Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey has called for an urgent review of the laws governing the private rental sector after learning that only 36 cases were taken against landlords who failed to meet housing standards in 2006. The same figures show that no single county council in the country took legal action against a landlord.

“Vulnerable tenants are suffering because of the lack of proper inspection plans for privately rented properties”, said Senator Coffey, party Spokesperson for the Environment. “Residents who live near these properties also have to put up with poorly kept and maintained properties. These figures show that local authorities are not taking this seriously enough.

“Minimum standards are already very weak with no requirement for exit routes in the event of a fire and no requirement to even provide a refrigerator. During this period, 9,835 inspections were carried out, of which 1,697 did not meet the required standards. Yet only 36 legal cases were initiated, fewer then 1% of all inspections.

“Not one county council in the country took legal action against a landlord for providing substandard housing last year. Of the 36 actions that were implemented, Dublin City Council took 22 of them while Cork and Waterford City Councils took none. Are we to assume that every landlord in Waterford, Dun Laoghaire, Fingal and Galway, not to mention every other county council in the country, has adequate housing for all of their tenants and that there are no problems in any of their neighbourhoods? We know this is not the case, so why are local authorities not carrying out their inspections properly and reporting them to the Department of the Environment?

“The Department of the Environment must urgently implement three changes: Ensure that local authorities are carrying out proper inspection plans with an appropriate amount of legal action when minimum standards are not met. Minimum standards must be overhauled. Current standards do not require a cooker or running hot water in both the kitchen and bathroom. And if local authorities cannot conduct inspection plans we should investigate whether another body such as the Private Residential Tenancy Board can do this”, concluded Senator Coffey.