six weeks from 21st October 2020.

Rent increases already served will be effective on some tenancies but not on others. Tenants whose income was adversely affected by Covid-19 may be protected from increases.

Not that all tenants in arrears are protected by the changes in the legislation, but the Residential Tenancies Act 2020 does set out new protections and obligations for tenants in financial difficulty as a result of Covid-19 and increased obligations on the service of documentation around rent arrears on all tenancies.

A tenant who follows the procedures and provides a landlord with a self-declaration form relating to an inability to pay rent due to Covid-19, cannot be made to leave the rented accommodation before 11th January 2021, and do not have to pay any increases in rent until after 10th January 2021.

Where a self-declaration form is given to a landlord from a tenant highlighting a tenant’s inability to pay rent due to Covid-19, a tenancy cannot be ended before 11th January 2021 and the tenant must be given a minimum 90-day notice period to vacate.

In normal times, a tenant is required to pay rent in full and on time until the tenancy ends even where a dispute arises between the parties. If the rent is not paid it is a breach of a Tenancy Agreement.

If a landlord wants to end a tenancy due to rent arrears, a landlord must issue a tenant and the RTB with a written Rent Arrears Warning Notice providing a minimum of 28 days for the rent arrears to be paid in full. The 28-day warning notice period only begins to count down when both the tenant and the RTB have received the Warning Notice. Warning Notices must always be in writing as a text message or email is not considered suitable.

A Notice of Termination (NoT) is the official document which ends a tenancy. Landlords and tenants can serve a NoT as usual during an Emergency Period, subject to certain exceptions, but the notice period cannot begin to count until an Emergency Period is lifted.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on jobs and incomes across Ireland. Since March 2020, there have been a series of new rules and requirements regarding tenancy terminations and rent increases that affect both landlords and tenants. Either party misunderstanding their obligations is best avoided.

Our Covid-19 safety measures facilitate the safe inspection of PRS dwellings as per the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) 2019

Covid-19 Measures

In the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic every business in Ireland responded to the significant challenges that Covid-19 caused. 

A number of public health measures remain in place until 28 February 2022, after which things are likely to be reviewed. In the meantime, our comprehensive safety measures facilitate the safe inspection of PRS dwellings as per the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) 2019.

Inspex recommends that our Inspex Inspection Team and occupiers of rental properties follow the HSE guidelines for protecting yourself, in relation to physical distancing, personal hygiene, respiratory hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette.

Home Occupier

The Inspex Inspector needs external and internal access throughout a rented property, please consider and let us know in advance whether;

  1. Any person living in the property has been suffering from any symptoms in the 72 hours before an inspection takes place
  2. Any persons visiting the property has been known to have symptoms at present or within the last 72 hours before an inspection takes place
  3. The dwelling in which the inspection is being carried out, is one in which Covid-19 could be present or at a higher risk (Hospital, Doctor’s Surgery, Health Centre, Nursing Home, etc.)

Inspex Inspector

While our Inspector is working in an occupied rental property please consider the following;

  1. As we respect current HSE guidelines on physical distancing, occupiers of the rented property should not shake hands with an Inspector on arrival at or departure from the property
  2. Where possible, occupier(s) of a property and in particular vulnerable persons, should re-locate to a different room while the room-by-room inspection is being carried out
  3. Where the accommodation does not permit a person to move into a different room, the recommended social distance – 2 metres – from the Inspex Inspector must be maintained
  4. Once Inspex has left the premises and where considered necessary, surfaces that have been touched may be disinfected
  5. If there are specific Covid-19 queries or questions, please refer to HSE guidelines

Inspection Team Measures

Before entering

  1. Hands will be sanitised
  2. Face masks will be worn
  3. Disposal gloves will be worn, hands will be sanitised before disposal gloves are put on
  4. Physical distancing – 2m – will be maintained between the Inspector and other people while working in and around the property

On exiting

  1. Gloves will be sanitised
  2. Face masks will be removed
  3. Disposal gloves will be removed & disposed of in waste facility provided
  4. Hands will be sanitised after gloves are removed

MUD & Apartments

Before entering

  1. Common sense will be used when navigating high-traffic areas like lobbies, stairs and elevators
  2. Stairs will be taken when possible, otherwise safe elevator etiquette will be observed
Two men on pedestal, one much higher then the other looking down showing an imbalance. A strong and balanced rental sector is a key component in any healthy housing market

Striking A Balance

This emergency period has presented significant challenges that few could have imagined and its full impact on the rental sector has yet to be realised. That said, it’s time for something completely different….

A strong and balanced private rented sector (PRS) is a key component in any healthy housing market. The successful provision of rented housing is considered of such importance it formed one of the five pillars of Rebuilding Ireland published in July 2016.

Historically the PRS in Ireland was a residual sector seen as a temporary arrangement on the way to owning a home or accessing social housing. The sector was virtually unregulated until the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 that set out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants and detailed rules around residential tenancies.

Over the last number of years, there has been considerable change to the sector’s regulatory framework with the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015, Planning and Development (Housing) & Residential Tenancies Act 2016 and the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. The sector has seen an expansion of the Residential Tenancies Board’s (RTB) regulatory role, introduction of rent pressures zones, security of tenure protections, introduction and enforcement of minimum accommodation standards along with many other measures.

Buy-To-Let (BTL), where a property is specifically purchased to rent to tenants rather than lived in by the purchaser, used to be all the rage. Historically, most of the investment in the Irish rental sector came from these small-scale investors where a poorly regulated sector, with little or no limit on rental growth, made for an attractive investment and required little investor knowledge. Most were diligent landlords, but some were rogue.

Build-To-Rent (BTR) describes the practice of delivering purpose-built residential rental accommodation and associated amenity space for the purpose of being used as long-term rental accommodation. This new sector provides larger scale purpose-built apartment blocks that benefit from professional management, flexible tenure and the long-term, low-risk, steady growth requirements of the institutional investor.

To confront the problem of distressed assets in a post-2008-crash context, the system was encouraged to sell off assets and large portfolios to financial institutions, private equity firms, hedge funds, real estate investment trusts (REIT) and vulture funds. Property tax incentives introduced by the Government during the economic downturn, has been the target of criticism. Supporters believe these policies encouraged capital back into the Irish market at a time when it was much needed and bolstered the subsequent growth in FDI and our economic recovery.

While private institutional capital (investment funds and REITs) have been major purchasers of residential units in the Irish market, public capital in the form of Part V acquisitions, AHBs and local authorities are also significant buyers of residential property.

While turnover in the BTR sector more than doubled last year to €2.54 billion, many believe the Government’s encouragement of institutional investment away from the BTL sector and into the BTR sector has been costly for generation rent.

With increasing insurance, maintenance, management costs and less tax relief to be claimed, BTL investors are struggling to compete with BTR institutional investors. The tax and regulatory frameworks of the residential rental market are two of the disincentivising factors for smaller landlords, while institutional investors enjoy the benefits of organisational structure, economies of scale and stronger equity.

Even though investment funds have had the capacity to pay the high construction costs of apartment blocks in urban areas while satisfying the Government’s requirement to deliver scale in a demanding housing market, others believe some of the larger landlords are of now of sufficient scale to influence government policy as well as possessing rent setting powers in certain locations.

According to the RTB, some 40,000 smaller landlords have left the sector since 2012, while the sector has become increasingly attractive to large scale investors and corporate residential landlords. The market has expanded to include 340,000 tenants, 714,000 occupants and 174,000 landlords. But as it has expanded it has also become more expensive with rents rising by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2019, almost double the EU average.

The provision of rental housing is of such importance that an over-reliance on a limited number of third parties is a risk we shouldn’t take and one that can only be mitigated by ensuring we have a balanced mix of PRS housing providers.

Balance between money and housing, the extraordinary legislative measures to somehow contain the impact on housing provision during Covid19 pandemic

Containing the Impact

The speed with which the pandemic has struck left our policy makers with no option but to implement extraordinary legislative measures to somehow contain the impact on housing provision.

Self-isolation confirmed medical diagnosis and/or a reduction in working hours or loss of employment are likely to present significant financial challenges for both landlords and tenants over the coming months.

With effect from 27 March 2020, emergency measures were introduced into law, to protect tenants during the Covid-19 emergency period.  The Act provides for amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 – 2019 that are expected to last for a period of 3 months but may be extended if the Government considers it necessary.

The legislation ensures that tenants cannot be forced to leave their rental accommodation, other than in exceptional circumstances, during the emergency period. A notice of termination cannot be served and where a notice of termination was served before the 27/03/2020, it cannot take effect until the emergency period has ended. For tenancies of less than 6 months duration, a tenant now has 28 days, increased from 14 days, to pay rent arrears due.  If the tenant and landlord are unable to agree an approach to arrears, the landlord cannot issue a notice of termination during the emergency period. Rent increases are prohibited during the period but rent decreases can be implemented.

Landlord obligations in relation to the property and the tenant remain unchanged and tenants are obliged to continue to pay rent during the emergency period.

Some of the country's largest landlords and institutional property investors have said they will support government efforts to protect tenants who are impacted by the disruption caused by the pandemic through measures such as deferral of rent payments and payment plans.

The trickle-down effect of rents not being paid would be devastating leaving some landlords unable to make mortgage payments, meet insurance costs and pay their own bills.

Smaller landlords facing potential difficulties in making loan repayments are being advised that certain banks, retail credit and credit servicing firms have introduced 3-month payment breaks on mortgages.

While tenants are expected to pay rent during this period, income support and rent supplement provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is available to those struggling to do so. Any rent arrears built up during the period will be payable.

Tenants are advised to contact their landlords as soon as they can to talk through delayed or partial payment options.

The legislative changes are temporary in nature, lasting for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, after which point residential tenancies will revert to the current legislative arrangements.

Gavel with words compliance above representing AHB regulation was formalised in statute with the enactment of the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019

Raising the Stakes

Although the right to housing in Ireland is neither constitutionally nor legislatively protected, we are, under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals committed to ensuring access to adequate, safe and affordable housing for all by 2030.

Due to the imposition of austerity measures over a decade ago and government funding cuts for social and affordable housing development, delivery of the actual housing units has been slow while demand continues to grow.

The concept and definition of social housing in Ireland has broadened over the course of time. Social housing is now described as housing provided by a Local Authority (LA) or a housing association to people who cannot afford housing from their own resources and properties rented by either of these groups from private landlords. Some experts include the provision of government subsidies, such as the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), to facilitate lower income earners in securing rental accommodation in the private sector.

The establishment and registration of Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) was first introduced in statute under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. It set out the general scheme of how AHBs could and might operate alongside LAs in Ireland for the provision of social and affordable housing to those who could not afford to rent in the private sector and for groups with specific needs, such as the elderly, disabled or homeless.

By 2013 the AHB sector began to formalise in a meaningful way with the introduction of the Voluntary Regulation Code (VRC) by the Department of Housing. In doing so, the Department acknowledged the scarcity of funding for LA-led social housing supply and the growing need for AHBs to fill the void in social housing provision.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 brought AHB tenancies under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), while in 2019 the regulation of AHBs was formalised in statute with the enactment of the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019.

The Act covers the areas of corporate governance, financial management and reporting, property and asset management and tenancy management with which all registered AHBs are now required to comply. The Approved Housing Body Regulator is required to submit for approval draft standards to the Minister for Housing within six months of the establishment of the Act to outline requirements in this regard, for example procedures to ensure control and oversight, requirements for financial and risk control and procedures for ensuring financial viability, and policies relating to the management of dwellings and communication with tenants.

With the significant public resources being invested in the AHB sector and organisational responsibilities growing exponentially, the idea of being too big to fail in the context of housing provision, cannot be contemplated. The challenge for AHBs to cater for housing needs and increasingly fill the LA void is a conferral of significant responsibility which must be carefully monitored and held to account.

A sample of inspections carried out by Inspex in 2020 on AHB owned and managed properties show that after first inspection, 99.5% of properties failed to comply with fire safety provisions, 72% failed to comply with structural provisions, 72% failed to comply with heating related provisions and just over 25% did not comply with ventilation requirements, per the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.

These results demonstrate the importance of the LA proactive inspection programme and for the compliant and responsible landlords, large or small, to know that the non-compliant landlord, large or small, is detected through the system of regular inspection.

The role of independent inspection and verification of minimum standards in rented accommodation is as important as ever. The larger landlords, like any of the 520 registered AHBs in Ireland, focused on delivering housing at scale, should note that as stakes continue to rise so too do the systems to detect and uphold the necessary standards throughout the lifetime of each and every tenancy.

Logo for Irish Refugee Council (IRC) who engages the Inspex team to undertake a proactive inspection programme of its nationwide properties

IRC Proactive Inspection

The 1951 Refugee Convention outlines the rights of people that are displaced, to seek asylum from persecution in other countries as well as the legal obligation of states to protect refugees, considered by many to be among the most vulnerable people in the world.

Asylum seekers who have been granted international protection or permission to remain in Ireland have the right to live and work here.

The Irish Refugee Council (IRC), formally set-up in 1992, provides much needed support and services to refugees and people seeking asylum in Ireland.

Underpinning these services is the belief of a moral responsibility to support those, who have spent years in the institutional environment of Direct Provision (DP), to secure appropriate accommodation and to assist them with the challenges of transitioning to life in our communities.

In Ireland, the change from direct provision to living independently presents its challenges and many refugees compete in a rental market where rents are at a record high and availability is at a record low.

The IRC has a number of programmes focused on housing including its ‘Housing Project’ that supports people transitioning from DP.

The project secured ten new properties donated by religious congregations, civil society and members of the public. These properties are leased to individuals and families – providing them with a secure home and affordable tenancy for a guaranteed period of time.

As a landlord, the IRC, has a legal duty to ensure its rental properties meet certain minimum accommodation standards.  These standards are set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Standards 2019.

To ensure its property portfolio met the required accommodation standards, the IRC engaged the Inspex team to undertake a proactive inspection programme of its nationwide properties.

'The on-site inspection, brought attention to the statutory minimum standards required when a property is used for rental purposes.  The Reports provided, highlight items within a property where there is compliance and also items within a property that contravene the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.  The Inspex staff have been great to work with and are really patient and informative.  We have been really happy with the Inspex reports and these have shaped our understanding of our obligations and responsibilities to our tenants’.

Inspex hopes to continue its collaboration with the IRC supporting this housing initiative that can make a difference in people’s lives.

partnership in business agreement

Inspex Team Appointed

South Dublin County Council appointed the Inspex team in 2019 for the provision of housing inspections and support services to ensure properties available for letting in the South Dublin County Council administrative area are in compliance with the Housing Standards Regulations 2019.

Local authorities play a strategic role managing new and existing housing supply through a range of delivery mechanisms including the oversight of accommodation standards in the private rented sector (PRS).  Annually, the Department of Housing Local Government & Heritage (DHLGH) requires that 25% of all registered tenancies with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), in the administrative area of all Local Authorities, are inspected to ensure compliance with the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.  At end June 2020, the total number of private registered tenancies in the South Dublin County Council area was 16,677.

All privately rented properties must comply with the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019. The current minimum standards for rented accommodation 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.

Together with Inspex, South Dublin County inspected the largest amount of rented dwellings by any Local Authority in 2020.

As part of its agreement with South Dublin County Council, Inspex notifies landlords and or tenants of the requirement for a property to be inspected, inspects the rented property and determines whether the property complies with the minimum standards.

All landlords, including Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), have a legal obligation to comply with the standards and must ensure their properties are fully compliant with fire safety and minimum standards regulations for rental properties.

Failure to comply with the minimum standards can result in penalties and prosecution. South Dublin County Council can issue Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices to landlords who breach the minimum standards regulations.