New rented accommodation standards to be introduced


THE DAYS of the traditional one-room bedsit where toilet facilities are shared with other tenants will be numbered under new standards for rented accommodation due to come into force next February.

The new legal minimum standards for rental accommodation will replace the current 15-year-old laws which have been widely criticised for being inadequate and outdated.

For example, current standards allow for an open fireplace as the only means of heating and do not stipulate that a piped hot water supply should be available all day.

The new standards will ensure each rented accommodation has its own sanitary facilities, along with modern standards for food storage, food preparation, refuse and laundry, ventilation, lighting and fire safety.

Responsibility for the outward appearance and condition of a rental property will also rest with the landlord. They will be obliged to ensure that the facade of a building and the garden and paths, driveways and hedges are clean and well-maintained.

The new standards, due to come into force from February 1st next year, will apply to all new first-time lettings from that date onwards.

Existing lettings will be given a four-year phasing-in period to comply with provisions such as the installation of dedicated sanitary facilities in each rental unit.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley said: "Renting as opposed to buying is an option an increasing number of people are choosing, and we need to ensure that strong laws are in place to protect consumers and the public good." He added: "The external appearance of rental property is an issue that is regularly brought to my attention by constituents and this package will make landlords' responsibilities in this area much clearer."

However, tenants' groups such as Threshold say the enforcement of standards will depend on whether local authorities are willing to step up the policing of the private rented sector.

Figures for 2006, for example, show 30 per cent of 6,800 properties inspected fell below minimum standards. Yet legal action against landlords was initiated in just 11 cases.

Mr Gormley said tougher sanctions for non-compliance with the regulations would be introduced.Fines for non-compliance will be increased from €3,000 to €5,000 and daily penalties for non-compliance after conviction will increase from €250 to €400.

Local authorities will be able to issue improvement notices and, where necessary, prohibition notices to prevent the further renting of a property until it complies with the standards. Mr Gormley said funding for inspections was linked to performance and had been increased to €4 million for 2008, an increase of 33 per cent from 2007.

Minister of State for Housing Michael Finneran said "the existing standards are 15 years old and reflect a very different, poorer Ireland".