Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Rental Accommodation Standards
524. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans to fund the appointment by local authorities of additional staff in order that timely inspections of HAP properties can take place in cases in which persons make complaints regarding standards of accommodation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51911/17]
530. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his views on estate agents advertising unsuitable accommodation; his role in regulating the practice of landlords advertising properties with poor living conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52057/17]
531. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his views on the lack of fire safety certificates in certain properties rented through the local authority HAP scheme and the steps that can be taken to ensure that all properties available through HAP are of the highest safety standards. [52058/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 524, 530 and 531 together.
The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, set out a series of measures to be introduced to ensure the quality of private rental accommodation by strengthening the applicable standards and improving the inspection and enforcement systems.
On 1 July 2017, updated regulatory standards, the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017, came into effect. These Regulations cover a range of matters including structural condition, ventilation, sanitary facilities and fire safety and include new measures covering heating appliances, carbon monoxide and window safety. In August, my Department published a guidance document to assist and support local authorities in implementing the new Regulations.
All properties let, or available to let, including where a property has been advertised by a letting agent, must comply with the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations. All landlords, including those in receipt of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and management companies where they are also landlords, have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations. Responsibility for the enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority, supported by a dedicated stream of funding provided from a portion of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees, collected by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
Since the establishment of the RTB, over €34 million has been paid to local authorities to assist them in the performance of their functions under the Housing Acts, including the inspection of rented accommodation. Over 185,000 inspections were carried out during this period.
However, the Rental Strategy recognises the need for additional resources to be provided to local authorities to aid increased inspections of properties and ensure greater compliance with the Regulations. Provision has been made for an allocation of €2.5m in 2018, with the intention of providing further increases each year in the period to 2021 to facilitate targeted inspection coverage of 25% of rental properties annually.
It is also my intention to introduce further measures to ensure that landlords meet their obligations in relation to quality, safety and compliance with regulations and standards. For example, when registering a tenancy with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), I am intending that landlords will be required to certify that the property in question is compliant with regulations relating to standards for rental accommodation, overcrowding and fire safety. Failure to provide this certification, failure to register the tenancy or the provision of an untrue certification will all constitute offences, prosecutable by the RTB.
The HAP scheme is underpinned by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014. Under section 41 of the 2014 Act, local authorities are required to commence the inspection process within 8 months of the commencement of HAP support being provided in relation to a particular dwelling if not already inspected within the previous 12 months. HAP may be provided on a property which is the subject of a subsisting improvement notice under section 18A of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. HAP shall not be, or shall cease to be, provided on a property which is the subject of proceedings or a prohibition notice under section 18B of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. Where a prohibition notice has come into effect, HAP may continue to be paid for 13 weeks from the date of HAP commencing or the notice coming into force, as appropriate.
There is no requirement under the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations for a rental property to have a fire certificate in place. The statutory requirements in relation to Fire Safety Certificates are set out in the Building Control Act 1990, as amended by Part 2 of the Building Control Act 2007, and in regulations made thereunder. A Fire Safety Certificate is a certificate granted by a local Building Control Authority which specifies that the works or building to which the application relates will, if carried out in accordance with the plans and specifications submitted, comply with the requirements of Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. A Fire Safety Certificate is generally required before construction work is commenced in the case of a new apartment block, a new building other than a dwelling or an existing building other than a dwelling undergoing an extension, a material alteration or a material change of use. A building used as a dwelling other than a flat is exempted from the requirement to obtain a Fire Safety Certificate.