52 per cent failed houses prompts regulation pledge

HOUSING Minister Nelson McCausland has told the Stormont Assembly multiple-occupancy houses in the private sector clearly need to be regulated after it was revealed 52 per cent of inspected houses in Londonderry fell below standard last year.

Two weeks ago the Sentinel reported how negligent landlords let tenants down in Londonderry by failing to meet basic fire safety, lighting, ventilation, washing and cooking standards with 52 per cent of inspections last year finding lapses.

Last week SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood asked the Minister what action his Department intended to take to improve conditions in multi-occupancy homes in Foyle, given that over half of them failed to meet house in multiple occupation (HMO) standards in 2010-11.

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He replied: “HMOs in the private rented sector clearly need to be regulated. Sufficient attention has not been given to that matter, but we are working on it.

“The Member will be aware that we are bringing in a register of private landlords. There will be a process linked to that of trying to improve standards in the private rented sector.

“However, we particularly need to get on top of finding out who the landlords are. The issue of HMOs affects not just Foyle but other areas, and it creates imbalances in the housing market.

“If, for example, we were to improve the standards of HMOs - I am sure that there would be a resultant increase in the rents charged for some of those houses - we might address some of the difficulties experienced in areas, particularly in parts of Belfast, where there is antisocial behaviour and where there are problems associated with HMOs.”

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The Minister recently revealed that of 82 Houses of Mulitple Occupation (HMO) inspected in Londonderry last year 52.4 per cent failed to meet the acceptable standards required by law. The culprits responsible were issued with Statutory Notices, Mr McCausland advised.

Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan had asked the Minister how many inspections were carried out in the Foyle constituency in the last twelve months and what percentage of properties failed to meet the necessary criteria.

Mr McCausland replied: “The Housing Executive has advised that 82 Houses in Multiple Occupation Inspections were carried out in the Foyle constituency in the last twelve months and of those inspections 52.44 per cent failed to meet the HMO standards.

“Appropriate action has been taken on these cases by the serving of Statutory Notice.”

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Mr Durkan separately asked the Minister, in the case of an emergency, how many housing associations can acquire service from contractors who are not on their selected lists.

He replied: “Within Housing Association contracts there will be provision for dealing with emergencies which ensures that appropriate procurement procedures are followed.”