Paying estate agencies for finding private properties to accommodate homeless families could cause a “conflict of interest”, the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers has warned.
The Dublin Regional Housing Executive, together with the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government, has engaged estate agencies to help find private properties in the Dublin area.
The executive will pay the estate agent €500 plus Vat for finding a property that can be offered as Housing Assistant Payment tenancies to homeless families living in emergency accommodation.
The payment is a form of housing support administered by local authorities who pay landlords directly.
“Our priority in the [executive] is to help families and individuals that find themselves homeless and we will continue to use innovative measures to respond to this issue,” it said yesterday, adding that the measure was working well in helping them to identify and secure available properties.
The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers is concerned that the “placement fees” could cause a conflict of interest whereby an agent is already engaged by the landlord of a property that may be the subject of such a fee.
Chief executive Pat Davitt said an agent has a binding contract with those who engage them and can legally only act for that party in a transaction. “If an agent who is acting for a landlord receives a placement fee offer from a local authority, such an approach would need to be declared to the relevant landlord.
“It is then up to the landlord to make the decision as to whether or not they are happy with the situation.”
It is open to local authorities, said Mr Davitt, to engage letting agents directly to secure properties on their behalf. “In such instances, no conflict of interest would arise,” he said.
Mr Davitt said the institute is happy to meet with any county council, government department, or agency to discuss any aspect of the Housing Assistant Payment and help in any way it could to source properties
in the current crisis.
The Dublin Regional Housing Executive said it accepts there is too much reliance on the private rented sector but that there is no alternative until the supply of social housing increases.
Meanwhile, Focus Ireland has found 95% of people it successfully supported last year were still in their homes six months after disengaging from the charity’s services.
Its report, entitled Are You Still OK , was carried out over a 12-month period to evaluate the longer-term value of its services for homeless people.
The charity supported 1,065 households out of homelessness last year and wanted to find whether they were still in stable homes.
One in 20 people who took part in the study described their current situation as “homeless”. Most were staying short term with family or friends.
Focus Ireland said it wanted to find out what needed to be done for people still without a home. It had linked them back with their services if they had not done so already themselves.
“We must be able to show that our services really do change lives by helping to protect people from homelessness both now and into the future,” said Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan.
It also emerged 54% of people in the private rented sector worried about becoming homeless in the next 12 months, compared to only 15% of those in local authority housing.