The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, enacted on 24 May 2019, introduces a number of measures designed to enhance the enforcement powers of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and underpin further the operation of the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) arrangements. The main provisions in the Act relate to :
- Making it a criminal offence for landlords to implement rent increases that contravene the law, that do not adhere to new definitions of a substantial change, failure to cooperate with an investigation, failure to register and update tenancies with the RTB.
- Providing powers to the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who engage in improper conduct including non-compliance with the rent increase restriction in RPZs.
- Allowing the RTB to initiate an investigation without the need for a complaint to be made.
The exemptions from the 4% p.a. rent increase restriction in RPZs have been revised so to apply only to the first rent setting, rather than to every rent setting, during the period of RPZ designation in respect of a new rental property, including a property that had not been rented in the 2 year period immediately prior to the commencement of a particular tenancy.
A definition is also provided to illustrate the type of works that qualify for the exemption from the rent increase restriction in respect of a substantial change in the nature of the rental property
There are a number of reasons why the average rent in RPZs may be higher than the 4% rent increase cap, such as exemptions for properties that are new to the market and/or properties that have undergone substantial change as well as possible non-compliance with the legislation. The introduction of the RTB's new powers of investigation and the related sanctions regime, which came into effect from 1 July 2019, will allow the RTB to investigate, sanction and enforce where non compliance is found. A number of authorised officers have been recruited and are now in place along with management and support staff. Additional resources will join the team following a recruitment campaign. The RTB are now accepting cases where improper conduct suspected.
Increased Exchequer funding of over €7m was secured for 2019 for RTB operational costs to provide for the rising demand for RTB services and the implementation of the new functions contained in the RTA 2019 Act. This is 60% higher than the 2018 provision of just under €4.4m.
The deployment of staff within the RTB to particular functions is a matter for the RTB itself. However, arrangements have been put in place to facilitate the provision of information by State Bodies to members of the Oireachtas and, in that regard, the RTB may be contacted at OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie.