Rent pressure zone landlords ‘imposed illegal price hikes’

Tenancies board finds a large number of invalid rent increases following reforms

Almost eight in 10 landlords in rent pressure zones wrongly imposed rent increases on tenants, according to the State authority that handles landlord-tenant disputes.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) found that in 44 recent cases where tenants faced rent hikes that were greater than the market rate, 34 of the rent review notices, some 77 per cent, were invalidly issued by the landlords under legislation on the zones.

Since the introduction last December of the rent pressure zones, which block landlords in certain areas from hiking rents by more than 4 per cent, the board has seen a 160 per cent increase in new applications to resolve disputes over rent increases.

The number of new applications to resolve all types of disputes has continued to rise, surging by 30 per cent in the first half of the year on the same period last year. There were 4,837 new applications in total in 2016, up 20 per cent on 2015.


Rosalind Carroll, director of the RTB, said the increases in applications reflected the severe pressure felt by tenants in the market, but warned against a rush to introduce new protections.

“While we are in this crisis, we need to be really careful about not reacting too much,” she said. “We need to be careful that we don’t legislate against everything, because we want to protect against everything.”

We want tenants to feel empowered to take cases to us if they feel they are not being charged the right rent

She also cautioned against moving too quickly to European norms in the rental sector, pointing out that in Europe tenants typically pay three months' rent as a deposit because they have longer-term leases.

The invalid rent reviews imposed by landlords, she said, included failures to provide the right notice. She pointed to the need to educate landlords on the recent legislative changes.

Reporting cases

Ms Carroll encouraged tenants to report illegal rent increases, noting that they could retrospectively contest hikes, for up to six years, and receive up to €20,000 in damages if landlords were found to have imposed increases beyond the 4 per cent limit.

“We want tenants to feel empowered to take cases to us if they feel they are not being charged the right rent, particularly tenants queueing with up to 20 others who might feel pressurised to agree to a rent,” she said.

In a further sign of the deepening crisis in the rental market, the tenancies board has received up to 1,000 calls a day since the rent pressure zones were introduced, up from 600 a day last year.

Rents have reached new highs due to a record shortage of rental accommodation, heaping increased pressure on the tenancies board to step up its policing of the sector.

The board is adding another 10 staff to its existing workforce of 50 in response to the crisis.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times