Bad landlords should face sanctions, not their tenants – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that HAP tenants are bearing the brunt of sanctions that are supposed to tackle the issue of bad landlords renting sub-standard or dangerous accommodation. Speaking at the January Plenary meeting of Waterford Council, McGuinness said that HAP tenants were being put in a Catch-22 situation.

He said:

“Tenants in receipt of support under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme are being forced into a dilemma when it comes to reporting sub-standard, unsafe of inadequate accommodation to the Council. 

“HAP tenants live in private rental accommodation while the Council subsidises a part of their rent. The scheme is in lieu of council housing, and was introduced as a recognition by Government that it could not, or would not, built sufficient housing units. Successive national budgets have allocated more money to this scheme to actual house-building. 

“I have previously raised the cruel dilemma faced by families in HAP accommodation who on one hand are concerned about the quality of their accommodation – and on the other hand don’t wish to have housing supports removed. 

“The one sanction that the Council has for dealing with bad landlords that let substandard properties is to remove HAP supports. Unfortunately this only affects the tenants, and pushes them close to homelessness.

“I know of several households in Dungarvan and across West Waterford, who will not report their accommodation to the Council, despite very serious and ongoing issues with the properties that is going unaddressed by landlords. These range from chronic dampness, faulty doors and windows, structural issues, exposed wiring and plumbing issues.

“Tenants know that an inspection will see the property deemed unfit, and rent supports stopped. In the current rental marker there is very little chance they can find alternative accommodation. They have to choose between an unhealthy or unsafe home, or no home at all. 

“This needs to be addressed. Its not fair that tenants are forced into this dilemma. Its also not right that bad landlords that continue to get paid from the public purse, while renting sub-standard, and sometimes unsafe, properties. 

“I have written to the Housing Minister asking for action to be taken to protect tenants in this type of situation, and I have requested that the Council’s Housing Department consider naming and shaming landlords that persistently rent out sub-standard or unsafe properties.”