RTB Publishes Sanctions on Landlords who have Engaged in Improper Conduct
- A further nine sanctions imposed on landlords for improper conduct have been published on the RTB website today. Over 90% of published sanctions for improper conduct are for breaches of Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) limits on rents.
- Over €300,000 in overcharged rent has been returned to tenants by landlords & almost €38,000 in sanctions has been paid by landlords to date as a result of the RTB’s investigation activities since 2019.
- The RTB reminds landlords that they are legally obliged to register tenancies with the RTB. The RTB strongly encourages landlords to check that their tenancy details are registered and up-to-date and to confirm that any rent increases they have imposed comply with current legislation.
- The RTB welcomes the publication of the ESRI’s report “Rental Inflation and Stabilisation Policies: International Evidence and the Irish Experience” which provides important insights into the international experience of rental controls and on the impact of RPZs in Ireland.
13 April 2022: Today, the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has published particulars of a further nine civil sanctions which have been imposed on landlords as a result of the RTB’s Investigations and Sanctions process.
This is the second time that the RTB has published sanctions since being granted regulatory powers to investigate and sanction landlords who have breached certain aspects of rental legislation in 2019. These particular breaches of rental law are called ‘improper conducts’ (more information in the Editor’s notes).
Thirty-eight sanctions have been published in total to date.
A dedicated webpage where all sanctions are published is available here.
If rental law has not been complied with, landlords may be subject to regulatory action by the RTB, including, potential investigation and potential sanction.
The RTB may commence an investigation, either as a result of information received from members of the public, or as a result of information gathered from records that the RTB has access to under the Residential Tenancies Act. This includes the RTB’s register of tenancies, information received under data sharing agreements with other public bodies, as well as open-source data such as rental websites.
As of today, the RTB has a pipeline of over 440 investigations which have commenced and are at varying stages of the investigations process.
The RTB currently prioritises allegations of breaches of RPZ restrictions, which is reflected in the nine sanctions published today. To date, over 90% of the published sanctions have been for breach of RPZ regulations.
If a landlord has committed an improper conduct, they can be sanctioned by an independent Decision Maker with a written caution and/or a monetary sanction up to €15,000 and/or costs up to €15,000.
All decisions to sanction must be confirmed in the Circuit Court. Once the sanctions are confirmed by the Circuit Court and all administrative and legal procedures have been completed, the RTB is legally obliged to publish the details of the sanctions.
The landlords in these nine particular investigations all opted to acknowledge the alleged improper conduct at the beginning of the investigation. By taking this approach, the landlords simplified the process and demonstrated that they were co-operating with the investigation. This was taken into consideration by the RTB’s Decision Maker, together with any steps taken by the landlord to rectify the breach of rental law, when they were deciding on the type of sanction and the amount of any monetary penalty.
The nine sanctions published today range from a written caution up to a fine of €2,684.
As a direct result of the investigations conducted by the RTB to date:
- Over €300,000 in overcharged rent has been returned to tenants by landlords.
- The rents in these cases have also been reset to amounts in compliance with the legislation preventing these, and any future tenants, from being overcharged.
- Almost €38,000 has been paid by landlords in sanctions to date. All sanction amounts are paid to the Exchequer.
The RTB has a legal obligation to publish sanctions that have been confirmed by the Circuit Court once all legal and administrative procedures have been completed. The RTB will continue to do so on an ongoing basis.
Commenting on today’s published sanctions, Niall Byrne, Director of the RTB, notes:
“The RTB’s expanded regulatory powers allow us to investigate when it appears that a landlord has committed one of the defined breaches of tenancy law, known as improper conducts.
While the vast majority of landlords work to ensure good relations with their tenants and to comply with rental law, those who fail to observe the law and who breach the legal rights of tenants will be held accountable by the RTB. Rent Pressure Zones are in place as a protective measure for tenants during the current housing crisis and is important that the RTB is actively working to ensure there is compliance with this important public interest measure. Because of the potential financial impact on individual tenants, the RTB is currently prioritising investigations into breaches of Rent Pressure Zone requirements. To date, over 90% of the sanctions published relate to this serious breach of tenants’ legal protections.
We received a high level of co-operation from the landlords in these particular investigations and this was reflected in the sanctions imposed.
In the interests of assuring the public that RTB is actively regulating the residential rental sector and is taking action where required, we will continue to publish details of sanctions on our website on an ongoing basis.”
Niall Byrne continued:
“I would like to remind landlords of their obligations to ensure they have all their tenancy details up to date with the RTB, that tenancies are registered annually, and that landlords follow all of the statutory rules when setting and reviewing rents. If landlords find themselves in a situation where they are not complaint with rental law, I would urge landlords to take action early to remedy the situation so they do not become the subject of an investigation, which could result in sanctions and costs of up to €30,000.”
Landlords encouraged to check they are complying with rental law
The RTB strongly encourages landlords to ensure they are complying with rental law and keeping the details of their tenancies up to date with the RTB. Please visit www.rtb.ie regularly for all the latest information on the latest on the rental legislation.
All landlords should carry out the following checks to ensure they are compliant:
- Check that all your tenancies are registered. If any tenancies are not registered, register them immediately.
- Annual tenancy registration came into effect on 4 April 2022. This means that landlords must register their tenancy every year, within one month of the anniversary of when that tenancy began. Please click here for more details.
- RTB online accounts have changed. Please click here where you will find full details to assist you with the process of creating your RTB account and linking your tenancies.
- Check the details on all your tenancies and correct them if necessary.
- Ensure that any rent changes and any other changes to the tenancy details are notified to the RTB within a month of a new rent taking effect using your RTB online account here.
- Check if your rental property is in a designated RPZ and check that any rent increases that you have carried out are within the legal guidelines using the correct RPZ Calculators:
- If you have raised the rent above the amount allowed on the RPZ Calculators, and you are relying on a RPZ exemption to do so check if the criteria for RPZ exemption applies to you and submit a RPZ Exemption Form to the RTB, if necessary. Please click here for more information.
- If you have raised the rent above the amount allowed on the RPZ Calculators, and you don’t meet the criteria for a RPZ Exemption, arrange to reset the rent to the correct amount, refund any overpaid rent to the tenants and update your tenancy registration with the new rent.
Reporting potential breaches to the RTB
If any tenant or member of the public is aware of a potential breach by a landlord of rental law, you should bring it to the attention of the RTB. For more information on how to report a potential breach please click here.
Notes to Editors
About the RTB
The Residential Tenancies Board, also known as the RTB, is a public body set up to support and develop a well-functioning rental housing sector. Our remit extends to the private rental, Approved Housing Body (AHB) and Student Specific Accommodation sectors.
Our role is to regulate the rental sector, provide information and research to inform policy, maintain a national register of tenancies, resolve disputes between tenants and landlords, initiate an investigation into improper conduct by a landlord, and provide information to the public to ensure tenancies run smoothly and no issues arise.
Investigations and Sanctions Process
The powers of the RTB to investigate and sanction certain breaches of tenancy law by landlords (called improper conducts) commenced on 1 July 2019 with the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act (as amended) 2019.
As a high-level summary, the investigations process includes:
- The RTB can start an investigation either as a result of information received from members of the public or as a result of information gathered from records that the RTB has access to under the Residential Tenancies Act. All information received or sourced by the RTB is assessed to determine if an investigation can proceed.
- Once the RTB decides to investigate, a Notice of Investigation is issued to the landlord, giving them the opportunity to acknowledge any wrongdoing. Under the legislation, the landlord has 21 days to respond to this Notice and this may be extended by a further 21 days if it is appropriate to allow the landlord sufficient time to answer to the best of their ability.
- RTB investigators (Authorised Officers) are tasked with carrying out the investigations. They have wide-ranging and significant investigative powers provided for in the Act including the power to inspect premises, compel persons to assist with the investigation by producing certain documents or attending an interview or oral hearing.
- The landlord has the opportunity to acknowledge committing the improper conduct. If a landlord acknowledges, this is taken into consideration at the decision stage. An acknowledgement of improper conduct and the extent and timeliness of any steps taken by the landlord to end the improper conduct and to remedy its consequences may also be taken into consideration by independent Decision Makers.
- If a landlord does not acknowledge the conduct, the investigation will proceed, and a draft report will issue to the landlord (and if applicable the complainant). They both have 21 days to make submissions on the draft report before the final report and the submissions are sent to the Decision Maker.
- The RTB investigations and sanctions regime allows proportionality to be applied to the sanctioning of potential breaches. For instance, if a landlord acknowledges the improper conduct or not, this is taken into consideration, amongst other factors.
- The Decision of the Decision Maker is issued to the landlord (and if applicable the complainant) and the landlord may appeal this decision to the Circuit Court within 21 days of receipt of the Decision.
- Once the appeal period passes, the RTB must apply for confirmation of a Decision to Sanction by the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court sets the date for the confirmation of the Sanction according to the availability of the Court. Once confirmed by the Court, the decision is issued to the landlord and the complainant, if applicable.
For a more detailed overview of the RTB’s investigations process, click here.
Improper Conduct (what can be investigated by the RTB)
The RTB can only start an investigation into alleged breaches of rental law called improper conducts. If the alleged breach is not one of the improper conducts listed below, the RTB cannot start an investigation and it is likely a matter for dispute resolution, or in the case of a failure to maintain a properties’ standards, for the relevant local authority. The improper conducts that the RTB can investigate include:
- Failure to comply with the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) requirements. This occurs by increasing rent by more than is allowed under the calculation set out in the Residential Tenancies Act.
Prior to 16 July 2021, in a RPZ rent could only increase by up to 4% per year or 24 months in an area newly designated as an RPZ. After 16 July 2021, in a RPZ rent can only increase by up to the percentage difference between the Harmonised Index of Consumer Pricing (HICP) on the date that the rent was previously set and the date the new rent is set. After 11th December 2021, when setting the rent at the start of a tenancy in an RPZ or when carrying out a rent review in an RPZ, rent increases are capped at 2% per year on a pro rata basis, where HICP inflation is higher.
- Seeking to rely on an exemption to the RPZ requirements, which does not comply with those requirements i.e., falsely claiming that a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation occurred or that no tenancy existed in the dwelling in the 2 years prior to the date the tenancy commenced.
- Failure to notify the RTB about the reliance on an exemption to the RPZ requirements within 1 month from the setting of the rent.
- Failure to register a tenancy with the RTB within 1 month of the tenancy commencing.
- Citing in a Notice of Termination a reason for terminating the tenancy that is false or misleading in a material respect.
- Seeking a deposit in excess of one month’s rent, this applies in the case of a tenancy created from 9 August 2021 onwards.
- Seeking an advance payment of more than one month’s rent, this applies in the case of a tenancy created from 9 August 2021 onwards.
- Failure to notify the RTB of changes to certain details of the tenancy (including new rent set, tenant details, landlord details) within 1 month of the change taking effect.
- Failure to offer a tenant their tenancy back when terminated for certain specific reasons.
How to Report an Improper Conduct to the RTB
A potential breach of rental law in relation to any of the improper conducts that the RTB can investigate can be brought to the attention of the RTB in one of three ways:
- By calling the dedicated phone line on 0818 776297 or 01 6753724
- By emailing RTB at firstname.lastname@example.org
- By making a formal complaint. The formal complaint form can be found on our website at https://www.rtb.ie/legislation-change/investigations-and-sanctions
Further information on what the RTB can investigate as well as the Investigations and Sanctions process can be found on the RTB website at https://www.rtb.ie/legislation-change/investigations-and-sanction