Virtual tours of private rental properties by Dublin City Council are a “disappointment for renters,” says Ballymun Councilor Noeleen Reilly.
The local authority says virtual tours of properties can take place to determine if they meet the regulatory standard if the landlord meets certain requirements.
But Reilly says the current landlord-driven market means some tenants are being forced to live in unsuitable and dangerous conditions.
She says virtual tours are not enough to determine if a property is habitable.
“I thought I read that wrong when I first saw an advertisement that Dublin City Council was now conducting virtual inspections on privately rented property,” says Reilly.
“There is a big problem with the living conditions that many people find themselves in when renting, and because of the housing crisis, many renters are afraid to even complain.
“It’s a rental market and people with young children often face cold, damp real estate, with many landlords refusing to improve conditions, particularly the absentee landlord in the vulture fund.”
Reilly says the “small glimmer of hope for some tenants is that their property could be inspected by Dublin City Council’s Environment Agency.
“Now we have a situation where virtual inspections are being introduced – I suppose to clear the backlog.”
A spokesman for Dublin City Council says the local authority “runs both a physical inspection system and a virtual inspection system.
“There are currently two types of virtual inspections offered by Dublin City Council – an online form that a landlord or agent can fill out and return, or a live streaming inspection with a tenant.
“With the online form, three important elements must be met before this can be considered an inspection – the completed form is returned, the requested photos are returned and the renter is contacted and given the opportunity to raise any concerns and Council attention.
“If any of these items are not available, a physical inspection takes place.
“If the tenant raises concerns about the condition of the property, a physical inspection can be scheduled,” the council says.
Dublin City Council says live-streamed inspections are carried out directly with the tenant and if “there are concerns at the planning stage, a physical inspection will be scheduled instead.
“In this type of inspection, the renter uses their mobile device to show us their home and point them to areas of concern and show the environmental officer areas of particular interest.”
DCC said that to ensure the system was functioning, 11 percent of the properties “determined to be compliant by virtual inspection between Q2 2020 and the end of Q4 2021 were completed by environmental health officers.
“Of these, 72 percent of the properties matched the information provided during the virtual tour.
“Further enforcement action will be taken in cases where properties are found to have failed to provide accurate information upon virtual inspection.”
However, Reilly says no virtual inspections should take place.
“It’s just not good enough and not appropriate in any way. It’s a shortcut to making a box fatter,” she says.
“How can an officer get a proper inspection of a property online?
“The conditions of private rental properties need to be addressed immediately, but doing so online will not work.
“DCC must ensure that all properties are physically inspected at least every two years and any issues that arise are followed up.”