RTB Publishes 2019 Annual Report

RTB Publishes 2019 Annual Report Marking its 15th Year Supporting the Rental Sector

  • 364,099 registered tenancies, the highest recorded in the organisation’s 15-year history.
  • 279,426 people contacted the RTB’s customer service team last year, up 7.4% since 2018.
  • Following the introduction of the RTB’s investigations and sanctions powers on 1st July 2019, over 50 investigations were initiated by the end of last year.
  • In 2019, approximately 2% of all registered tenances ended in dispute, showing the majority of tenancies are working well. 

2019 marked another year of significant change within the rental sector and for the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), according to Tom Dunne, Chairperson of the RTB.

Mr Dunne commented on the publication of the RTB’s 2019 Annual Report released today, which aims to present the RTB’s 2019 activity and performance within the context of the Irish rental market.

At the end of last year, there were 364,099 registered tenancies with the RTB, which included 99,123 new and renewed private rental and Approved Housing Body (AHB) tenancies. 2019 also saw 28,414 student specific tenancies registered with the RTB for the first time. This is the highest number of registered tenancies on record for the RTB.

As pressures in the housing and rental sector continued to increase during 2019, demand for the services the RTB provides continued to grow. In 2019, customer calls, emails and webchats in total increased by 7.4% to 279,426 compared to 2018.

The RTB also received 6,185 applications for dispute resolution in 2019, this represents just under 2% of tenancies registered with the RTB, demonstrating that the majority of tenancies are working well. 60% of these cases were closed within a 12-week timeframe.

The top three issues in 2019 which brought landlords and tenants to the RTB to resolve their dispute were: i) rent arrears and overholding; ii) validity of a Notice of Termination; and iii) deposit retention.

Mr Dunne, Chairperson of the RTB and previously the founding Chair of the RTB from 2004 to 2009, reflected on the organisation’s journey to date:

“2019 was a year of significant change for the RTB and was an important milestone as it marked 15 years since it was established as the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). 

When I was appointed as Chair of the PRTB in 2004, our founding vision was to support and empower both landlords and tenants navigate the complex private rental sector. This has been achieved through access to dispute resolutions services, registration of private rental tenancies, provision of research, and information and policy advice, which we continue to provide today.

The legislation enacted in July 2019 further expanded the remit of the RTB, introducing a range of changes for the residential rental sector. We received new powers to directly investigate and sanction certain breaches of rental law, which saw over 50 investigations initiated by the end of last year.

These powers enabled the RTB to become a more proactive regulator of the rental housing sector, which allows the organisation to undertake an approach that is smart, proportionate and supports all those involved on a pathway to compliance.”

In 2019, the Rent Index also continued to be an important tool in the designation of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) as well as monitoring the sector. In 2019, 27 Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) were designated as RPZs, bringing the total number of designated RPZs at the end of 2019 to 42 LEAs and five Local Authorities (LAs). For the first-time last year, the RTB held a Research Seminar and published two independent reports which made a significant contribution to the understanding of the impact of Rent Pressure Zones in Ireland.

Mr Dunne added:

“Looking to the future, we recognise that there are people in very challenging and uncertain situations as a result of supply and affordability issues, as well as managing the knock-on effects of COVID-19. Therefore, we must continue to adapt and implement the regulatory framework in a way that supports and serves both landlords and tenants equally in this ever-changing sector.”

The English and Irish versions of the 2019 RTB Annual Report can be downloaded here.

Key Annual Report Figures for 2019

Disputes Resolution Services

  • There were 6,185 dispute resolution applications submitted to the RTB in 2019.
  • 57% of cases were taken by tenants and 41% by landlords. Third parties accounted for 2% of applications in 2019.
  • In 2019, about 2% of all registered tenancies ended in dispute, showing the majority of tenancies are working well.
  • 28% of applications received for dispute resolution in 2019 were either withdrawn or settled before a hearing took place.
  • The total number of dispute resolution applications has grown from 899 in 2004/05 to 6,185 in 2019, representing an almost six-fold increase in applications for dispute resolution over this period.
  • The top three rental issues facing landlords and tenants in 2019 were: i) rent arrears and overholding (28%); ii) validity of Notice of Termination (22%); and iii) deposit retention (20%).
  • 2,537 Determination Orders, the legally binding result of an Adjudication or Telephone Mediation, were issued in 2019.

Telephone Mediation Services

  • Year on year, Telephone Mediation continues to be the most effective and timely method of dispute resolution offered by the RTB, with 28% (1,731) of the dispute resolution applications received choosing to resolve their issue with free Telephone Mediation.
  • In both 2018 and 2019, 76% of Telephone Mediation cases ended with an agreement.
  • Only 5% of Telephone Mediation cases applied for enforcement in 2019.
  • In 2019, 77% of Telephone Mediation cases were resolved within two months, making it the timeliest dispute resolution service the RTB offers.

Rent Arrears Awarded

  • In 2019, 31% (786) of the Determination Orders issued following Telephone Mediation or Adjudication were in relation to rent arrears, with a total of €2,124,306 of rent arrears awarded to landlords. This is in comparison to just over €2.2 million awarded in 2018.
  • It is important to remember that the RTB only has jurisdiction to award €20,000 or an amount equal to twice the annual rent of the dwelling concerned, whichever is highest (subject to a maximum of €60,000). Early intervention when a tenant falls into rent arears is advised to prevent arrears becoming unmanageable.
  • In 2019, the highest single award of rent arrears was €33,696 and the average award was €4,274, up from €4,039 in 2018.

Validity of Notices of Termination

  • 35% (876) Determination Orders in 2019 related specifically to the validity of Notices of Termination. This is a slight decrease (10%) on 2018 which saw 969 cases.
  • Of these 876 cases, 55% found the Notices of Termination to be valid and 45% were invalid.
  • The top three reasons cited in 2019 to ending a tenancy were: rent arrears, the landlord intended on selling their property and a landlord or family member required the property back to live in.
  • As with 2018, in 2019 the top three reasons that Notices of Termination were found to be invalid have remained the same: the Statutory Declaration was insufficient in some respect; the warning letter was insufficient in some way; and an inadequate notice period was given.

Deposit Retention

  • Deposit retention remains a significant issue and remains the third most common dispute type since 2014.
  • In 73% of cases, it was found that the deposit should be fully or partially refunded to the tenant, which compares to 80% in 2018.

Damages Awarded

  • In 2019, the RTB awarded a total of €594,376 in damages as part of Adjudication decisions.
  • Of the 2,537 cases where a Determination Order issued following a hearing, 390 cases (15%) received an award of damages which is broadly in line with 2018.  

Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs)

  • In 2019, the RTB received 238 applications for dispute resolution in relation to AHB tenancies, which is a slight decrease on 2018 which saw 270 applications received. 
  • Overall, the total number of applications received from AHB landlords or tenants for dispute resolution remains low at less than 1% of the total number of registered AHB tenancies.
  • The trends in 2019 remain broadly similar to previous years, with 95% of applications for dispute resolution submitted by landlords compared to 4% from tenants. The remaining 1% of cases are taken by third parties, who are directly and adversely affected by tenants who are in breach of their responsibilities.
  • The most common type of issue within the Approved Housing Body sector continues to be rent arrears or rent arrears and overholding, with 74% (177) of all cases citing this issue, an increase of 15% on the number of cases in 2018 (154).

Investigations & Sanctions Activity

  • The RTB received 38 formal complaints; 107 via phone line; 118 information via email/post: total 263 by year end.
  • The top two issues members of the public reported to the RTB were in relation to rents being raised above 4% in a Rent Pressure Zone (31%) and a landlord’s failure to register their tenancy (32%), making up 63% of the reports from members of the public.
  • In 2019, the Authorised Officers commenced over 50 investigations, which included:
    • 12 arising from a Formal Written Complaint;
    • 19 arising from a concern raised by email or by phone on the confidential phone line; and
    • 20 arising from analysis of data (internal and external/open source) data available to the RTB.

 Reflecting on the RTB’s 15 years of service

  • Year-on-year, there has been a consistent increase in demand, although 2019 saw the first decrease (-3%) in dispute resolution applications for the service since 2011.
  • Initially in 2005, more than two thirds of dispute resolution applications came from tenants, but over the 15 years since then there has been an increasing proportion of landlords using the dispute resolution service. This has increased from 28% (250) in 2004/05 to 41% (2,539) in 2019.
  • Any person who has been directly and adversely affected by an issue within a tenancy can also take a case to the RTB, referred to as a third party. Third parties have also seen their applications for dispute resolution increase over the last 15 years. In 2005, third parties submitted 46 applications, compared to 131 in 2019.