Stay at Home: RTB supports landlords and tenants during challenging 2020
- During 2020, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent public health restrictions meant that the RTB had to respond rapidly to changing and evolving circumstances.
- Three separate emergency legislative measures to address the immediate and emerging needs of landlords and tenants was supported during the year.
- Early and decisive action was taken by RTB to ensure the sustainability and protection of key services impacted by public health measures
- More than 342,000 tenancies were registered with the RTB in 2020 which included 297,837 private tenancies, 34,169 Approved Housing Body (AHB) tenancies and 10,691 Student Specific Accommodation tenancies.
- Over 265,000 customer service contacts, by phone, webchat and email were responded to
- Paper based adjudications and virtual adjudication and tribunal hearings were introduced to ensure the continued access to dispute resolution services after the suspension of in person hearings for public health reasons.
- The RTB communicated directly with 425,000 landlords and tenants to raise awareness of the emergency legislation affecting the rental sector.
- The RTB's Investigations and Sanctions Unit had its first full year in operation, receiving 800 contacts from members of the public.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), has today released its Annual Report for 2020. “2020 represented a very challenging time for both tenants and landlords living and operating in the residential tenancies sector in Ireland” said Tom Dunne, Chairperson of the RTB. “As always, the focus of the RTB during the year was on supporting tenants and landlords through the difficulties they were experiencing” continued Chairperson of the RTB, Tom Dunne. “The various measures introduced in the sector by the Government in response to the pandemic were necessary to support those most impacted by Covid-19 and complemented wider Government financial supports and measures to help those most at risk”.
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and subsequent public health restrictions, meant that the RTB had to respond immediately to the changing needs of tenants and landlords. Three significant emergency legislative measures were enacted during the year to protect those impacted by the pandemic.
In response to the changed environment, the RTB adapted its services to meet the needs of its customers and stakeholders. “The organisation moved quickly and effectively to remote working with minimum disruption to most of its functions. Early and decisive action was taken to ensure the sustainability and protection of key services where required and possible”, Mr Dunne remarked. In practice, the RTB invoked its Business Continuity Plan which meant the RTB’s ICT was fully functional for remote working, that the RTB’s customer service agents were able to work remotely, and the phone lines remained open as the RTB transitioned quickly to a fully remote environment.
2020 presented many challenges to the RTB. Commenting on the challenges Mr Dunne observed “The most severe impact was in relation to the Dispute Resolution Service which was most impacted by the Covid-19 restrictions. In person hearings were suspended in March 2020 in order to protect RTB customers and staff. The RTB adapted speedily and implemented many changes to processes to successfully maintain services”.
The RTB Dispute Resolution Service continued to provide its telephone mediation service and introduced Paper Based Adjudications (PBA) in April 2020 which meant parties submitted their evidence and the Adjudicator made their decision based on this. Virtual hearings enabling cases to progress without the need for participants to attend hearings in person were successfully introduced later in the year for both Adjudication and Tribunal hearings.
In 2020, the RTB received 5,178 applications for dispute resolution, representing a 16.2% decrease on applications received in 2019, a reduction fully reﬂective of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The RTB Telephone Mediation service has consistently been the fastest method available for RTB customers for dispute resolution. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 60% of all mediation cases were resolved within eight weeks.
“As well as presenting challenges, 2020 and Covid-19 restrictions also presented the RTB with opportunities to transform and reshape its services to adapt to the needs of tenants and landlords during the pandemic” according to Tom Dunne, Chairperson of the RTB.
“The RTB encouraged customers to move their transactions online and use WebChat where possible when communicating with staff to cut down on the use of paper”, Mr Dunne added: “Covid-19 has highlighted even further the need for customers to be able to easily access RTB services online and self-serve. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a significantly increased volume of customers completing their business with the RTB through our digital channels”. In 2020 there were 68,367 WebChats a 33% increase from 2019, and 96,343 emails were received representing a 42% increase from 2019.
2020 saw an increased need for early communications with stakeholders of the RTB and activity increased online and on radio to support general awareness raising and new legislative requirements. The RTB alerted over 425,000 landlords and tenants to new rent arrears provisions through a direct mail information campaign and through our online customer service team. Over 50 virtual stakeholder events and information sessions were held during 2020 and monthly and quarterly meetings with representatives from landlords, tenants and Approved Housing Bodies were also organised to ensure clear understanding of the ever-changing rental sector.
Mr Dunne added: “It is unclear what the full impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on a housing and rental sector already under stress. As the work of the RTB continues to grow and expand, at the core of RTB’s remit and focus over the next number of years will be increasing our support for both landlords and tenants to assist them through their difficulties”.
Looking to the future, the RTB is fully committed to ensuring that the sector emerges from the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to work towards improving outcomes for all who live and operate within the rental sector. Most of all, the RTB would continue to encourage all landlords and tenants to keep lines of communication open if issues arise, and try and resolve these issues together.
For key figures from Annual Report 2020 click here.
For more information please contact: Pearse Corcoran, Carr Communications firstname.lastname@example.org