Thursday, 13 May 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
245. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the sanctions that can and are being directed and applied to HAP landlords who fail or refuse to carry out necessary works on their properties or in the necessary time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25236/21]
The minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations. Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority.
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 HAP support being provided in relation to a particular dwelling, if the dwelling was not already inspected within the previous 12 months. Local authorities carry out HAP inspections as part of their overall private rented inspections programme.
The HAP legislation provides a very structured, time bound system where serious lack of compliance exists and can result in termination of HAP payment.
Failure to comply with the minimum standards can result in penalties and prosecution. Local authorities can issue Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices to landlords who breach the minimum standards regulations. An Improvement Notice sets out the works that the landlord must carry out to remedy a breach of the regulations.
In the case of a Prohibition Notice being enforced, a local authority may provide, or continue to provide, HAP in respect of that property for a period of 13 weeks, to enable the household to find an alternative dwelling.
Local authorities report to my Department on numbers of overall inspections carried out and enforcement actions undertaken on a quarterly basis. The most recent data received in respect of the number of inspections of all private rental properties and those with HAP tenancies is set out in the table below:
|HAP Inspections carried out in 2019||Total Inspections carried out in 2019||HAP On-site Inspections carried out in 2020||Total On-site Inspections carried out in 2020||HAP Virtual Inspections carried out in 2020||Total Virtual Inspections carried out in 2020|
Given the need for inspectors to enter tenants’ homes, Covid-19 pandemic restrictions have impacted on the inspection of all rented dwellings – not just those with HAP tenancies. The City and County Management Association’s Local Authority Resilience and Recovery Plan for living with Covid-19 (October 2020) and its subsequent Local Authority Services Framework for Future Covid-19 Pandemic Response (January 2021) do not permit rental inspections in Levels 4 and 5. This is in order to protect tenants, landlords and rental inspectors.
In response to the difficulties caused by pandemic restrictions, some local authorities have been piloting virtual inspections. Dublin City Council have led this initiative which entails landlords receiving a checklist for self-assessment and being required to submit photographic/video evidence by email, tenants being invited to raise any non-compliance issues they are aware of and being asked to confirm that any remedial works requested by the local authority have been completed, and the Council reserving the right to conduct a physical on-site inspection when it is safe to so.
While virtual inspection systems present certain challenges and limitations, they do offer a way of improving the standard of rental accommodation despite the pandemic. I support these initiatives and my Department is encouraging local authorities not involved in the pilots to consider adopting them. I have committed to providing Exchequer funding for those that do.
Comprehensive data in respect of the number of inspections of all private rental properties, Improvement Letters and Improvement Notices issued, and the legal actions initiated by local authorities in the period 2005 to 2020 is available on my Department's website at the following link: