Residential Tenancies Board’s 2016 Annual Report reflects its busiest year to date, taking over 130,000 calls and experiencing a significant increase in the demand for RTB services
The 2016 Annual Report confirms the busiest year since the RTB was established in 2004. A record 130,000 calls were dealt with in the RTB’s call centre; an increase of 10% from 2015. In addition, there were over 51,000 email queries (up 5.5%).
At the end of the year, there were 325,372 registered tenancies, 6,000 more than in 2015. Over 106,000 new tenancies were registered in 2016, compared with 111,000 in 2013, suggesting that many households are staying longer in their tenancies as supply remains constrained. The number of registered landlords remained steady at 175,000 at the end of 2016, and over 70% of those had just one property registered.
These figures reflect a growing and changing rental sector which is now comparable to many other European countries. “This means we have to adjust and transition to a rental sector that is no longer geared towards renting as a temporary solution prior to home ownership, but a rental sector that can support short and long-term renting”, according to the 2016 Annual Report of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
Census 2016 shows number of households living in the rental market is a core part of the national housing profile, and in many urban areas renting is now the dominant housing tenure.
In launching the annual report, the RTB noted the considerable changes that have taken place since last year with 55% of tenancies now covered by Rent Pressure Zones. Since they were introduced, the number of calls per day to the RTB has increased from 600 a day to 1,000 at its peak. While the number of dispute applications about rent reviews has increased by 160% in the 8 month period.
Rosalind Carroll, RTB Director said: “We would encourage any existing or new tenants who are faced with increases over and above 4% or to refer a dispute to the RTB, as well as tenants renting a new property. Even if a tenant has agreed to a rent and signed a tenancy agreement, they are still protected under the law; they cannot contract out their rights. If a landlord has been found to have charged an illegitimate rent, it has significant consequences and damages up to €20,000 can be awarded as well as repayment of the additional rent. Cases can be referred to the RTB up to six years after the tenancy was in place”. The RTB website has information on RPZs and a user friendly Rent Calculator to help landlords and tenants make sure the rent charged is appropriate.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has reminded landlords and tenants of the powers it has in law to regulate the rental sector and resolve disputes. This includes ensuring that rents charged are appropriate and in line with the Rent Pressure Zone legislation.
Referring to the range of legislative reforms last year, RTB Director Rosalind Carroll said: “2016 saw the introduction of Rent Pressure Zone areas which now cover 55% of all tenancies. In these areas rents cannot increase by more than 4% and our focus is to create an understanding of what is a very complex legislative framework”.
Last year, the RTB received 4,837 new applications for dispute resolution. While this was a 20% increase on 2015, it was in line with the increase in overall tenancies in the sector. The most common dispute types remained rent arrears and overholding by tenants, and invalid notice of termination and deposit retention by landlords.
The RTB has also focused on ongoing improvement in its case processing times; reducing from 26 weeks in 2014, to 14 weeks in 2015, and this went to 12 weeks in 2016. “These timelines make for an effective and efficient service, which benefits tenants awaiting deposits to be returned, or landlords experiencing rent arrears”.
Enforcement is also a key function of the RTB, to ensure all tenancies are registered, and all Determination Orders from disputes cases are complied with. In 2016, the Board contacted over 20,000 landlords who had not registered tenancies (after which the majority registered). “In a small number of cases, it has been necessary to prosecute; 2016 saw 37 cases prepared for prosecution with 29 district court summons issued and 20 criminal convictions”, the Report says.
The RTB also takes the issue of non-compliance with Determination Orders very seriously. In 2016, the RTB received 359 requests to pursue enforcement on behalf of a disputing party. “As part of our assessment process, preliminary checks are carried out to identify urgent cases and cases concerning overholding and unlawful termination of a tenancy are prioritised. In 2016, the RTB obtained 204 Circuit Court orders”.
Ms. Carroll also points out that since January 2016, the RTB has provided free telephone mediation, and the time period for appeals from adjudications has reduced from 21 days to ten days as of December 2016.