Council facing HAP inspection backlog of 2,300 properties in Cork city

Council facing HAP inspection backlog of 2,300 properties in Cork city

Cllr Fiona Ryan said the pandemic has exacerbated a situation that was already not working before Covid. Photo: Denis Minihane

Cork City Council is facing an inspection backlog of more than 2,300 properties rented out under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.

By law, they should be inspected within eight months if not inspected in the previous year.

Cllr Fiona Ryan said the city council was failing to meet its statutory obligation to inspect HAP properties because of “legacy” delays, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the HAP scheme, local authorities pay rent to private landlords for long-term lets and tenants make a contribution to the council.

Official figures in the Dáil show that just 176 onsite inspections of HAP properties were carried out by Cork City Council last year compared to 441 inspections in 2019.

The Solidarity Party - People Before Profit councillor, who raised the issue at this week’s city council meeting, said delays were evident before Covid-19.

“The pandemic has exacerbated a situation that was already not working before Covid and in an extreme way. It’s a real problem for HAP tenants who are in really poor accommodation,” she said, adding she had dealt with many tenants trying to leave HAP properties because of accommodation issues.

More staff, Cllr Ryan said, are needed to tackle the current backlog. 

“In terms of resources available to local authorities to carry out this legal requirement, it’s not sufficient. It’s not just a question of local government but it’s also a question of central government if local authorities are saying they don’t have the staff or funding to hit the eight-month target."

If they just reinstate the status quo that was there prior to the pandemic then the backlog is only going to continue and get bigger.

Cork City Council told the Irish Examiner the past 14 months had been “particularly challenging” because onsite inspections were not permitted under Level 4 or 5 Covid restrictions but that alternative options are being evaluated.

The number of HAP properties requiring inspection stood at 2,373 by the end of April, the council confirmed.

“Since the end of December 2020, there has been the scope to carry out virtual inspections. However, these rely heavily on a declaration from the parties involved and will need future validation as it currently stands, potentially a follow-up visit,” a spokesperson said.

“Cork City Council increased the number of inspectors from 3 to 6 in order to address the increased requirement for inspections and is in the process of evaluating other options in order to ensure all HAP properties are inspected as required. The additional inspectors have been assigned to other tasks whilst they were unable to undertake HAP inspections,” they added.

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