New Standards Regulations for Rented Houses:
The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008
What are the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008?
• Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed by means of regulations made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992. These regulations specify requirements in relation to a range of matters such as structural repair, absence of damp and rot, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, light and safety of gas and electrical supply.
• All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations and responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations rests with the relevant local authority supported by a dedicated stream of funding provided from part of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the Private Residential Tenancies Board.
• These standards are currently set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993 (S.I. 147/1993). From the 1st of February 2009 new updated regulations will govern standards for rental accommodation. These regulations are called the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 (S.I. 534/2008).
When will the new regulations come into effect?
• Certain aspects of the proposed revised standards could necessitate significant refurbishment works and, consequently, significant capital investment by landlords. Therefore certain aspects of the new Regulations – those dealing with sanitary facilities (Article 6), heating facilities (Article 7) and food preparation, storage and laundry (Article 8 ) – will not come into effect until the 1st of February 2013 for existing rental properties in order to allow landlords time to make the necessary remedial improvements.
• As such, where a property has been let at any time from the 1st of September 2004 to the 31st January 2009 it will be deemed to be an “existing tenancy” for the purpose of the Regulations and Articles 6, 7 and 8 will not come into effect for that property until the 1st February 2013. These properties will continue to be governed by Articles 6 and 7 of the 1993 Regulations until the 1st of February 2013.
• The remaining parts of the new standards will be introduced immediately and will take effect from the 1st February 2009. Notwithstanding the timing outlined above, all provisions of the new regulations will be applicable immediately for any rental properties being let for the first time after the 1st February 2009.
What are the key features of the new Regulations?
Structural Condition – Article 5
• All rental accommodation must be maintained in a proper state of structural repair. This means that the dwelling must be essentially sound, with roof, floors, ceiling, walls and stairs in good repair and not subject to serious dampness or liable to collapse because they are rotted or otherwise defective.
Sanitary Facilities – Article 6
• All rental accommodation must contain the following self-contained sanitary facilities:
o Water closet (toilet), with wash hand basin adjacent to it supplied with hot and cold water
o Fixed bath or shower, supplied with hot and cold water
• These facilities must be provided in a room separate from other rooms by a wall and door and contain separate ventilation. In effect, this will result in the phasing-out of the traditional “bedsit”, where sanitary facilities are shared between different rental units.
Heating Facilities – Article 7
• All habitable rooms must contain a fixed appliance (or appliances) capable of providing effective heating. The tenant must be able to control the operation of the heating appliance. (A habitable room is a room used for living or sleeping in but does not include a kitchen having a floor area of less than 6.5 m².)
Food Preparation and Storage and Laundry – Article 8
• All rental accommodation shall contain the following self-contained facilities:
• 4 ring hob with oven and grill
• Provision for the effective and safe removal of fumes to the external air by means of cooker hood or an extractor fan
• Fridge and freezer
• Microwave oven
• Sink with a draining area
• Adequate number of kitchen presses for food storage purposes
• Washing machine within the dwelling unit or access to a communal washing machine facility within the curtilage of the building
• In cases where the accommodation does not contain a garden or yard for the exclusive use of this accommodation, a dryer must be provided.
Ventilation – Article 9
• All habitable rooms must have adequate ventilation, maintained in good repair and working order. Kitchens and bathrooms must be provided with adequate ventilation for the removal of water vapour to the external air.
Lighting – Article 10
• All habitable rooms must have adequate natural lighting; all rooms (including every hall, stairs and landing) must have a suitable and adequate means of artificial lighting. Emergency lighting, linked to fire alarm systems, must be provided in all units within a multi-unit building.
Fire Safety – Article 11
• It is proposed to distinguish between multi-unit dwellings and rental units which do not form part of a multi-unit dwelling.
(i) Multi-unit dwellings will be required to contain a mains-wired smoke alarm, a fire blanket, emergency lighting in common areas and an emergency evacuation plan.
(ii) Rental units that do not form part of a multiple unit must have a fire blanket and either a mains-wired smoke alarm or at least two 10-year self-contained battery-operated smoke alarms.
Refuse Facilities – Article 12
• The revised regulations will require access for tenants to proper, pest and vermin-proof refuse storage facilities. The use of communal storage facilities, where appropriate, will be considered to comply with the regulations.
Electricity and Gas – Article 13
• Installations in the house for electricity and gas supply must be maintained in good repair and safe working order. There must also be, where necessary, provision for the safe and effective removal of fumes to the external air.
Do the regulations apply to all rental accommodation?
The revised regulations will apply to all rental accommodation with the exception of the following:
• holiday homes
• accommodation provided by the HSE or an approved body containing communal sanitary, cooking and dining facilities. This kind of accommodation usually houses people with disabilities or the elderly and provides support for people with special needs who require assistance to live in the community
• demountable (e.g. mobile homes) housing provided by a housing authority
• accommodation let by a housing authority or an approved housing body will be exempt from the requirements for food preparation, storage and laundry purposes. In this kind of accommodation the tenant usually provides these goods, retaining ownership of them when they move to new accommodation.
Do the regulations apply to listed buildings?
• Listed buildings were covered by the 1993 regulations and will continue to be required to meet the requirements of the new regulations. The owner or occupier of a protected structure is entitled to ask the planning authority to identify works that would, or would not, require planning permission in the case of their particular building. Landlords will be advised to contact the conservation officer in the local authority for advice when considering undertaking works.
How will the new Regulations be enforced?
• Responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations rests with the relevant local authority. Local authority inspectors inspect rental properties for the purpose of ensuring they comply with the regulations and where a property does not comply, can engage a series of sanctions against a landlord up to and including prosecution in the District Court.
• The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides significant resources, from part of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the Private Residential Tenancies Board, to assist local authorities in discharging their functions under the Housing Acts in relation to rented accommodation. Over €3m was provided in 2007 and a further €4m has been earmarked for this purpose for 2008.
• It is a matter for each individual local authority to decide the specific details of its enforcement strategy and inspection arrangements. However, in discharging their responsibilities in relation to the rental sector, authorities have been asked to have regard to the Good Practice in Housing Management: Guidelines for Local Authorities – Standards in the Private Rented Sector: Strategic Planning, Effective Enforcement published by the Centre for Housing Research in November 2007, which makes a range of recommendations on relevant issues, including targeting inspection activities.