Rental legislation ‘not fit for purpose’, says Threshold

More than 209,000 tenants have sought housing charity’s help over last decade

Threshold chairwoman Aideen Hayden has said the Government must introduce a strategy on private rented housing to prevent “economic evictions”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

Threshold chairwoman Aideen Hayden has said the Government must introduce a strategy on private rented housing to prevent “economic evictions”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

Poor regulation and loopholes in legislation have resulted in a private rented sector that is “not fit for purpose” Senator Aideen Hayden, Threshold chairwoman has said.

The Government must introduce a strategy on private rented housing to prevent “economic evictions”, enforce standards, and help keep people in their homes, the housing charity chairwoman said.

“The private rented sector has grown exponentially in recent years; it now provides housing for one in five families in Ireland,” she said. “However, there are chronic failings in the sector that need to be addressed before anyone living in a rented dwelling can really consider it their long-term home.”

She was speaking ahead of the publication of the housing charity’s 2013 annual report.

More than 209,000 tenants have sought Threshold’s help over the last decade. Almost 23,000 contacted the charity for help last year, the second highest number since 2004.

“The Residential Tenancies Act was introduced in 2004 to modernise the private rented sector. Ten years on, the sector has doubled in size, and the legislation has not been flexible enough to keep pace,” Ms Hayden said.

“Loopholes in the law are enabling landlords to remove tenants from their homes and then re-advertise the same properties at substantially higher rents. Threshold is increasingly witnessing such economic evictions, where families are forced to leave their homes because of exorbitant rent hikes.”

The 2004 legislation has also failed to ensure that the regulations on minimum standards in rented housing are enforced.

Standards and repairs were the main issue for clients contacting Threshold last year, accounting for one in five of all queries received.

“The current system of local authority inspections was designed for a different era when the rented sector was much smaller than it is today. What is needed now is a certification scheme – an NCT for housing – which would place the responsibility for proving compliance with the landlord.”

A national strategy on the private rented sector should provide enhanced security for tenants by strengthening their rights to remain in their homes, introduce greater certainty on the level of rent increases permitted, introduce a deposit retention scheme, ensure minimum standards are enforced and introduce a code of conduct in relation to dealing with tenants living in buy to let properties where there are mortgage arrears.

Threshold also wants the Government to introduce a number of measures to improve the Rent Supplement scheme, including a faster roll-out of the Housing Assistance Payment, a review of rent caps, payment of the supplement in advance rather than in arrears, pre-approval of applications and the payment of deposits for tenants in exceptional need.