Residential Tenancies Board

Ceisteanna (327)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

327. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of requests for additional funding, staff resources or expertise that have been made by the Residential Tenancies Board since January 2016; the purpose of the requested additional funding, staff resources or expertise; the response of his Department to each request in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13140/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The RTB currently has 55 staff which include a number of secondees from other civil/public service bodies.

Demand for the RTB’s services has increased significantly due to the increasing size of the rental sector and also because of the changing regulatory structure. Furthermore, a number of additional functions have been added to the remit of the RTB since 2016, including:

- implementation of new Rent Predictability Measures, such as the introduction of Rent Pressure Zones and associated on-going analysis,

- increased engagement with the Approved Housing Body (AHB) Sector,

- integration of Rent Tribunal functions into the RTB,

- introduction of Free Mediation Services,

- development of a voluntary Landlord Accreditation Scheme,

- establishment of a one-stop shop,

- establishment of one-person Tribunals,

- increased Education/Awareness and research role, and

- consideration and analysis in respect of a Deposit Protection Scheme.

In relation to its requests for additional staffing resources, the following table sets out staffing requests made by the RTB since 2016:

Year

Additional Resources Sought

Additional Resources Sanctioned

2016

Sanction requested for 1 additional post.

1 additional post

2017

Sanction requested for 10.5 additional posts.

10.5 additional posts

2018 to 16 March

Sanction requested for 1 additional posts.

1 additional post

The RTB has 8 vacancies at present and recruitment is ongoing in order to fill these vacancies as quickly as possible.

The RTB’s funding is derived primarily from the fee income, accruing from tenancy registrations as set down by Ministerial Order. This allowed the RTB to move to a self-financing position in 2010. However, due to a growing demand for RTB services and the need to deliver new functions under amendments made to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, and coupled with reductions in registration income resulting from longer-term tenancies, it has become necessary to provide for direct Exchequer funding to the RTB.

Section 176 of the Residential Tenancies Act provides that the fees received by the Residential Tenancies Board under the Act shall be paid into, or disposed of for the benefit of, the Exchequer in such manner as I, as Minister, may direct. By various Ministerial Directions since 2005, a percentage of fees received by the RTB under the Act has been allocated for transfer to local authorities for the purpose of the performance of their functions under the Housing Acts in relation to private rented accommodation, including rental standards inspections. Since 1 July 2016, the RTB retains the entirety of the fees received under the Act to defray its costs.

In 2016, my Department provided some €668,000 in Exchequer funding to the RTB. €170,000 of this amount was a requirement that arose outside of the 2016 Estimates process during the year, for an advertising campaign carried out by the RTB in quarter 1 2016, highlighting changes on foot of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015.

In 2017, Exchequer funding of €2,329,000 was paid by my Department to the RTB. Included in this amount was €265,000 additional funding outside of the Estimates process in 2017, that arose during the year in respect of :-

1. the provision of Fire Safety leaflets to all landlords to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities and obligations in respect of fire safety requirements - €107,200;

2. €112,000 in respect of an Auto-address Eircoding project which was required to support the roll out of the Rent Pressure Zone measure; and

3. Legal Costs - €46,000.

Building Regulations Amendments

Ceisteanna (328, 339)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

328. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to make changes to the BER system to incorporate district heating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13207/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

339. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which the potential for district heating is incorporated into building regulations in terms of allowing such a system to help developers meet compliance with sustainable energy criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13202/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 339 together.

The Second Schedule to the Building Regulations 1997 to 2017 (which are made under the Building Control Act 1990, as amended) set out the minimum legal requirements applicable to the construction of all new buildings, extensions to existing buildings, as well as material alterations and certain material changes of use to existing buildings. These requirements are set out in 12 parts, classified as Parts A to M. The accompanying Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) provide guidance on how owners, builders, developers and designers can achieve compliance in practice.

Part L of the regulations deals with Conservation of Fuel and Energy. It provides that the energy performance of the building is such as to limit the calculated primary energy consumption and related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions insofar as is reasonably practicable, when both are calculated using the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP) for Dwellings and the Non Domestic Energy Assessment Procedure (NEAP) for buildings other than dwellings, published by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

TGD L and associated assessment procedures (DEAP & NEAP) recognise and facilitate district heating as a means for showing compliance with the requirements of Part L. Currently, DEAP accounts for small scale district heating systems that would typically provide heating for 1500 to 2000 dwellings. As part of the implementation of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), the assessment procedures, DEAP and NEAP, are both being reviewed to account for renewable energy and combined heat and power from large scale district heating systems.

It should be noted that the BER system uses both DEAP and NEAP for calculating the energy performance of buildings and currently takes account of the energy provided by district heating systems.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (329)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

329. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of persons who have used the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme online calculator are being contacted by local authorities and being advised that they may only borrow a sum that is significantly short of the amount initially calculated in view of the fact that they inputted up-to-date and truthful financial figures; if the online calculator is taking into account an- or is affected by the requirement for mortgage protection insurance; if the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme can offer amounts comparable with bank offerings for first-time buyers; the number of applications made for the scheme by the offers made, drawdowns and applications declined by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13026/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Following a review of the two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering, known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, was introduced on 1 February 2018.

The Home Loan calculator on www.rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie gives an indication of how much you can borrow over the maximum term allowable and what the estimated repayments would be. A shorter loan term will reduce the amount you can borrow. All indicative repayment amounts are exclusive of Mortgage Protection Insurance (MPI) which is a requirement of borrowing. The calculator gives indicative results for illustrative and guidance purposes only and is not an offer of a loan.

As with the previous local authority home loan offerings, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a local authority product and loan applications are made directly to the local authority in whose area the property proposed for purchase is situated. My Department does not collect information on the number of enquiries to local authorities regarding the loan, the number of complete loan applications received by local authorities, or the reasons as to why a loan application may be declined.

The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants. Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority. Details of the appeals process can be obtained from the relevant local authority.

As is currently the case, my Department will continue to publish information on the overall number and value of (1) local authority loan approvals and (2) local authority loan drawdowns on its website at the following link - http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity. This information is currently updated to Q3 2017.

Fire Safety Regulations

Ceisteanna (330)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

330. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the standards for fire detection in rented accommodation as set out by the NSAI and referred to in section 10, "Fire Safety", in SI 17/2017 will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13062/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 1 July 2017, updated regulatory standards, the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017, came into effect. These Regulations focus on tenant safety and include new measures covering heating appliances, carbon monoxide, ventilation and window safety. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with the Regulations.

The Guide to Minimum Standards in Rented Accommodation is available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/private-rented-housing/inspections/minimum-standards-rented-accommodation.

Regulation 10 of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2017 provides that fire detection and alarm systems and emergency lighting systems shall be maintained in accordance with current standards as produced by the National Standards Authority of Ireland for Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems in Buildings and for Emergency Lighting.

Queries in relation to standards issued by the National Standards Authority of Ireland are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Building Regulations Compliance

Ceisteanna (331)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

331. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a redress scheme for families with homes affected by Mica defective concrete blocks in County Donegal and by pyrite in County Mayo will be introduced. [13063/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Expert Panel on concrete blocks was established by my Department in 2016, to investigate problems that have emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in Counties Donegal and Mayo.

The panel had the following terms of reference:

(i) To identify, insofar as it is possible, the numbers of private dwellings which appear to be affected by defects in the blockwork in the Counties of Donegal and Mayo;

(ii) To carry out a desktop study, which would include a consultation process with affected homeowners, public representatives, local authorities, product manufacturers, building professionals, testing laboratories, industry stakeholders and other relevant parties, to establish the nature of the problem in the affected dwellings;

(iii) To outline a range of technical options for remediation and the means by which those technical options could be applied; and

(iv) To submit a report within six months.

On 13 June 2017, the report of the Expert Panel was published and included eight recommendations which my Department are actively progressing with the relevant stakeholders.

My Department is prioritising the implementation of Recommendations 1 and 2.

With regard to Recommendation 1, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) Technical Committee, established to scope and fast track the development of a standardised protocol, held its inaugural meeting on 11 September 2017 and has held several further meetings since. The standardised protocol will inform the course of action in relation to remedial works for all affected householders. My Department understands from the NSAI that the Technical Committee is in the process of finalising the standardised protocol, which will be available for public consultation shortly.

With regard to Recommendation 2, my Department has been in contact with Engineers Ireland in relation to the establishment of a register of competent engineers for homeowners/affected parties’ reference. Engineers Ireland have provided assurance that they will collaborate with the Department, the NSAI and others on measures to establish such a register once the standardised protocol is in place.

Last year I visited Donegal and Mayo and met with key stakeholders, including affected homeowners, elected members and officials of the local authorities and other interested parties.

On 18 December 2017, I again visited Donegal and met with key stakeholders to provide an update on the progress to date. I made a similar visit to Mayo on 26 January 2018.

In addition, and in light of the information contained in the report, I am currently considering what further actions may be required to assist the parties directly involved in reaching a satisfactory resolution to the problems that have emerged in the two counties.

Electoral Register

Ceisteanna (332)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

332. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the practice by local authorities of issuing the 2018 to 2019 electoral register in alphabetical order by surname rather than numerical order by address and that the revised manner in the compilation of the register makes it unusable to public representatives; if local authorities are instructed by his Department to carry out same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13067/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In law, the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register. The focus of my Department's work in relation to the Register is to support and assist registration authorities in ensuring that an appropriate legislative framework is in place.

The statutory provisions relating to the form and content of the Register are contained in Rule 2 of the Second Schedule to the Electoral Act 1992. It is provided there that if the registration area is a city, the names should be arranged in street order unless the registration authority consider that doing so would be inappropriate, having regard to the general character of any part of the area . If the registration area is an administrative county, the requirement is to arrange the names alphabetically in townland order unless the authority consider that arrangement in street or any other order is possible and convenient, having regard to the general character of any part of the area.

I understand that the Dublin registration authorities have published the 2018/2019 Register in street order, where appropriate, but by name alphabetically rather than by house number in each such street in order to facilitate election staff at polling time. However, in order to be of assistance to the appropriate councillors and Oireachtas members in their areas, the registration authorities have also sent to them a soft copy of the Register, which enables them to sort the register information for each street into house number rather than alphabetic order.

Ministerial Staff Data

Ceisteanna (333)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

333. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of each non-Civil Service appointment he has made to a role in his Department; the persons appointed; the role, qualifications and salary of each; and the guidelines that apply in respect of party political fundraising. [13162/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The only non civil service appointments made in my Department since my own appointment have been those of Special Advisers and of Ministerial Drivers. All these appointments have been made in accordance with the relevant guidelines and instructions from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on Ministerial appointments for the 32nd Dáil.

The two Special Advisers appointed in my Department are Mr Jack O'Donnell and Ms Jennifer Carroll-MacNeill. In relation to the role of Special Advisers, this is as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. Mr. O'Donnell was previously employed as Deputy Government Press Officer. Ms. Caroll-MacNeill has previously worked as a Special Adviser in the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Justice and Equality.

The terms of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 apply to all Ministerial staff appointments, including Special Advisers, and both of my Advisers have been advised of their obligations under the Standards in Public Office legislation. While the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour applies to Ministerial appointees in general terms, the restrictions in relation to political activity under the Code do not apply to staff holding temporary un-established positions whose tenure is coterminous with that of the relevant Minister.

The information requested as regards overall numbers and salary is set out in the following tables:

Minister Eoghan Murphy – Political Appointments

Name

Job title

Grade

Pay Scale

Jack O Donnell

Special Adviser

Principal Officer (Standard) PPC Scale

€84,973 - €104,507

Jennifer Carroll Mac Neill

Special Adviser

Principal Officer (Standard) PPC Scale

€84,973 - €104,507

James O Connor

Civilian Driver

Civilian Driver Rate

€691.00 weekly

Vincent Cahill

Civilian Driver

Civilian Driver Rat

€657.43 weekly*

*not on the Single Pension Scheme.

Minister of State Damien English – Political Appointments

Name

Job title

Grade

Pay Scale

Walter Waldron

Civilian Driver

Civilian Driver Rate

€691.00 weekly

Joseph Fox

Civilian Driver

Civilian Driver Rate

€691.00 weekly

Minister of State John Paul Phelan – Political Appointments

Name

Job title

Grade

Pay Scale

Patrick Nolan

Civilian Driver

Civilian Driver Rate

€691.00 weekly

Michael Grace

Civilian Driver

Civilian Driver Rate

€691.00 weekly

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (334)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

334. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason carer's allowance paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is not considered income under the new home loan scheme introduced by his Department in view of the fact that private lenders will consider this as income for mortgage assessment purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13170/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is not, as a general rule, available to those in receipt of unemployment or other social welfare benefits. However, where there is a primary income of a waged or salaried nature, long-term state benefit payments may be considered. State benefit payments allowable are:

- State Pension (Contributory);

- State pension (Non-Contributory);

- Widow’s / Widower’s Pension;

- Blind Pension;

- Invalidity Pension;

- Disability Allowance.

The long-term nature of the payment must be confirmed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These applicants are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and can be referred to the relevant local authority's Credit Committee for a final decision.

Further information is available on the dedicated website, www.rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (335)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

335. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the income bands applicable to County Westmeath for social housing will be changed from band 3 to band 2 due to the crisis and escalating cost of living in the county; if the fact that counties such as Meath and Kildare are in band 1 due to their proximity to Dublin and in further view of the fact that County Westmeath borders these counties but yet remains in band 3 will be considered; if a motion passed by Westmeath County Council to request that this band be changed has been considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13173/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for eligibility for social housing support for each local authority, in different bands according to the area, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy, published by my Department.

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band are based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. The limits also reflect a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn and thereby promote sustainable communities.

As part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports has commenced. I expect the results of this review to be available for publication later this year.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (336)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

336. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if persons who previously owned a house and have gone through a legal separation are eligible to apply for a loan under the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13186/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Following a review of the two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, was made available on 1 February 2018. The new loan will enable credit worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first-time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise have been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

As with the previous local authority loan offerings, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available to first-time buyers only. This is to ensure the effective targeting of limited resources. Applicants who are separated or divorced may be treated as first-time buyers if they meet certain conditions including:

- they are separated or divorced under a court order or by a separation agreement;

- the property being purchased is the first property since leaving the family home;

- they have left the family home and retain no interest in it; or

- the other party has remained in the family home.

The option currently available for non-first-time buyers is to seek home loan facilities from one of the commercial lending institutions.

Detailed information on the new mortgage is available on the dedicated www.rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie website, from the helpdesk at 051 349720, or directly from local authorities.