Arrears top list of rental rows in 2020, says tenancies board

Investigations and Sanctions Unit fields 800 public inquires in first full year of operation

There were more than 5,100 applications received by the board for dispute resolution in 2020, a 16% reduction on the previous year’s figures.

There were more than 5,100 applications received by the board for dispute resolution in 2020, a 16% reduction on the previous year’s figures.

 

Arrears were the most common reason for rental disputes last year, according to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

In its annual report the board noted that the Investigations and Sanctions Unit had its first full year in operation, receiving 800 contacts from members of the public.

There were 5,178 applications received by the board for dispute resolution in 2020, a 16 per cent reduction on the previous year’s figures, with 31 per cent of those relating to rent arrears.

This was followed by deposit retention (27 per cent) and breach of landlord obligations (20 per cent), both of which increased from 2019 levels.

More than half (58 per cent) of dispute applications were made by tenants and 39 per cent by landlords. Third parties accounted for 3 per cent of applications.

Residential Tenancies Board chairman Tom Dunne said 2020 represented a “challenging time for both tenants and landlords living and operating in the residential tenancies sector in Ireland. 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.”

More than 342,000 tenancies were registered with the board in 2020 which included 297,837 private tenancies, 34,169 Approved Housing Body tenancies and 10,691 Student Specific Accommodation tenancies.

More than 265,000 customer service contacts, by phone, webchat and email were responded to by the board last year.

The board also communicated directly with 425,000 landlords and tenants to raise awareness of the emergency legislation affecting the rental sector.

Mr Dunne said the board’s dispute resolution service was most affected by Covid-19 restrictions and in-person hearings were suspended in March 2020.

It continued to provide its telephone mediation service and introduced paper based adjudications in April 2020, which meant parties submitted their evidence and the adjudicator made a decision based on this.

Reshaping services

Virtual hearings enabling cases to progress without the need for participants to attend hearings in person were introduced later in the year for adjudication and tribunal hearings.

“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,” said Mr Dunne.

“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. Covid-19 has highlighted even further the need for customers to be able to easily access RTB services online and self-serve.”

There were 68,367 webchats in 2020, a 33 per cent increase from 2019, and 96,343 emails were received representing a 42 per cent rise on the previous year.

Mr Dunne added that it is unclear what the full impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have “on a housing and rental sector already under stress”.