Dispute resolution is a key function of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019. Enforcement of RTB dispute determination orders has a firm legal base in those Acts. When landlords, tenants and third parties access the RTB dispute resolution service through mediation, adjudication or an appeal through a tenancy tribunal, they receive a legally binding determination order. Where non-compliance occurs, the RTB initially seeks to secure compliance by non-judicial means. Where non-compliance persists, the RTB will consider requests from injured parties to provide legal assistance to enforce the Order. The RTB has set out the policy and criteria it follows in this regard, which is available on its website at the following link:
Alternatively, an injured party may wish to take their own enforcement proceedings directly to the courts. A Guide to Enforcement in the District Court is also available on the RTB's website at the following link:
Enforcement proceedings may involve the registration of the judgment of the Court and these judgments may then be published in the various Trade Gazettes, etc. The RTB website also displays the details of persons against whom it obtains court orders for any non-compliance with its determination orders.
If a party fails to comply with a Court order, the RTB may in certain circumstances seek further orders from the Court such as execution orders to engage the local sheriff to seize goods, orders for attachment on earnings and, in extreme circumstances, orders from the Court for attachment and committal.
The RTB has no power to prevent any non-compliant party from continuing to rent properties. However, RTB Adjudicators and Tribunal members can award damages against a party for breaches of their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Acts. These damages, which are awarded to the other party, can be up to €20,000 depending on the severity of the offence.
A person guilty of an offence under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 is liable, in accordance with section 9 of the 2004 Act, on summary conviction to a Class B fine (currently up to a maximum of €4,000 under the Fines Act 2010 ) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. If the contravention in respect of which a person is convicted of an offence under those Acts continues after the conviction, the person is guilty of a further offence on every day on which the contravention continues and for each such offence the person shall be liable on summary conviction to a Class E fine (currently up to a maximum of €500 under the Fines Act 2010).
The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 empowers the RTB to investigate improper conduct by landlords and impose sanctions under a new Part 7A – Complaints, Investigations and Sanctions – inserted into the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. In particular, unlawful rent increases in RPZs, unlawful tenancy terminations and non-registration of tenancies can be investigated by the RTB with the imposition of a possible sanction of up to €30,000.
Section 148AD of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 sets out the matters to be considered by the RTB in deciding on any sanction to be imposed. These matters include:
- the need for any sanction to be appropriate and proportionate; sufficient to deter the recurrence of any similar improper conduct; and in the public interest to encourage compliance with the Act;
- the seriousness, duration and any re-occurrence of the improper conduct;
- any continuation of the improper conduct after the landlord was notified of the investigation concerned; and
- whether a sanction has previously been imposed on foot of a similar occurrence of improper conduct.
I do not consider it necessary to further strengthen the RTB's sanctioning powers at this stage but I will continue to keep the matter under review.