Councils investigate condition of one rental property a week in Mid Ulster

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Councils, along with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) have been forced to investigate the condition of at least one Mid Ulster rental property a week on average, for the past three years.

But even though Environmental Health in both Cookstown and Magherafelt are involved with complaints, they say that when it comes to dealing with “unfit houses” the power rests with NIHE.

In Cookstown alone, over the past three years the council said they had received a total of 72 housing complaints, and whilst the majority of those were in relation to privately rented homes - 4 were made regarding the state of NIHE properties.

In Magherafelt in the same period, 107 complaints were received by the council’s environmental health team - 83 from private tenants and 24 from people living in housing association homes.

Cookstown council, when asked about the outcome of the complaints they had received, were unable to reveal how many properties were improved by the landlord, or even “declared unfit for human habitation”.

Magherafelt officials however said that for all of the rented properties they had inspected, some of which the tenants were paying up to £650 a month for, “necessary action was taken to resolve the complaints made.

Adding that the council does not “condemn properties” - but that one house was found to be “unfit for human habitation” between October 2012- October 2013.

“The duty to deal with unfit houses rests with NIHE,” they said in their statement.

When our reporter submitted a freedom of information request to NIHE for the information they held in relation to complaints about rented properties, their figures revealed that they had inspected a eight houses in Cookstown, all of which were declared unfit.

In Magherafelt a further nine homes were investigated by their officers - seven were found to be unfit, two of which were family dwellings.