With significant public investment in the private rented sector (PRS), consistent application of housing standards and fair enforcement of the regulations are needed. Our local authorities have a public duty to ensure rented housing complies with minimum accommodation standards.
A strong and viable PRS is a key component in a healthy housing market while the quality of rented accommodation is critical to sustaining the sector over the long-term. Residential rental properties should provide safe, comfortable and environmentally sustainable homes for those who live in them. Updating and improving accommodation standards and regulating their application are essential.
For the period from 2014 to 2020 the number of private registered tenancies with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) increased by 17.39%. All landlords, including AHBs and student specific accommodation (SSA) providers are obligated to register their tenancies. Currently, there are 334,588 tenancies registered.
Local authorities play an important and strategic role in meeting new and existing housing needs through their involvement in the provision of housing by Approved Housing Bodies (AHB’s) and housing units through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) funding streams, such the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
The allocation for the housing programme increased by 230% (€943 million to €3.1 billion) between 2016 and 2021. In 2019 total expenditure on public housing was almost €2.6bn, HAP and RAS schemes accounted for almost 50% while leasing (Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP)) and RAS accounted for almost 30%. The overall capital allocation for DHLGH in the current year is €2.8 billion, an increase of €500 million on 2020.
In the context of the current high-level of demand for a limited supply of rented housing stock and significant public funding invested in the PRS our local authorities have a critical duty to ensure rented accommodation, in their administrative areas, follow the regulatory standards.
Without an inspection system in place, there is no mechanism to ensure that dwellings comply with standards. The purpose of an effective inspection regime is to recognise the importance of safety standards and in this context ensure a rented property complies with the minimum accommodation standards as set out in Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.
Substantially increased DHLGH funding has been made available to local authorities each year since 2018 to enable the authorities to build inspection capacity and deploy external contractors such as Inspex. The number of inspections more than doubled from 19,645 in 2017 to 40,728 in 2019.
Annually, the DHLGH expects 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. Where properties are deemed to be non-compliant following inspection, the Housing Acts 1966 to 2014 allocate the responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations to the Local Authorities.
Where properties are deemed to be non-compliant following inspection, the Housing Acts 1966 to 2014 allocate the responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations to the Local Authorities. Failure to comply with the minimum standards can result in penalties and legal proceedings. With sufficient resources made available, the local authorities are now more likely to issue Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices to property owners whose properties breach the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.
Current social housing tenants have existing rights under the Housing Acts 1966-2019 and the provisions of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 apply to all local authority dwellings. While social housing is regulated under the above Acts, private rental tenancies are regulated under Residential Tenancies legislation. A goal of the ‘Housing for All’ plan is to examine whether the social housing sector requires independent regulation.
Consistent application and fair enforcement of standards is critical to sustaining the PRS over the long-term. A proficient deployment of IT means that Inspex provides its local authority clients’ consistent inspection and verification services when capturing, analysing, and determining the condition of private rented dwellings and in particular confirming whether minimum accommodation standards are met under the relevant housing legislation.