Cork City Council outsources rental inspections as failure rates remain high

As revealed in The Echo, last year the PRIU inspected 512 private rental properties out of an estimated total of over 20,000 in the city, an inspection rate of just over 2%.
Cork City Council outsources rental inspections as failure rates remain high

Of the private properties inspected, 87% did not meet minimum standards, failing due to inadequate ventilation, lack of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, evacuation plans, or window restrictors.

CORK City Hall has outsourced to a private firm around 80% of all inspections of private rental accommodation in the city this year.

A Cork City Council spokesperson said that since October 22, 2021, it had engaged the services of “a temporarily contracted external service provider” to work with its Private Rental Inspection Unit (PRIU) in inspecting private rental properties.

As revealed in The Echo, last year the PRIU inspected 512 private rental properties out of an estimated total of over 20,000 in the city, an inspection rate of just over 2%.

Of the private properties inspected, 87% did not meet minimum standards, failing due to inadequate ventilation, lack of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, evacuation plans, or window restrictors.

The City Hall spokesperson said the PRIU had been doubled in recent years and at full capacity could carry out between 1,500 and 1,800 inspections per year, but the Government had set Cork City Council a target of 25%, with 5,200 properties to be inspected this year. An increase in inspections from 2% to 25% would represent an increase of 1,150%.

'DEEMED NECESSARY'

“Taking account of failure rates and follow-on inspections, the number of inspections required in 2022 is expected to exceed 8,000,” the spokesperson said.

“The assistance of an external provider was deemed necessary to meet the demands of the service in the short-term … as such Cork City Council has appointed a third party service provider to carry out approximately 80% of the annual private rental inspections.

“The remaining 20% of inspections will be carried out in house,” they said.

Of the 512 inspections attributed to the PRIU in 2021, 273 of these inspections were carried out by the third party service provider, representing 53% of the overall number of inspections undertaken.

The council spokesperson said the private firm has been contracted for a term of two years, but within the tender documents Cork City Council has the right to extend the term for up to 12 months, with a maximum of three extensions on the same terms and conditions.

The spokesperson said this is dependent on a number of variables, including availability of in-house staff, recruitment of City Council inspectors, and subvention from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

When asked by The Echo how much Cork City Council has paid to the private firm to carry out inspections of private rental properties on its behalf, a spokesperson said the council has only recently received the first invoice, which it has not yet paid.

“Cork City Council, however, will not disclose the invoiced amount as this would be deemed commercially sensitive information,” the spokesperson said.

'CONCERNING'

Councillor Mick Nugent of Sinn Féin said that while he understood the need to clear the backlog of inspections, he was uneasy at the outsourcing to a private firm of work that would normally be the responsibility of council employees.

“It had been my understanding that this was to be strictly a temporary arrangement, but the possibility of extending this to potentially five years is concerning, and I intend to raise this matter at Monday night’s council meeting.”

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