Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has promised to change the law to impose tougher sanctions on landlords found guilty of putting people's lives in danger with unsafe accommodation.

He was addressing a Sinn Féin private members' motion tabled after the RTÉ Investigates documentary "Nightmare to let". 

Sinn Féin's Housing Spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin called for jail sentences to be imposed on landlords who rent out unsafe accommodation.

He said there appears to be "no sanction under legislation for initial breaches of the law by landlords.

"A landlord who crams people in like sardines can avoid any sanctions if they comply with the initial approval notice, there needs to be a change and a comprehensive review of the sanctions for landlords who break the rules" he said.

"It should include the clear possibility of imprisonment for landlords who put people's lives at risk for a first offence."

Responding, the housing minister said "a landlord can currently provide sub standard accommodation without being subject to a penalty. This has to change, and it will change as part of reform of this sector".

He said legislative change was being prioritised, and a new regulatory regime would be in place within two years.

The Sinn Féin motion proposes an NCT-style certification system for landlords, but Minister Murphy said this would not be an effective means of dealing with the problems we currently have.

Mr O'Broin said extra funding must be provided to local authorities to allow them to step up inspections.

"If rogue landlords know their chances of being inspected are low, then abuses are going to occur.

"Increasing levels of inspections will require additional resources.

"An NCT stely certification would ensure that law abiding landlords were not undercut by rogue landlords," he added. 

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen said his party was also supportive of the NCT-style certification idea.

He said every property to be leased should be required to be in compliance with fire safety and building regulations.

The Government's proposed new system, he said, which would be overseen by the Private Residential Tenancies Board, "smelled of self regulation.

"You're depending on goodwill, and there will be people who will take an opportunistic means to better themselves at the expense of others," Mr Cowen said.

Minister Murphy said while he did not agree with everything in the Sinn Féin private members' motion, he would not be opposing it.