Landlord watchdog sat on €7m inspection fund

A GOVERNMENT-appointed group set up to keep landlords in check was yesterday accused of “starving” local authorities of €7 million in funds for property inspections.

The funds will only be handed to councils after they “get their act together” by carrying out inspections of living standards in houses and flats.

The Private Residential Tenancy Board was accused of letting the funds “languish” in banks, leaving vulnerable tenants no choice but to live in substandard accommodation.

It emerged at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, that the tenancy board was sitting on the €7m, putting it into investments.

Committee chairman Bernard Allen queried the delay in releasing the funds for inspections.

PRTB director Margaret Taheny-Moore said it was to encourage local authorities to up their inspection rates.

“If the activity is not high, they won’t get the money,” she told TDs.

The Fine Gael committee chairman, however, argued inspections could not be carried out if local authorities were “being starved of funds”.

“I can’t understand how massive sums of money are languishing in banks… this is a huge exploitation of the weakest in our society and there is nobody there to protect them,” added Mr Allen.

Inspections of private properties by local authorities have only numbered 29,000 between 2005 and 2007, despite the fact there are 360,000 tenants registered with the PRTB.

The Department of the Environment’s principal officer Denis Conlon, said payments to local authorities for inspections may be fully performance-based in future.

Elsewhere, the committee heard how the PRTB have been chasing the registration details of 1,000 potential landlords for up to two years.

Warning letters have been sent out for the landlords to supply addresses, without which the tenancy board cannot bring landlords to court.

Only one landlord has been prosecuted for failing to register property details with the board since 2004.


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