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Rental Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 November 2021

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Ceisteanna (52)

Cian O'Callaghan

Ceist:

52. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason only 28 persons were sanctioned for breaking the rent pressure zone rules in the 12 months to July 2021 given the widespread breaches of the rent pressure zone rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54969/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2021 regulates the landlord-tenant relationship in the rented residential sector and sets out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Act to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants. 

Since 1 July 2019, the RTB is empowered under Part 7A – Complaints, Investigations and Sanctions – of the Residential Tenancies Acts to investigate improper conduct by landlords and to impose sanctions, where appropriate.

The breaches of rental law that the Investigations & Sanctions (I&S) unit of the RTB can investigate include a contravention of the rent increase restriction and related procedures in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs). The RTB has the power to impose sanctions if improper conduct by a landlord is found to have occurred, ranging from a formal written caution and/or a fine of up to €15,000 and/or costs up to €15,000.

To date, the RTB has commenced over 400 investigations which are at varying stages in the investigation process. As of the end of Quarter 3 2021, 282 cases are in the investigation process. Over 130 cases have been issued to Decision Makers for Decision. The Decision Makers are legal professionals with extensive decision-making experience.

In over 90 cases, the decision of the Decision Maker has been finalised and has been issued to the relevant landlord. Of the decisions issued to Landlords, to date over 70% of decisions have resulted in a sanction.

Covid-19 greatly impacted the number of court confirmations as the Courts were closed for large parts of 2020/2021. By the end of July 2021, sanctions had been confirmed for 29 cases. These were the first cases to be heard by the Circuit Court under the new processes established by Part 7A of the Residential Tenancies Act.

Since the Court’s reopening after Summer Vacation, a further 8 applications for confirmation have been heard and confirmed (please note that in some of these cases the landlord may still choose to appeal the Circuit Court decision to the High Court should they wish to do so) and it is hoped to have more scheduled for hearing before the end of Quarter 4 2021.

The RTB will continue to work with the Courts Services and will be making applications to relevant Circuit Courts for confirmation of sanctions on an ongoing basis. The RTB expects over 250 cases to be confirmed in 2022 as more cases come through the investigation pipeline, efficiencies in the process develop and access to the Circuit Court returns to pre-Covid operations. The RTB will publish the particulars of sanctions confirmed by the circuit court on its website once all legal and administrative processes have been completed.

Since its inception, the Investigations and Sanctions Unit of the RTB has prioritised investigations into potential breaches of RPZ restrictions and during its first full year of operation in 2020, 92% of investigations related to a breach of RPZ.

The RTB is continuing to use its proactive powers of investigation to identify and investigation potential breaches of RPZ rules.  I have requested that the full powers and resources of the RTB are brought to bear in initiating and executing a robust and thorough campaign to identify non-compliance and breaches of RPZ rent increase restrictions and related procedures, including those related to rent reviews and notification of exemption from the restrictions. In response to this, the RTB will activating a targeted and an incremental campaign over the coming weeks to identify tenancies where higher probabilities of non-compliance exist, to ensure such tenancies are compliant with all relevant legislation.

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