Since the cap was placed on rent increases at just four percent per annum, complaints about rent arrears, evictions, and illegal deposit retentions have increased dramatically, causing major disputes between landlords and tenants. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has provided research into the noticeable rise in tenant complaints in several areas of the rented housing sector.
Illegal rent increase complaints are growing
Following the government’s cap on rent increases last year, the rental support body has seen a major increase in the number of complaints regarding housing security, contracts, and rent payments. The cap was initiated and adopted to prevent landlords from pricing tenants out of their homes by increasing rents by an unfair amount, as well as to ease the pressure on the rental market in major “rent pressure zones”. These pressure zones now cover more than half of all tenancies in the state, and rent disputes have increased by more than 160 percent since the introduction of the cap. In the research, it shows that eight out of ten landlords within the zones are imposing illegal rent increases on their tenants.
This means that almost 25 percent of all tenants are now paying above the average of 1,300 Euros for their homes, with the average increasing dramatically from the 2016 average of 1,271 Euros. Rents outside the capital have also seen an increase, with the average monthly rent going up from 677 Euros per month to 731 Euros per month.
Rent arrears are the top complaint
The most common cause of rent disputes, according to the research, are rent arrears, with invalid notice for termination and deposit retention coming in a close second and third respectively. For the issue of deposit retention, around 68 percent of deposits were fully refunded after the tenants vacated the properties, following investigations into the disputes with landlords. Maintenance of properties, standards of accommodation, illegal evictions, anti-social behavior, excessively high rent (over market rate), breach of leases, and damage to property were also prevalent in the number of complaints received since last year.
In the majority of complaints, housing disputes in the Dublin area came out the highest, taking up around 64 percent of all cases. Cork was only at 12 percent, while Waterford had six percent of cases and five percent came from both Limerick and Athlone. The research also showed that almost 30 percent of the Irish population are living in rented accommodation, and there are 325,372 tenancies registered in the state.
Landlords are failing to register
Another major issue found by the RTB was the failure to register a property with the support body in 2016, which resulted in 37 cases that were prosecuted, and another 20 convictions for criminal offenses. Any landlord who fails to register their property faces a sentence of up to six months imprisonment.
Contact the RTB for advice on tenancy issues
The RTB has encouraged tenants who are facing illegal rent increases, and any increase above the four percent cap, to contact them for advice on how to file a dispute. They also added that filing a dispute can be filed retrospectively for up to six years after the event. Tenancy agreements and contracts are deemed as invalid if they contain illegal clauses such as illegal or unfair rent increases, and tenants are still protected under law. No contract removes the right of the tenants as given under law. Not only can landlords found to have been charging illegal rent be forced to repay the total amount of the overpayment, they can also be forced to pay damages of up to 20,000 Euros to the tenants.
It was also revealed that landlords are using the housing crisis as an excuse to breach their tenants’ rights under the law, and Ruth Coppinger, of Solidarity TD, described the current rental market as “the Wild West”.
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