At April’s monthly meeting of Louth County Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne extensively questioned the Director of Services for Housing on the level of inspections currently being carried out on rented dwelling funded through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
HAP is a social housing support that has replaced the old Rent Supplement for those with a long-term housing need who qualify for housing support.
Under the legislation, if the rental property has not been inspected in the previous 12 months prior to the commencement of the HAP contract, it has to be inspected within the following 8 months to ensure compliance with legislation and standards. With the latest figures showing that over two thousand people throughout Louth are availing of HAP, Cllr Byrne queried where the local authority are at with these inspections.
Cllr Joanna Byrne said “With 2062 people on HAP throughout this county, I want to ask the question as to where we are at with these inspections? There is a significant amount of money being spent on HAP and the question needs to be asked how many of these landlords are providing sub-standard accommodation? I have people coming to my clinic week in week out who are living in deplorable conditions – no heating, dampness, no ventilation, windows not opening, the list goes on. Some of these properties are in clear breach of Health and Safety regulations and are putting people’s health and lives at risk. This is not good enough for the people of our county and it is certainly not good enough for the children of our county!”
The national statistics for 2016 show that in that year only 7% of HAP dwellings were inspected and the government has set a target that by 2021 25% properties will be inspected, indicating that it could take up to 4 years for an inspection to take place. That length of time will no doubt increase as the amount of these dwellings increase, and Cllr Byrne who is chairperson of Louth’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee has called on Louth County Council to channel more resources into this area and make these inspections a priority.
The director told Cllr Byrne that all landlords have an obligation to comply with the Residential Tenancies Board’s accommodation standards in the first instance, however he did recognise there are many issues out there and assured Cllr Byrne that the housing department of Louth County Council do recognise the importance of these inspections and would endeavour to work through them.
Cllr Byrne concluded by saying ” With the lack of social and affordable housing , more and more people are being driven to the rental sector to meet their housing needs, if this is the case there is an onus on us as a local authority to ensure that we are not standing by and leaving families in sub-standard dwellings. I personally won’t be standing by, I will be pushing at any and every opportunity I get to ensure there is an increase on the level of inspections carried out, and following the inspections that the findings and recommendations of them are followed through.
“These inspections must become a priority, in doing so the health and safety of our constituents becomes a priority.”