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Landlords could face NCT-style checks to bring rental properties up to standard

Housing charity Threshold said some tenants are now “afraid” to complain about sub-standard accommodation.

Image: damp image via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT IS considering a proposal to introduce rental property inspections to ensure they meet the proper standards.

The measures were first reported by the Irish Examiner and include the establishment of a national inspection unit which would carry out checks on homes. The Department of the Environment said no decisions have been made yet, but the regulations underpinning the enforcement of standards will be reviewed sometime this year.

Options including ‘certification’ will be considered as part of this review. The department said it will also focus on “promoting best practice in implementing the existing regulatory framework across all local authority areas”.

‘Serious issues’

Threshold services manager Stephen Large told that ‘standards and repairs’ is the biggest single issue people are contacting the housing service about this year.

At the moment, in terms of attention, it’s all on rent increases and the difficulties in finding accommodation but there is also a huge number of people who contact us in relation to standards and getting repairs.

The majority of issues relate to dampness, poor ventilation, heating and a lack of fire safety measures in properties.

“Sometimes there are serious issues with electrics – exposed wiring, faulty wiring or sometimes water running into electrics,” he said.

Large said during the economic downturn, some landlords may not have had the money to carry out repairs and standards in some areas have slipped.

People are reluctant to do anything because they think: ‘What if the landlord asks me to leave?’, or the rent hasn’t been raised in a while so maybe they’ll increase it if you complain. People are afraid to report things and to take matters further.

He said the proposals for a national inspection unit would remove some of the burden on tenants. Current legislation is enforced by local authorities and Large said that while some, like Dublin City Council are “quite proactive”, there are regions in the country where “there don’t appear to be any inspections undertaken”.

“It would be good to have a national authority that would apply the standards across the board.”

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Energy efficiency

Though this move would be welcome, Large said there is a need for the government to look at including measures in legislation to improve the general quality of living in the private rental sector.

“With things like energy efficiency, in terms of minimum standards, there are no provisions for energy. Particularly if someone is on a low income, if the homes is poorly insulated, their heating costs are greater and less effective and there’s no minimum standard for the BER cert.”

Large stressed that tenants should be aware of their rights and bring issues to the attention of their landlords, as most issues are resolved without any problems. Tenants who are unhappy with the interaction with their landlord can contact Threshold for help or take their grievances to the Residential Tenancies Board.

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