Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (100)

Brian Stanley

Question:

100. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the work he is doing to ensure the good work currently done by the Private Residential Tenancies Board is continued in view of the fact that at present it receives no Exchequer funding and in recent years has had to cut back considerably, including outsourcing some services. [5032/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) was established in September 2004 under the Residential Tenancies Act. For the first six years the PRTB received Exchequer funding but has operated on a self-financing basis since 2010. The PRTB’s funding is derived primarily from a proportion of the fee income accruing from tenancy registrations, as set down by Ministerial Order. The Board is currently entitled to retain 80% of the registration fee income to fund its activities, with 20% going to fund Local Authority inspections of private rented residential accommodation. It also retains the fees it charges for its dispute resolution services. The Board’s published annual report and accounts are available on its website at www.prtb.ie.

Demand for the PRTB’s services has grown significantly in recent years, reflecting the very sizable growth in the private rented sector. At the same time, the moratorium on recruitment and promotion introduced in March 2009 has presented challenges for the delivery of services across the public sector, including at the PRTB. The Board has responded to these challenges by pursuing a programme of outsourcing, shared services and improved ICT systems. An online registration system was launched in November 2010 and by the end of 2012, 41% of registrations were transacted online. Online dispute management services were introduced in 2012 and a programme of shared services has involved electronic tracking of legal documentation and, most recently, the launch in 2013 of a quarterly rent index in association with the Central Statistics Office.

In addition to these efficiency measures, legislative changes are in train in support of the work of the PRTB. In November 2012 I introduced the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, currently in the Seanad. It will, inter alia, streamline and simplify aspects of the Act to assist the Board in meeting its service obligations. The Government recently approved the drafting of amendments to the Bill which include measures to address long-standing issues such as deposit retention and the non-payment of rent in dispute cases, which are the most common dispute types brought before the Board. In 2012 they accounted for close to 37% of all dispute types. The Bill will also provide for the separation of the governance and quasi-judicial functions of the Board and will simplify the mediation process.

I am confident that the Board will continue to discharge its statutory obligations in an independent, fair and efficient manner. My Department continues to keep the resources available to the PRTB under close review and engages regularly with the Board on this and other matters.