Author Jamie Smyth. The Irish Times. Monday 4th July 2011.
THE GOVERNMENT will today announce a crackdown on landlords who are not keeping their properties up to standard or registering with the authorities.
The Private Residential Tenancies Board – the State body set up to regulate the rental sector – wrote to 1,400 non-compliant landlords last Friday threatening them with prosecution for not registering with its register of tenancies.
The board will brief its solicitors tomorrow with a view to bringing criminal prosecutions against landlords, who despite being notified, fail to register.
As part of the Government’s strategy, Minister for Housing Willie Penrose will also allocate €4 million today to local authorities to enable them to conduct inspections of private rented accommodation.
It is estimated about 20,000 local authority inspections will be conducted in 2011. They will check that all rented houses, apartments and flats comply with the national standards such as being in a good state of structural repair, absent from damp and have safe ventilation, heating and gas supplies.
Last year the State allocated €5.6 million to local authorities, which enabled them to conduct 21,614 inspections of private rented dwellings. Financial pressures mean this year’s allocation to fund inspections is less.
Almost 20,000 rented properties were inspected in 2009, and one in five of those did not meet the statutory minimum standards.
The Government, together with the tenancies board, is undertaking a major initiative to ensure that landlords are signed up to the register to make it easier to inspect and regulate properties.
It is prioritising an investigation into unregistered landlords, who have tenants that claim about €500 million in rent supplement from the State every year.
Using a new information technology system the board is cross-checking its records with those of the Department of Social Protection to ensure welfare payments are not going to unregistered landlords. The investigation has so far found that up to 40 per cent of landlords in receipt of rent supplement may not be registered with the board’s register of tenancies.
Minister for Housing Willie Penrose told The Irish Times yesterday it was “highly unfair” to all good and responsible landlords that a large minority of landlords are flouting their legal obligation to register with the board. He said he was committed to ensuring the money is only paid in respect of good quality accommodation and legally compliant landlords.
“I will be encouraging the board to use the full extent of their legal powers to pursue those landlords that persist in not registering, via legal proceedings and prosecution if necessary,” he said.
The board has issued eight summons for landlords to appear in court later this month for non registration, which is punishable with a criminal conviction of up to six months in prison or a hefty fine.
In the past six months, the tenancies board has secured seven criminal convictions against landlords who failed to register. The court imposed fines of up to the maximum of €3,000, costs of up to €2,100 and up to 35 days imprisonment in the event of default in relation to the offence of not registering with the board.