Private rental homes fail to meet standards on inspection

REPORT Average of 62 weeks to relet council houses in County Cavan

None of the private rental homes inspected by Cavan County Council last year met regulation standards, while there was a significant delay in re-letting council houses vacated by tenants.

The data is contained in the Local Authority Indicator Report, which compares standards and practices across the state’s county and city councils in a given year.

Six councils - Cavan, Laois, Galway City, Waterford, Kilkenny and Carlow - recorded that 100% of homes inspected last year were found to be non-compliant with the Standards Regulations.

The regulations set out the requirements a landlord must meet, including that it’s in a proper state of structural repair, that systems - including gas, oil and electricity - are maintained properly and there is adequate ventilation, lighting and heating.

A total of 119 private rented dwellings in Cavan were inspected by Cavan County Council last year, and none met the standards.

By comparison, 243 homes were inspected by Monaghan County Council last year, with just over 55% found to not meet standards.

A spokesperson for Cavan County Council said its inspectors encountered “a broad range of issues”.

These included issues with “sanitary facilities, heating facilities, food preparation, storage and laundry, ventilation, lighting, structural condition, refuse facilities, gas, oil and electricity, and information”.

The report also shows that only 23 homes were added to the county’s total stock of social housing.

Cavan’s total stood at 2,080 at the end of last year. One Council owned property was sold during 2020.

However, 6.06% of the county’s total stock was vacant - one of the highest figures in the country. Only Longford (6.35%), Meath (6.93%) and Galway County (7.07%) had higher rates.

The report also highlights the long vacancy period between tenancies in social housing in Cavan.

It took an average of 62 weeks between a home becoming vacant before a new tenant was moved in. That figure was second only to Cork City (85 weeks).

The local authority blames a lack of funding for the delay.

“In early 2019, Cavan County Council was obliged to cease works on returning houses for reletting, this was due to a shortfall in funding,” stated the spokesperson.

“The initial cessation of works in 2019 however meant that a significant number of houses vacated in that year were returned to use later than would normally be the case,” he added.

The local authority says additional funding was allocated in its 2020 and 2021 budgets, which has led to a significant increase in the number of vacant houses returned to use.

Funding for the upkeep of social housing comes from a council’s own finances, with funding for new builds or the acquisition of homes given by the Department of Housing.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith last week praised Cavan County Council in the Dáil for this work.

He told the Dáil that 70 “voids” or derelict social homes, were brought back into habitable use, with a further 90 to be brought back into use this year.

“These are houses where services exist and where there is a demand for housing. It is giving a vote of confidence to many estates that suffered due to dereliction in the past,” he said.

Funding of just under €695,000 was given to the Council to refurbish voids this year. The Council says the increase in resources saw twice as many vacant homes returned to use in 2020 compared with the year previous, with it rising to three times that figure in 2021.

It adds: “The Council is preparing plans to further expand its programme of works in 2022.”

Figures from the Department of Housing show Cavan is one of a number of counties to only have a part time vacant homes officer.

Just three councils, Clare, Dublin City and Kerry, have a full time officer.