The Government has agreed to examine proposals for an NCT-style test for rented accommodation in the wake of a shocking exposé on overcrowded and dangerous private housing for tenants.
Severe overcrowding in rental accommodation, 16 people to a room, 64 tenants in one property, and levels of extreme danger, were revealed by an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme.
Three dangerously packed properties were identified in the programme — two of these have since been closed while fire inspectors are in the process of shutting the third.
In some cases, large numbers of tenants in cramped spaces shared small kitchen and toilet facilities, with little or no privacy.
Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen is warning that there will be a return to slums in Dublin unless more funds are invested in inspections.
Properties should be subject to examinations or basic standards, similar to the National Car Test, before being rented out, said Fianna Fáil.
“The programme last night outlined that many dwellings are now being advertised in the dark housing market, with the ability of the State to inspect them for quality being severely diminished,” said Mr Cowen.
Junior Housing Minister Damien English said it was “disgraceful” and shocking the way the tenants had been abused. “This is a blatant disregard for people and their safety. If we need to tighten legislation, that is something we can look at,” he told RTÉ.
Mr English said the Government has already decided to increase funding for inspections of private rental properties and to increase targets.
He said the Government wants to be in a position to inspect 25% of all properties every year so rogue landlords would know there would be consequences. The target is for inspection levels to be at this stage by 2020. The current level of inspections is estimated to be at 4%.
There are fears many properties that are substandard are not actually registered as rental units and are therefore not on the radar for inspectors. “We do rely on the public and tenants to notify us of these properties,” said Mr English.
He reiterated that if fresh legislation was needed, the Government would do this.
He said the Government could aspire to rolling out NCT-type inspections for properties but this would have to be funded.
“If there is a gap there and we can tidy it up and make it easier to use and make it enforceable, that is something we are willing to do,” he said.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the “fear of God” should be put into unregistered landlords who own slum accommodation.
She said there should be a drastic increase in inspections of private rental units.
Ms Doherty said “to say it’s shocking is an understatement” and insisted action needs to be taken now.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said: “We’ve absolutely no tolerance for anybody who would provide that kind of accommodation.”
Sinn Féin is to table a Dáil motion next week calling on the Government to plan for ensuring compliance with standards in the private rented sector.
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