The Housing Assistance Payment Scheme (HAP) is underpinned by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014. Under section 41 of the 2014 Act, local authorities are required to commence the inspection process within 8 months of the commencement of HAP support being provided in relation to a particular dwelling, if the dwelling was not already inspected within the previous 12 months. Local authorities carry out HAP inspections as a subset of their overall private rented inspections programme.
The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light and safety of gas, oil and electrical supply. With very limited exemptions, these standards apply to all local authority and voluntary housing units, as well as private rented residential accommodation with a small number of exceptions, such as holiday homes. My Department also published a guidance document to assist and support local authorities in implementing these Regulations.
The HAP legislation provides a very structured, time bound system where serious lack of compliance exists and can result in termination of HAP payment. A property may fail an inspection for a range of reasons, and not all are serious. In many cases, the property owner is required to make small adjustments to come into compliance. If a tenant believes their property does not comply with minimum standards, they should discuss this with the landlord in the first instance.
Failure to comply with the minimum standards can result in penalties and prosecution. Local authorities can issue Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices to landlords who breach the minimum standards regulations. An Improvement Notice sets out the works that the landlord must carry out to remedy a breach of the regulations.
In the case of a Prohibition Notice being enforced, a local authority may provide, or continue to provide, HAP in respect of that property for a period of 13 weeks, to enable the household to find an alternative dwelling.