Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - Private Rented Accommodation.

Ceist:

3 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the percentage of landlords who have registered with their relevant local authority in order to comply with the provisions of the Housing (Registration of Rented Houses) Regulations, 1996. [10377/00]

Responsibility for the enforcement of the Housing (Registration of Rented Houses) Regulations, 1996, lies with local authorities. The most recent information supplied by the authorities indicates that on 30 September 1999, 15,322 landlords had registered 26,111 properties, compared to 13,200 registrations of 23,960 properties on 31 December 1998. My Department does not have information on the total number of landlords or dwellings to which the regulations apply.

It is a matter for each local authority to put in place the necessary arrangements for their effective implementation. I am anxious to see full compliance with the regulations and in this regard my Department has urged local authorities to take all available measures necessary to ensure that landlords comply with the regulations. Local authorities have also been requested to put in place procedures for prompt and effective follow-up action in relation to any inquiries, complaints or breaches of the regulations.

In fairness to local authorities, it must be said that their capacity to enforce the regulations was adversely affected by successful court challenges by landlords to the enforcement procedures. While progress is again being made in implementation of the regulations, more needs to be done before we can be satisfied that the regulations are being satisfactorily implemented. Ways to further assist the local authorities in this regard are being pursued, including provisions in this year's Social Welfare Act which will enable health boards to provide information to local authorities regarding tenancies supported through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

In addition, the recent Housing (Registration of Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations, 2000, remove the exemption from the require ment to register, which had applied to lettings of temporary convenience or to meet a temporary necessity. These regulations will remove certain legal difficulties arising from a High Court judgment concerning an action taken by a local authority against a number of landlords who had failed to register their properties. I am confident that these regulations, with the provisions of the Social Welfare Act, will considerably strengthen the hand of the local authorities in implementing the registration requirement.

Mr. Hayes

I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he confirming to the House that in excess of 70% of all private rented accommodation in this country has yet to be registered as such with the relevant local authorities?

As already stated, the information available to me indicates that 26,111 properties have been registered. The most recent census figures available indicate that a total of 81,771 dwellings, either furnished or unfurnished, were rented privately.

Mr. Hayes

The Minister is quoting the census figures for 1991. The figures for the census carried out in 1996 show that in excess of 100,000 units exist in the sector in question.

A question please, Deputy Hayes.

Mr. Hayes

Given that the latest census figures show that there are in excess of 100,000 housing units in this sector, will the Minister confirm that between 70% and 80% of those units have not been registered, as they must be under law, because landlords have failed to do so? Does the Minister not accept that his cavalier approach and that of the Minister of State with responsibility for social housing is contributing to the black economy because landlords are refusing to register due to the fact that they are obliged to pay tax on registered properties?

I do not have the figures for 1996 in my possession. If the figure of 100,000 is correct—

Mr. Hayes

One hundred thousand plus.

—and 26,000 have registered, then give or take 111,000 it would mean there was a registration rate of 26%, which means that 74% would be unregistered.

It is for the local authorities to pursue the registration. They get registration fees. We have encouraged and pursued them in this regard. I was trying to be fair and even handed in my reply in indicating there were several court challenges to these regulations, which were originally drawn up in 1996 and which have proved to be inadequate. They have left us and many local authorities in a situation where they would not, because they felt they could not pursue the registration of landlords.

Mr. Hayes

Does the Minister accept that since his party came to Government, rents have increased by more than 50%, at a time when there is no security of tenure? Does he not accept it is ridiculous that more than 70% of properties are not registered as they should be and that large sections of the landlord population are flouting the law?

I accept that the regulations, as drawn up by the previous Government, were inadequate—

Mr. Hayes

That was four years ago. The Minister has been sitting on the problem since then.

We have not.

Mr. Hayes

The Minister could have withdrawn the fees.

Does the Deputy want me to withdraw the fees from the landlord?

Mr. Hayes

The Minister could have abolished the registration fee.

The Deputy wants to look after the landlords, not the tenants.

Mr. Hayes

The Minister is supporting the black economy.