Substandard landlords may face financial penalties

Landlords to register and certify compliance with fire-safety and rental benchmarks

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is expected to seek Cabinet support not to oppose a private members motion from Sinn Féin seeking a National Car Test-style inspection system for rental properties. Photograph: Colin Keegan

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is expected to seek Cabinet support not to oppose a private members motion from Sinn Féin seeking a National Car Test-style inspection system for rental properties. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

Landlords would face significant financial penalties if found to be renting out substandard accommodation under new proposals to be considered by the Government on Tuesday.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is to update the Cabinet on proposed legislation to transform the Residential Tenancies Board into a regulatory body.

Under the measures, landlords would be required to register with the board and certify annually that a property is compliant with fire-safety standards and rental accommodation requirements.

Failure to provide this certification, failure to register the tenancy or the provision of an untrue certification would all constitute offences, which would be prosecutable by the board. Penalties for non-compliance will be primarily financial but a criminal sanction may also be considered.

Last week an RTÉ investigation revealed severe overcrowding and dangerous fire-safety conditions in rented properties.

Dublin City Council said that Dublin Fire Brigade had closed three buildings at the centre of the programme before it aired but that allowing the brigade to become “overly wrapped up” in the issue would be unsustainable as it did not have the resources.

Dangerous situations

“It is clear that our powers and authority under planning and environmental health legislation are not robust or swift enough to deal with these dangerous situations therefore, the focus has been put very much on the fire safety aspect where powers are stronger,” the council’s deputy chief executive and head of housing Brendan Kenny said.

Figures from Dublin City Council show that just one in 10 private rented properties inspected by its environmental health officers this year met minimum living standards.

The officers inspected 880 properties in the nine months to September – half of the number of inspections carried out for the whole of last year. They inspect properties’ structural condition, sanitary facilities, heating facilities, kitchens, ventilation, lighting, refuse facilities and fire-safety provisions.

Some 761 properties inspected did not meet minimum regulatory requirements, the council said, but almost all landlords (750) did bring their properties up to standard.

Figures from the Department of Housing show a total of 19,092 inspections were carried out last year, with a total of 325,000 tenancies registered at the end of the year.

Mr Kenny said that where a rented property is found to be non-compliant, “there is no authority under current housing standards legislation to require the landlord to terminate a tenancy or to vacate a property”.

Injunction powers

“Rather than an over-focus on inspections and enforcement of current regulations that are quite cumbersome, there needs to be an emphasis on much greater penalties, including large court fines, disbarment from being a landlord, reporting to Revenue Commissioners, and injunction powers for the Local Authority,” Mr Kenny said of any potential new legislation in the area.

Mr Murphy is also expected to seek Cabinet support not to oppose a private members motion from Sinn Féin seeking a National Car Test-style inspection system for rental properties.

Fianna Fáil and Labour are expected to support the Sinn Féin motion, which also requests financial penalties to be imposed on landlords. Mr Murphy is not expected to oppose the legislation but is expected to progress his own measures insteadas he believes the rollout of such a model would take significant time.