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In response to the behaviour of slum landlords, an audit of all rental property has been called for. This would be akin to the NCT test to determine the roadworthiness of cars. But it is not viable and would worsen the housing crisis.
Closing down the slums will leave hundreds of tenants without homes. This will put extra demand on a market whose supply is already on the decline.
This time two years ago, a report by Sherry Fitzgerald estate agents noted that 13,500 rental units had been taken off the letting market since the start of that year, and anecdotal evidence suggests that that trend has continued.
This is due not only to the increasing financial costs imposed on landlords (e.g. to register each tenant), but also to the extra bureaucracy that accompanies each new occupancy.
I fear an NCT-style audit would chase more landlords away; the Government would surely pass the cost to the landlord and the buck would stop there, due to rent freezes. Along with the extra red tape, it would be too much for many of the mostly computer-illiterate, retired gardaí, prison officers, and teachers who constitute a large portion of the small-time landlords in Ireland.
Rather than introducing the audit, strong and swift legal action against the likes of the landlords featured on RTÉ Investigates last week would quickly deter their peers.
As for the tenants who will soon be seeking accommodation, the blanket ban on bedsits should be lifted — there are hundreds, if not thousands, of dwellings in Ireland which satisfy safety standards, but which are deemed unworthy because they’re not fashionable. The bedsits are the cheapest dwellings available, ideal for lower income tenants, students and the unemployed, who can’t afford modern, purpose-built apartments. This would also incentivise landlords not to sell out, increase supply across the board, and keep the bedsits on the market, before they are forever lost in conversions to private homes.
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