I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter. I also thank the Minister of State, Deputy English, for being in attendance.
The Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, was establish under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 on foot of the report of the Commission on the Private Rented Residential Sector in 2000, which contained a number of recommendations in respect of tenants and landlords. In the recent past, situations involving individuals I refer to as "tenants from hell" have come to my attention. We all know there are landlords who are no saints but the PRTB seems to be biased towards tenants. I am aware of a number of hard-working people who have bought houses and rented them out to tenants. The latter are very often in receipt of rent supplement but, on occasion, decided not to pay this over to their landlords. I do not know what is happening with the money involved but the landlords are not receiving anything. As a result, they try to remove the tenants from their properties but they find this extremely difficult to do. I have come across cases where the type of thing to which I refer has gone on for almost a year. As a result, some landlords have found themselves out of pocket to the tune of up to €10,000. They cannot pay their mortgages and, in some instances, their mortgages can be damaged. The PRTB appears to be powerless to do anything about this. If a landlord fails to pay the mortgage on his or her property and if the latter enters into arrears, his or her credit rating is damaged. I understand that 70% of landlords have mortgages and cannot meet their mortgage payments without the rent paid by tenants. This is an extremely serious issue. If a landlord changes the locks on his or her house when the tenant is out, he or she can face a fine of up to €20,000.
It has been suggested that tenants should not have access to the PRTB dispute resolution process if they do not continue to pay their rent. I ask that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government give consideration to this proposal.
Will the Minister of State indicate the current status of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill? Is it proposed to amend the principal Act to make provision in respect of the retention of deposits by landlords and the non-payment of tenants who remain in situ? What are landlords to do with regard to such tenants? I request that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government seek to streamline and speed up the PRTB's dispute resolution process. I understand that landlords in New Zealand can access a hearing within ten days if there are rent arrears involved and that any decisions handed down are immediate and fully enforceable. Funding in this regard is provided from a deposit protection scheme which places no requirement on landlords to register tenants.
Will the Minister of State outline the number of determination orders issued in recent years? How many such orders which have not been complied with has the PRTB had enforced through the courts? If the Minister of State does not have this information to hand, I would appreciate if he could ensure it is forwarded to me. I understand that in 2011 the PRTB obtained 54 judgments against non-compliant parties and that a further 25 cases were settled out of court. The board also issued over 10,000 notices under the 2004 Act in which it warned people about being prosecuted for non-compliance. I would like to be provided with an update on this matter. Will the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government consider providing the PRTB with better resources in order that it might enforce its orders? The board has indicated that it received 587 requests for enforcement in 2011 and that, with additional resources, it was able to deal with 150 cases in the first quarter of 2012 alone. There is no doubt that it requires extra resources.
The landlords to whom I refer are obeying the law, they are registered with the PRTB and they pay all the charges - property tax and everything else - they are supposed to pay. Quite often, however, they are being left in limbo as a result of the actions of a small number of tenants from hell who will not comply and who ignore all requests for them to do so. It takes landlords for ever to get anyone to take action in respect of such individuals. This is a serious matter and it relates to law-abiding people, many of whom have families, who have made an investment, perhaps for their retirement. I would appreciate a response to my concerns.