Limerick tenants ‘left to rot’ as council inspections cut

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Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville

A REDUCTION of 20 per cent in the number of inspections carried out on private rented accommodation in Limerick, from 1176 last year to 947 in 2017, has been condemned as a disgrace by Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville.

The City North representative hit out at Limerick City and County Council for cutting back “drastically” on the number of inspections and maintains that a recent RTE Investigates programme on the issue showed “a Wild-West situation where landlords are getting away with rack-renting and slum-like conditions”.

“It seems to be national and local policy to turn a blind eye to the terrible conditions some big landlords are keeping their tenants in. Once again it is a case of light-touch regulation, and absolute reliance on the market,” Cllr Prendiville told the Limerick Post.

At this month’s meeting of Limerick City and County Council, Cllr Prendiville asked the local authority executive for a breakdown of the properties, which failed inspection so far, this year, and the reasons behind their failure.

He was informed that between January 1 and September 30, a total of 747 of the 947 properties inspected, were found to be non-compliant . 449 of these properties failed due to non-compliance under regulations for structural condition, 92 for sanitary facilities, 115 for heating facilities, 336 for food preparation and storage and laundry, 415 for ventilation, 36 for lighting, 327 for fire safety, 9 for refuse facilities, and 45 for information.

All 747 properties were non-compliant subject to regulations under the Housing (Standards for Rented Accommodation) Regulations 2017 for gas, oil and electricity.

“Instead of increasing funding for inspections, there has been a 20 per cent cut in the number of inspections this year. This is despite the fact Limerick has been highlighted as a blackspot with 100 per cent of all properties inspected failing to meet the minimum standards.

“We’re not just talking mould and damp here, but also serious breaches of fire regulations. RTE Investigates showed how only about five per cent of registered rented accommodation is inspected a year — not to mention the unregistered properties.”

According to Cllr Prendiville, people are being left to rot “as big letting agencies squeeze every last penny out of them”. He also thinks tenants should get organised to demand their rights.

“We cannot allow each tenant to be isolated and bullied. Instead we need a union of renters, which would build solidarity between all those renting, and stand up to the profiteering of slum landlords and letting agencies.

“At last year’s budget, I raised precisely the issue of the low level of inspections of private rental accommodation in Limerick. Nowhere in the budget is any proposals to address this problem, or the connected issues of building compliance and fire compliance inspections,” he claimed.

Limerick City and County Council told the Limerick Post that it inspected approximately seven per cent of all private rented stock in its functional area in 2016 — one of the highest inspection rates in the country.

The council is responsible for inspection of private rented property under the following legislation: Housing Acts 1966-2014 – allocate responsibility for the enforcement of regulations prescribing minimum standards for private rented accommodation to Housing Authorities; Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009; Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017 – commenced 1 July, 2017, and Residential Tenancies Board Acts 2004-2017.

“Properties under the Rental Accommodation Scheme are inspected prior to being accepted to the scheme and on a periodic basis thereafter, usually every four years,” a Council spokesman explained.

“HAP Regulations provides that the housing authority should be satisfied that properties in receipt of HAP comply with the standards. Regulations say that a housing authority has eight months after the beginning of the HAP tenancy to arrange for the property to be inspected.

“Limerick City and County Council carries out inspections in accordance of the above statutory requirements. This represents a significant number of properties — in excess of 1,800 properties currently in the HAP scheme in Limerick and 1100 in RAS,” he added.

Limerick City and County Council also inspects privately rented properties outside of the above schemes. The local authority encouraged tenants who have a concern regarding the condition of their rented property to contact them and an inspection will be arranged as soon as possible.

“One reason why the non-compliance rate is high is that in the vast majority of cases an ETCI or RGII certificate is not available on the day of the inspection for verification. It is the responsibility of the landlord to provide these certificates.

“As the landlord is not required to attend the inspection, they may do so if they wish, it may not be possible to produce the certification. However, this certification is requested in the notice of works which issues subsequent to the inspection,” the council spokesman concluded.

by Alan Jacques

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