A dozen Dublin landlords who rented substandard properties to low-income households under the Housing Assistance Payments (Hap) scheme have had their payments stopped, new figures show.
Almost 50,000 households are living in Hap tenancy properties nationally with one quarter of them in Dublin. Under the Hap system tenants eligible for social housing are accommodated in the private sector. In most cases the tenant sources the properties themselves, but rent is paid to the landlord by their local authority.
Local authorities are required to carry out inspections within eight months of the tenancy starting and have met this target in 83 per cent of cases. The council does not have to undertake this process if the property was already inspected in the previous 12 months.
In Dublin city, environmental health officers carry out inspections on a “proactive basis as well as in response to complaints received”, the council said. It has carried out 3,173 inspections of the 6,215 Hap properties so far this year.
“If the property does not meet the required standards, environmental health officers take appropriate enforcement action for all non-compliant properties,” it said.
This action can include the serving of improvement letters, improvement notices and prohibition notices. The council institutes legal proceedings “where appropriate to ensure landlords bring properties into compliance with housing standards legislation” .
Almost all Hap properties fail to meet the required standards on first inspection, but the majority are subsequently brought into compliance.
Most improvements required are minor in nature and are complied with by the landlord. However, in 11 cases the council has served prohibition notices stopping rent payments to the landlord.
“In cases where a prohibition notice is served on a landlord, and not appealed the Hap payments continue for a 13-week period in order for the tenant to source alternative accommodation with the aid of Hap,” the council said.
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council said landlords must sign a declaration certifying the property is in a “lettable condition and meets the statutory requirements for rented accommodation” before a tenancy begins. It has the lowest number of Hap tenancies of the four Dublin local authorities at just under 1,400. The council has carried out 1,021 inspections so far this year, but these include properties rented under the older Rental Accommodation Scheme, and other private rented housing.
Where improvements are required, the council issues repair notices and undertakes follow-up inspections to ensure the work has been carried out. It said it has not encountered any properties where it has had to stop payments because conditions were substandard. If such a case did arise it would be the tenant’s responsibility to source a new property, but the council said: “The local authority has put supports in place to assist where tenants are at risk of homelessness.”
The council 'does not find alternative homes for tenants in the event of substandard accommodation'
South Dublin County Council has just under 3,000 tenants in Hap properties and has inspected just over 1,100 so far this year. In most cases the infractions are “relatively minor”, it said.
“A large amount of cases fail due to relatively minor, easily remedied contraventions of the minimum housing standards legislation eg no fire blanket in the kitchen, out of date or non-functioning smoke alarms, no microwave etc. It has been also noted that properties frequently fail due to updating of regulations.”
It has not stopped any payments as it said “time is allowed to the landlord to have the required works completed”. The council “does not find alternative homes for tenants in the event of substandard accommodation” it said.
Fingal County Council is the only other local authority of the four to have stopped any payments, but only in one case. It has carried out 2,548 Hap inspections this year, despite having just over 1,720 properties. It said it carries out inspections on foot of complaints in addition to routine inspections. “The council has terminated one Hap tenancy due to the property not meeting the required standard. The council deals with such terminations on a case by case basis,” it said.