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We have an NCT for cars, so should landlords need one for their rentals?

Housing charity Threshold says there’s an “unacceptable” number of properties checked.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

HOUSING CHARITY THRESHOLD has repeated its call for an ‘NCT for Housing’ due to the “unacceptable” number of rental properties that are not checked for standards. 

Threshold says that just 6-7% of registered properties are checked annually and argues in its pre-budget submission that this should increase to 25%.

The charity adds that a clearance cert would be valid for four years, meaning that every registered rental property would be checked over that period.

Policy officer Ann-Marie O’Reilly said that the goal of such a system would not be to take sub-standard properties off the rental market but to ensure that landlords meet their requirements.

It is unacceptable to see so few properties inspected each year and to see the majority fail inspection and also to see so few brought up to standard on foot of those inspections. Over €2 million was allocated to local authorities in 2017 to carry out the inspections, only 7% of registered dwellings were actually inspected.

“The goal to have an inspection rate of 25% per year does requires bodies, people to be out doing it and engaging with landlords. And that is a skill as well to engage with a landlord and have them carry out the work. Sometimes that’s a small piece of work that needs to be done like putting a microwave in the kitchen.

In Dublin City Council there’s 22 inspectors and I have been told that they would require 65 to meet the 25% inspection rate and even at that it would be a challenge to carry out the follow-up inspections. Because it’s not just about carrying out the inspection, you also have to have a follow-up if it isn’t compliant to talk to the landlord. You don’t just take it off the market, the idea is to get it up to standard.

Threshold outlined two different systems that could be used to enforce the NCT for Housing plan.

The first would be to require that landlords hire a registered professional to carry out the check and that the professional would act in accordance with checks laid out by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

The landlord would then get a certificate that would be lodged with the RTB and allow renters access them on a database. The cost to the landlord would be tax-deductible.

The second option is to essentially ramp up checks by local authorities and have them standardised across the country. It has been suggested by Threshold that local authorities could even team up to ensure they have the resources to carry out the checks.

Threshold proposes that these teams are overseen and co-ordinated by a national body or taken under the remit of the RTB.

“I have spoken to people in local authorities who take care of this and there is a wealth of expertise and knowledge there and a lot of skill and I do think that can be drawn on and built on to make a very effective service,” O’Relly said, adding that this is Threshold’s preferred option.

threshold Threshold's John-Mark McCafferty and Ann-Marie O’Reilly. Source: Jason Clarke

Threshold’s CEO John-Mark McCafferty told today’s press conference that there have been discussions with government over the NCT for Housing but there are “differences of opinion” and there’s yet to be “a breakthrough”.

“I guess that’s partly why we’ve had two cuts at this. Looking at the NCT we’ve advocated for some time and then secondly an alternative NCT,” he said.

“What we found in our analysis of inspections is that there’s just huge inconsistencies across local authorities about the inspection rates, so even if there wasn’t an NCT or similar regime implemented, even what is currently done needs some serious re-thinking.”

A Sinn Féin motion passed by the Dáil in 2017 called for the introduction of a similar system and housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD said today that the government have ignored this. 

“It is disappointing yet unsurprising that the government has not yet taken action on this proposal, especially since it could be introduced at a relatively small cost,” the deputy said. 

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Rónán Duffy

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