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Kilkenny council tells social housing tenants they have to pay for home repairs

A list sent to tenants includes draught-proofing of doors and windows and maintenance of external walls and gates.

Image: Shutterstock/Stasique

KILKENNY COUNTY COUNCIL has sent a booklet to its social housing tenants informing them that they will have to cover the costs of certain internal and external repairs.

A new tenant’s handbook sent to residents of local authority housing in recent days includes a list of both internal and external repairs that the tenant is responsible for, such as:

  • Draught-proofing of doors and windows
  • Repairing condensation damage
  • Repairing plaster cracks
  • Replacing sanitary fittings
  • Maintenance and repair of footpaths, driveways, gates and external walls.

The council confirmed it recently reviewed this handbook, and the list of responsibilities has caused concern amongst residents in local authority housing who believe it may be a shift in policy.

Under law, private landlords are required to maintain the exterior and interior of their property, including electrical or plumbing repairs, the replacement of broken utilities, condensation management and furniture repairs.

There are a small number of exemptions for local authorities (as landlords) in housing regulations published last year, but these mainly relate to food preparation and laundry facilities like cookers and washing machines.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Dermot O’Sullivan, western region services manager for housing charity Threshold, explained:

Local authorities have responsibility for enforcing these regulations in the private rental sector, but the standards also apply to them as well.

“The line you would often get from them in relation to standards and repairs is that they may not have the resources to carry them out as they have a limited budget, but strictly speaking those regulations do apply in the main,” he said.

“There are exceptions of course, if you have a broken window and the tenants cause it, it is reasonable to expect the tenant will pay for the repairs. Something like draught-proofing shouldn’t be the tenant’s responsibility because you’re talking about the property having a good state of structural repair.”

‘Unacceptable’

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Patrick McKee, formerly of Renua, said that he believes local authority tenants are being “left out in the cold”.

“These laws were introduced to protect vulnerable tenants from unscrupulous landlords – it’s completely unacceptable.

There is a huge irony in the fact that by virtue of having to seek local authority housing, they [tenants] don’t have the resources to deal with these issues themselves.

“There are issues that come up with accommodation that constituents come to me with and this document has made it very clear to me that when I’m fighting on their behalf, I’m essentially relying on the good will of the council to deal with these issues,” he added. McKee said he will be raising the issue at the council’s meeting on Monday.

Sinn Féin councillor David Kennedy said that while he had not seen the handbook himself, he had received calls from concerned tenants.

“I get numerous calls about maintenance issues in local authority houses and you ring up and complain and it’s fixed – that’s the way it should be. I’d understand if it’s the likes of soft maintenance like painting, but any major works, anything that would be a substantial cost to the tenant should be covered by the council,” he said.

Recently reviewed

Mary Mulholland, director of services in housing at Kilkenny County Council, told TheJournal.ie that the council does not carry out repair and maintenance works to its houses “in line with its tenant handbook”, which she said had recently been reviewed.

“There are repairs which are the responsibility of the tenant and in those cases the cost of repairs is a matter for the tenant. In limited cases, the tenant handbook clarifies that where the local authority carries out repairs that are the responsibility of the tenant, a charge may apply.

“Kilkenny County Council carries out significant repair and maintenance works every year, responding to more than 5,000 maintenance requests annually.”

As local authorities have responsibility for regulating housing standards and ensuring standards are met, it is the council that tenants would have to complain to about the council’s own handbook or its behaviour as a landlord.

Councillors are expected to discuss the issue at their next meeting on Monday.

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