Rent arrears still main area of dispute between landlords and tenants

One landlord was awarded €31,549 in rent arrears in the highest single award in a dispute over non-payment of rent last year according to the annual report of the Residential Tenancies Board
Rent arrears still main area of dispute between landlords and tenants

Ann O’Loughlin

Rent arrears were the biggest area of dispute between landlords and tenants last year making up 31 per cent of the 5,178 dispute resolution applications to the Residential Tenancies Board followed closely by claims of deposit retention.

One landlord was awarded €31,549 in rent arrears in the highest single award in a dispute over non-payment of rent last year according to the annual report of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

A total of €1.38 million in rent arrears was awarded to landlords in 2020, but this was down on the previous year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lowest amount granted to a landlord was just €39, but the average amount was in the region of €4,455.

Deposit retention

Over 1,400 cases were taken by tenants over deposit retention compared to 1,264 cases taken in 2019.

The report said it remains a significant issue for tenancies with the incidence of these cases increasing from 2019 levels to become the second most common dispute type in 2020.

A reason for the increase in deposit retention cases it said may be as a direct result of tenants leaving their rented accommodation and returning home during periods of the extended lockdown.

A total of 938 cases were brought over breach of landlord obligations.

Last year saw a significant decline in validity of notice of termination cases, but this was mainly due to the emergency legislation brought in for the rental market at the start of the pandemic.

In all 58 per cent of all the cases to the RTB were taken by tenants and 39 per cent by landlords.

Covid impact

RTB Chairman Tom Dunne said the most severe impact on the service due to Covid-19 was in relation to the dispute resolution service. At the start of the pandemic and the first lockdown, he said dispute cases had to be postponed and it caused “a significant and immediate backlog in the processing of cases for adjudication mediation and tribunals.”

However, he said multiple mechanisms for dispute hearing were established to allow cases to quickly and fully resume and backlogs were stabilised early with levels of service recovering towards the norm by the end of last year.

Telephone mediation is now the fastest form of dispute resolution with 80 per cent of telephone mediation cases ending with an agreement last year and 2,732 telephone and mediation and adjudication hearings taking place. There were also a high number of withdrawals due to the pandemic and because parties came to their own resolution.

The RTB said over 800 contacts from members of the public were received last year to the Investigations and Sanctions Unit and 44 per cent referred to a failure to register a tenancy.

More than 342,000 tenancies were registered with the RTB last year which included 297,837 private tenants, 34,169 approved housing body tenancies and 10,691 student specific accommodation tenancies.

During the last year, the RTB had 68,367 webchats, up a third on 2019 and 96,343 emails came in an increase of 42 per cent on the previous year.

At the end of last year, there were 165,736 private landlords associated with the 297,837 private tenancies in the sector with most landlords having one or two tenancies

The report also stated that rents continued to rise moderately across the country. The national standardised average monthly rent for the last quarter of 2020 was about €1,256 a month but in Dublin it was about €1,745.

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