Insights

The Private Residential Tenancies Board

Practical Considerations

Introduction

The PRTB was set up under the 2004 Residential Tenancies Act.  The Act is lengthy but relatively well set out and straight forward in its directions.  The PRTB website at ww.prtb.ie is also a very good starting point for information on the PRTB and its structures.

Jurisdiction

The 2004 Act and the PRTB deals with all complaints between residential landlords and tenants in Ireland where a Part 4 Tenancy arises. A Part 4 Tenancy arises when a tenant has been renting a domestic dwelling for a period of six months or longer.

The Act does not apply to local authority housing or to commercial dwellings. It also does not apply where a tenant lives with the landlord in a shared home.  The Act does not apply to family homes where the children or the spouse of the landlord live with them.

The redress that can afforded under the act in respect of a claim for rent or damages is €20,000 or an amount twice the annual rent for the dwelling concerned subject to a maximum cap of €60,000.  If the quantum of rent arrears or damages is over this threshold an application can be made directly to the circuit court for determination.

Each tenancy is required to be registered.  A tenant can bring a complaint to the PRTB even if the tenancy is not registered but a landlord must have a registered tenancy before a complaint can be brought.  The current registration fee if €90 or €180 if received after 30 days of the beginning of the tenancy.

Adjudication

The Landlord (if the tenancy is registered with the PRTB) or the Tenant (even if the tenancy is not registered with the PRTB) can refer a matter for adjudication.  The current fee is €15 online or €25 for a paper application).  The first stage on receipt of a complaint is that matters are heard before an adjudicator of the PRTB at their offices in D’Olier Street, Dublin.  An adjudicator generally seeks to mediate between the parties to see if a resolution can be found.  They will normally open proceedings by asking the parties if a settlement can be found and recording such settlement report if successful.  The adjudication is an informal process held by way of round table discussions.  Witnesses may be presented to give evidence.  Any documentary evidence that is to be relied upon is requested by the PRTB to be sent 10 days in advance of the adjudication for circulation to all parties.

After the hearing, the adjudicator will circulate their report  to the parties.  This can be appealed to the PRTB Tribunal within 21 days upon the payment of the requisite fee (currently €100 or €85 online) and filing of the appeal form. If no appeal is lodged the adjudication becomes binding.

The PRTB has recently introduced telephone adjudications for those that wish to avail of that service.

Tribunal Stage

The Tribunal sits a number of times a year.  It has three members, one of which will normally be a tenant representative from a tenant organisation and one of which will normally be a legal practitioner.  One of the members will be nominated as chairperson for that Tribunal sitting.

The Tribunal is a legal body but its powers are confined by the act. For example the Tribunal is refrained from considering matters of title.  The may enter and inspect the dwelling in question but in practice this is rarely ever done.  They have the power to compel witnesses to attend and it is an offence to provide false information to the Board.

The Board has wide powers of redress and may set aside tenancies and award damages.  They may order that a property be vacated.  The Boards determination orders are binding unless they are appealed to the High Court on a point of law. A failure to comply with a determination order is an offence.

A stenographer is usually in attendance at a Tribunal hearing and copies of the transcript can be requested for a fee.

Decisions

Decisions of the Tribunal are publically available online at www.prtb.ie.  The process is designed to be transparent and members of the public are entitled to attend before Tribunal hearings should they so desire.

Landlord Considerations

By far the greatest number of matters before the PRTB concern invalid notices to quit and retention of deposits.

The valid grounds for terminations are set out in the 2004 Act.  They include such grounds that the dwelling is being refurbished, sold or is required for the landlord or a member of his family.  The appropriate notice periods will depend on the length of tenancy by the tenant and the reasons for the termination.

Where the termination is as a result of anti social behaviour of the tenant the notice periods may be reduced.

Tenants Considerations

For tenants the vast number of complaints relate to retention of deposits by landlords. Another common complain is where a notice of termination has been incorrectly served or is in the incorrect form.  Tenants may raise other matters relating the standard of the dwelling and facilities that may be lacking which are required to be provided under the Housing Acts and/or the Residential Tenancy Act 2004.

Where a Notice of Termination has been received it should be checked to determine firstly if the notice periods are calculated correctly and secondly that it is in the correct form.

Form of Notice of Termination

To be a valid a notice of termination must be in the correct form, in writing, served correctly on the tenant, contain the termination date, and set out that the tenant has a right to refer the matter to the PRTB.  Draft notices of termination are available on the PRTB website.

Many notices to quit referred to the PRTB are ultimately held to be invalid which means that the process must begin again.  A provision which frequently catches people out is that the date of service must be on the notice of termination together with the date of termination.  The days should be counted from the day after the Notice is served. It is advisable to serve a notice of termination personally.  Registered post is not required and ordinary post will suffice.  Where a tenant is not at home it is possible to affix a notice to the outside of the dwelling to effect valid service.

The Act sets out Table for a valid notice period

Termination by Landlord - Duration of Tenancy Notice Period
Less than 6 months 28 days
6 or more months but less than 1 year 35 days
1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days
2 years or more but less than 3 years 56 days
3 years or more but less than 4 years 84 days
4 or more years 112 days
Termination by Tenant - Duration of Tenancy Notice Period
Less than 6 months 28 days
6 or more months but less than 1 year 35 days
1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days
2 or more years 56 days

 

Current Difficulties in the PRTB Process

The PRTB was set up to encourage a mediated resolution between landlords and tenants. It has been largely successful but the result of its success means that there is a longer waiting period for redress before the Tribunal. The process is also open to abuse as a tenant may bring a frivolous claim and has an automatic right of appeal the Tenancy Tribunal for a nominal fee and can remain in situ at a continuing cost to the Landlord until matters have been determined. A simple solution may be to empower an adjudicator to dismiss a vexatious claim in the first instance subject to a right of appeal purely on a point of law to the High Court. This may help to take cases out of the backlog at Tribunal stage.

For further information on this topic, please contact Setanta Landers at slanders@reddycharlton.ie

 

 


Keywords: Publication, Landlord and Tenant, Setanta Landers

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