- 7% of overall queries from July to September concerned standards of accommodation, up from 4.5% in Q2 2023.
- National housing charity prevents over 900 households from entering homelessness in Q3
- Threshold proposes NCT-style certification system to ensure minimum standards of accommodation are met in private rental sector
National housing charity Threshold has released its Q3 Impact Report, with latest figures showing an increasing amount of tenant queries relating to poor standards of accommodation. There is a minimum set of legal standards that landlords must abide by, and tenants are acting within their rights by expecting that these standards at met. In order to combat the growing number of queries regarding accommodation standards, including issues regarding mould and broken heating systems, Threshold has proposed a new NCT-style system for housing that would ensure accommodation standards are met.
Prevention of homelessness
In Q3, Threshold supported over 900 households to stay in their homes or secure alternative housing, preventing them from entering homelessness, with 1,333 adults and 939 children supported. Of the new households who contacted Threshold in Q3, 5,318 were at risk of losing their homes and possibly homelessness. For the third consecutive quarter, most of these renters were at risk because their landlord wished to sell the home.
Overall, almost 9,000 households were supported by Threshold’s frontline advisors on wider issues regarding their tenancy. More than half of the main queries in Q3 2023 related to tenancy terminations, an increase from 38% in the same quarter last year. General termination queries and queries regarding standards also ranked among the top concerns raised by renters who got in touch with Threshold. These various issues amounted to over 10,000 calls being answered by Threshold advisors.
Threshold CEO John-Mark McCafferty commented on the report, stating:
“It is very worrying, if not surprising at this stage, to see that one of the main challenges facing tenants continues to be tenancy terminations and more specifically, termination as a result of landlords selling homes. While our incredible team prevented over 900 households from entering homelessness, the threat – and reality – of tenancy termination continues to be a very real one for many households across the country. It shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to tackle the housing crisis.”
Standards A common challenge facing tenants is the poor standard of accommodation that they are living in. Tenants often report issues of dampness, inadequate ventilation, or poor insulation, making it expensive to heat their home. Below are some examples of the minimum legal standards that a tenant can expect in their home:
- The interior and exterior must be maintained in a proper state of structural repair
- Toilet and shower facilities have to be in a good working order, safe and properly insulated
- There must be proper heating facilities
- Rooms must have adequate ventilation
- There must be adequate facilities to store rubbish
- There must be adequate gas, oil and electricity installations.
It is important that these standards are met as poor conditions can cause or exacerbate both physical and mental health problems. Given the number of calls the housing charity has received regarding poor accommodation standards, Threshold is proposing an NCT-style system to address this issue.
This new system would require a landlord to provide a certificate of fitness following an inspection of the property by a registered building professional or Local Authority inspector to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) before renting their property. The NCT system would result in less renters living in substandard housing and would reduce the number of cases regarding a breach in standards being brought to the RTB. This reduction could then free up valuable resources to assist in other matters affecting the housing sector. Furthermore, it would allow for targeted Local Authority inspections of privately rented properties while also providing inspectors with more time to work with landlords to improve the standards in their properties.
McCafferty said such an initiative is overdue: “Q3 saw a high number of queries regarding the standards of accommodation for tenants. It is a right of a tenant to expect the conditions in which they live to be kept to a liveable standard. By proposing an NCT-style system, Threshold hopes to make a real change to the living standards of private renters. At the very least, an overhaul of the existing Local Authority inspections system is required in order to address massive inconsistencies of approach between local authorities and the difficulty in follow up regarding properties which fail inspections.”
Case study: Dervla’s Experience
Dervla and her three children faced ongoing issues with damp and mould in the property that they called home for nearly a decade. Despite reporting these issues multiple times to the letting agent, no action was taken to address the issue. Dervla made a complaint to the Local Authority, resulting in an inspection of the property that found dampness had affected the electrics and posed a fire hazard. Following a subsequent inspection by the letting agent, Dervla was promised that somebody would carry out repairs, however she never received follow-up contact.
Dervla reached out to Threshold to seek support. An advisor suggested that she contact the Local Authority for a copy of the inspection report and advised her to send a follow-up email to the agent. As this was a breach of landlord obligations, the Threshold advisor discussed the process of taking a case to the RTB with Dervla.
The Threshold advisor represented Dervla at the adjudication and the RTB awarded Dervla with compensation for the landlord’s failure to address the damp and subsequent fire hazard in her home. The landlord appealed the decision, but the Tribunal found in Dervla’s favour.
Unfortunately, the landlord has not complied with the RTB’s order and Dervla has been forced to go to the RTB again to ask them to enforce the order that would have the landlord pay the compensation.
Dervla’s case highlights the need for consistent and effective action to meaningfully address standards of accommodation in the private rental sector.
Threshold’s free helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am- 9pm at 1800 454 454, with webchat at www.threshold.ie/advice/help for any renter in need of advice or support.