Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Voluntary Housing Sector
206. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if efforts will be made by his Department to improve regulation of voluntary housing bodies, including the introduction of robust formal inspection of private apartment complexes and the provision of technical assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38782/21]
Significant progress has been made by my Department in putting in place the framework for statutory regulation of Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs). Specifically, on 1 February this year I established the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) - an independent Regulator to oversee the effective governance, financial management and performance of all AHBs.
The functions of the Regulator (as set out in the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019)) shall be to:
- establish and maintain a register of AHBs,
- register persons as AHBs,
- prepare draft standards for approval by the Minister under section 37 and publish the approved standards,
- monitor and assess compliance by AHBs with this Act, in particular the approved standards,
- carry out investigations under Part 5,
- under Part 6, protect tenants and AHBs and cancel the registration of AHBs,
- encourage and facilitate the better governance, administration and management, including corporate governance and financial management, of AHBs by the provision of such information and advice, in such form and manner, as the Regulator considers appropriate,
- with a view to promoting awareness and understanding of this Act, make available such information as appears to the Regulator to be expedient to give to the public about the operation of this Act, in such form and manner, as the Regulator considers appropriate,
- collect such information concerning AHBs as the Regulator considers necessary and appropriate for the purposes of the performance of the Regulator’s functions, and
- publish such information (including statistical information) concerning AHBs as the Regulator considers appropriate.
It is anticipated that the AHBRA will be operational in early 2022. This is to allow the Regulator sufficient time to determine its strategy and adopt the standards by which AHBs will be assessed. The drafting of standards, which AHBs must comply with, is a key function of the Regulator and will involve consultation with the sector and key stakeholders.
The draft standards will relate to
- The governance of AHBs;
- The financial management of, and financial reporting by AHBs;
- Property and asset management by AHBs; and
- Tenancy management of AHBs.
All AHBs, once registered or deemed to be registered with the Regulator, must comply with the standards. More information in relation to the specific work of AHBRA can be found at www.ahbregulator.ie
In addition, an AHB is required to have tenancy agreements in place and to register all of its tenancies with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended) regulates the landlord-tenant relationship in the private rental sector and sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants.
Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These Regulations focus on tenant safety and specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light, safety of gas, oil and electrical supply and fire. These Regulations apply to all properties let or available for let and are available at www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2019/si/137/made/en/print
All landlords, including AHBs, 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 and AHB properties are included in the rented dwellings covered by local authority private rental inspection regimes.
The Strategy for the Rental Sector sets 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. The 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.
Increased funding was made available by my Department each year since 2018 to enable local authorities build inspection capacity incrementally, with payments based on the number of inspections undertaken. Significant progress was made across the sector with the number of inspections more than doubling from 19,645 in 2017 to 40,728 in 2019. €6 million was made available to local authorities in 2020 and €10 million in 2021. However, restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic have greatly impacted on inspection activity since March 2020. In response, some local authorities have been piloting virtual inspections and my Department is encouraging and supporting this initiative by providing funding. In line with updated public health guidance, the resumption of in person inspections is permitted from 14 July, subject to the necessary health and safety measures.