As temperatures plummet, Threshold calls for minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented accommodation

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Four tenants a day contact Threshold so far in 2018 with standards issues, including heating

The national housing charity, Threshold is calling on the Government to introduce minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) standards for rented accommodation. The BER rates the overall energy efficiency of a building on a scale from A to G, with A1 being the most energy efficient. While a BER is required for rental accommodation, there is no minimum standard.

Commenting, Threshold chair, Dr Aideen Hayden said: “Given the increased level of homelessness – which figures yesterday (27.02.18) showed is up 27 per cent year-on-year – sustained increases in rent levels, and abject lack of rental accommodation, strong measures to protect tenants are required now more than ever. As temperatures turn bitterly cold, the standards of rented accommodation are of key concern, as many homes in the rental sector have very poor levels of energy efficiency. This results in cold, sometimes damp, and hard-to-heat accommodation.”

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulation 2017 stipulates the requirements that rented properties must meet. These include tenant-controlled heaters in all rooms; safety restrictors on windows; adequate pest and vermin control; fire and carbon monoxide detectors; and sufficient information for the tenant to be able to correctly use and maintain appliances. Some 250 tenants have already approached Threshold this year with standards and repairs issues, including:

  • An expectant mother living with two young children in accommodation that is heated inadequately through two small electric heaters.
  • A couple and their two children who all sleep in the living room of their home, which is heated through an open fire, as long-term problems with the central heating has resulted in cold, damp and mouldy bedrooms.
  • A couple and their premature baby living in a cold and draughty property, where the heating and shower are broken and some of the windows don’t close properly.

Dr Hayden added: “We know from our work with clients that low physical standards and life in cold, damp homes in the sector can have serious impacts on both the physical and mental health of tenants and is one of the most common issues with which renters come to Threshold. Some tenants are even staying in structures not fit for human habitation, but with the lack of supply and increased levels of homelessness they feel they have no option but to remain in such places – some of which will be extremely cold in the coming days.”

Commenting on yesterday’s homeless figures, which show that 9,104 people accessed emergency accommodation nationally last month, Dr Hayden pointed out that these do not include the ‘hidden homeless’.

She said: “Threshold works with a growing number of ‘hidden homeless’ – people sleeping on relatives’ sofas; families living temporarily in the spare room of a friend’s home; people moving from the floor of one place to another in order to avoid having to access emergency accommodation. The rise in the official figures does not include the plight of people and families currently living in this twilight zone.”

CEO of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty said: “We are urging those who are renting and worried about losing their home to call the organisation’s Tenancy Protection Service on Freephone 1800 454 454 for information, advice and support. It is a vital service ensuring that individuals and families at risk of homelessness throughout Ireland stand a better chance of staying in their current housing without having to seek homeless services.”

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