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Private Rented Accommodation Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 8 October 2013

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Ceisteanna (416)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

416. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if and when legislation will be brought forward which seeks to address ongoing issues in the private rental accommodation sector, including landlord-tenant relations, waste management and substandard accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42433/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in the private rented residential sector. The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) was established under the Act to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants in the private rented residential sector.

The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012 was published on 19 July 2012. The Bill builds on what has been achieved by the Residential Tenancies Act and the PRTB, and provides for the further development of the rental sector into the future.

The Bill was passed by the Dáil in July 2013 and second stage in the Seanad concluded on 24 September 2013. Among the main issues addressed by the amending legislation are:

- the extension of the remit of the Residential Tenancies Act to Approved Housing Body tenancies;

- the Board of the PRTB to be reduced from 15 to 12 members;

- the separation of the governance and quasi-judicial functions of the Board;

- the merger of the PRTB and the Rent Tribunal;

- the simplification and streamlining of the mediation process;

- the introduction of a new procedure to enable the PRTB to deal effectively with tenants who do not pay rent during the dispute process.

While the Bill addresses a wide range of issues, there are some other aspects still under development which I hope to bring forward for consideration during the Bill's passage through the Seanad. In particular, I am keen to progress the commitment in the Programme for Government to introduce a tenancy deposit protection scheme and I intend to provide for the establishment of such a scheme at Committee Stage of the Bill in the Seanad.

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. These Regulations were further amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations. Responsibility for enforcement rests with the local authorities, supported by a dedicated stream of funding allocated by my Department.

The primary responsibility for the management of any waste, including costs for removal or disposal, lies with the holder of the waste; the holder of the waste is the natural or legal person in possession of the waste or the producer of the waste. The Waste Management Act 1996 imposes a general duty of care on holders of waste. A person may not hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution. It is the responsibility of the relevant local authority to deal with any instances of illegal disposal of waste in their functional area and take the appropriate enforcement action.

Section 12 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended by section 100 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, requires a landlord of a dwelling to provide receptacles suitable for the storage of refuse outside the dwelling, save where the provision of such receptacles is not within the power or control of the landlord in respect of the dwelling concerned – this could arise for example where it is a function of a management company to provide such a service.

In addition, the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 provide that each house must have access to suitable and adequate pest and vermin-proof refuse storage facilities.

The purpose of these provisions is to ensure that facilities are available to tenants to enable them to store refuse appropriately between collections and not in such a way as to attract pests or vermin or become a hazard or eyesore to the general public. However, the presentation of refuse for collection, the manner in which it is presented and any charges imposed for collection are the responsibility of the tenant, who is the holder of the waste. Any incidents of illegal waste activity should be reported to the relevant local authorities, who have significant enforcement powers available to them under the Waste Management Act 1996 including the power to make bye-laws regarding the presentation and collection of waste.

Following the enactment of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, local authorities have a strengthened, updated legislative and regulatory framework available to them which provides for the issuing of Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices where landlords are in breach of their obligations under the Regulations. Fines for continuing non-compliance with the Regulations have also been significantly increased; the maximum fine has increased from €3,000 to €5,000 and the fine for each day of a continuing offence has increased from €250 to €400.

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