Thursday, 15 September 2022
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
202. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the role that his Department plays in tackling landlords who are supplying substandard accommodation and whose tenants are in receipt of rent supplement allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45280/22]
The Rent Supplement scheme is operated by the Department of Social Protection. It provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation. The scheme ensures that for those who were renting but whose circumstances have changed due to a temporary loss of employment can continue to meet their rental commitments. There were 10,347 people in receipt of Rent Supplement on 10 September 2022.
Local Authorities are responsible for the provision of rental assistance to those with a long-term housing need primarily through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme.
The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light, fire safety and the safety of gas, oil and electrical installations. All 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.
If a property has been found to be non-compliant with the regulations, it is a matter for the local authority to determine what action is necessary and appropriate. Under sections 18A and 18B of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, a housing authority may serve an Improvement Notice or Prohibition Notice, respectively, where a property is found to be non-compliant.
Under Section 34 of that Act, any person who by act or omission contravenes the Regulations, fails to comply with an improvement notice, or re-lets a house in breach of a prohibition notice, will be guilty of an offence and will be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. If the contravention, failure to comply or re-letting is continued after conviction, the person will be guilty of a further offence on every day on which the contravention, failure to comply or re-letting continues and for each such offence will be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €400 per day.
To aid increased inspections of properties and ensure greater compliance with the Regulations, increased Exchequer funding has been made available to local authorities since 2018 to enable them to build inspection capacity, with payments based on the number of inspections undertaken. Significant progress was made across the sector. The number of inspections more than doubled from 19,645 in 2017 to 40,728 in 2019. However, given the need for inspectors to enter tenants’ homes, pandemic restrictions greatly impacted on inspection activity since March 2020. The number of inspections undertaken fell to 25,703 in 2020 and 20,240 in 2021. However, figures for the the first half of 2022 show that more than 23,000 inspections have been carried out.