Many people are finding it “difficult to deal” with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) which is unfortunately “a fact”, its director Niall Byrne has told an Oireachtas committee.
Mr Byrne said there was “no doubt” that the current situation in terms of service quality is “a long way short of what one regards as acceptable”.
Speaking before the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage on Tuesday, Mr Byrne said it was his view that the organisation requires “significant development” and he attributed some of the current problems to the body’s structure.
Mr Byrne said the issues the RTB were facing are “quite complex, some of them are quite deep-seated” while others relate to technology and arrangements in place to deal with customer service queries.
He said it would take “some time” to remedy the technical issues the RTB have, with a new portal based registration system for tenancies introduced in November 2021.
Mr Byrne said the system would deliver for the RTB and the public, “but at the moment unfortunately it’s not delivering to the requisite standard”.
“We are working very hard to remedy that, but it is a programme of work that will take us into next year to fully complete, it may be Q2 of next year before we are, as it were, fully out of the woods in relation to the system performance,” he said.
“We have a plan in place at the moment, we’re working through it on a technical front and I’m confident that we will see an improvement through the course of 2023 but not probably not full completion until around about Q2 of next year.”
Mr Byrne said the RTB had ceased charging late fees for registration in recognition of the “genuine difficulties” people were experiencing with the system. He said refunds would be provided to those charged late fees “heretofore during the course of December and January”.
The committee heard that the customer service side of the RTB is contracted out to a third-party provider and despite double the number of agents there are still “big backlogs”.
Mr Byrne said the RTB had received an extra €2 million in Budget 2023 which was welcome, but he did not believe “the issue is just resources, I think some of the issue is about management and it’s about control and strategy of the RTB”. He said a new statement of strategy for 2023 to 2025 was being developed and one of the core areas of attention would be “the organisation itself”.
“The organisation requires significant development in my view,” he said.
“I’m not criticising any of my colleagues, absolutely not, but structure is very important and when the structure moves out of alignment with the needs of the environment and the needs of the mission of the organisation, then difficulties do arise.”
Mr Byrne said there would be two new deputy directors working with him from next week which would allow them “devote much more management attention to some of the underlying issues”.
He said the RTB had undergone a lot of change over the last four years, including the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it was a small public body which was dealing with a complex area of administration “using quite complex legal provisions”.
New research conducted by the RTB shows one-quarter of small landlords are likely or very likely to sell their rental properties in the next five years.