Fifteen years of the Residential Tenancies Board – a changing role

Rosalind Carroll, Director at the Residential Tenancies Board, details their progress and changes in the rental sector, since they began 15 years ago.

It is 15 years since the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) first opened its doors for business in September 2004. The rental sector has changed considerably since then and the role of the RTB has also become much more important.

Given the very real and far-reaching effects of the Irish housing and rental crisis over recent years, the focus has been on solving this crisis and the role of the RTB in this, without much reflection to see what has changed. Here are my thoughts to hopefully stimulate some discussion.

A regulatory framework

The introduction of the RTB (formerly the PRTB) and the accompanying regulatory framework was hugely significant at the time for the private rental sector in Ireland. An agency dedicated to regulating the rental sector and resolving landlord and tenant disputes was quite revolutionary, and today there are still very few international examples of such a structure. The principle aims of the legislation underpinning the RTB were to:

1. Provide increased security to tenants;

2. Require all private landlords to register with the RTB, and;

3. To provide a dispute resolution service through the RTB for tenant and landlord disputes as a cost-effective and quicker alternative to the courts.

Hard times

Prior to the RTB coming into existence, if a landlord or tenant had an issue it took years to take a case through the courts. It also cost thousands of euros. The result was that it became commonplace for people to take the law into their own hands.

Illegal evictions, where locks were changed and tenants’ belongings were put on the street, were a regular feature of the rental market. Despite this there was a real fear that the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act, the RTB, and the associated new rights and obligations for parties would have a negative impact on supply and access to accommodation.

Changes to the private rented sector

15 years on, and while there remains much to address in the rental sector, much has changed. In 2005 there were 84,000 registered tenancies with the RTB; today we have 313,000 registered private tenancies and 29,000 tenancies from the Approved Housing Body sector. Illegal evictions do still occur, but they are not commonplace.

The cost to take a dispute to the RTB, for landlords or tenants, is €15-25 depending on whether you submit online or not, and a free telephone mediation service is available. The time from dispute application to receiving a legally binding order for our adjudication service is 13 weeks; for our mediation service it is nine weeks.

While much has changed for the better, society has changed and how the rental sector is used has changed with it. Renting is much more mainstream now, used for longer periods.

While we have had very restricted housing supply, the issues of affordability and security of tenure have become the key focus in terms of regulating the rental market. They have also driven the focus of regulatory change with the introduction of rent pressure zones and changes to termination notice periods and requirements.

The latest set of legislative reforms have introduced the most fundamental changes to role of the RTB. We now have a role in monitoring the market, investigating potential breaches of the law and sanctioning where such breaches are found. This moves us away from just 2019 providing a dispute resolution service between parties, to being a proactive regulator.

Irish housing market:

2004 2019
€1,100
average monthly
private rent
€1,366
average monthly
private rent
84,000
registered private
landlords
313,000
registered private
tenancies
6,117
new social homes
provided in 2004
27,103
new social homes
provided in 2018
13.2%
annual house price
inflation (Jan 2006)
2.3%
annual house price
inflation (Jul 2019)
4.04m
population 2004
4.83m
population 2018

What about the next 15 years?

For many reasons – societal changes, changes to employment patterns, demographics, housing finance issues – we are unlikely to return to the days of 80% of the population owning their own home. The focus on security of tenure and affordability in the rental sector is unlikely to change, as many households will now rely on the rental sector as their long-term home.

This will undoubtedly lead to further regulatory changes over time to fit with these needs. However, regulation is not the only solution and it is important that the market is not over-regulated to the detriment of supply.

Where further regulatory reform is required, we should consider what compromises are made elsewhere to compensate. A functioning rental market requires both landlords and tenants to be satisfied in their relationship.

Finally, we need to acknowledge that the rental market is not homogenous but diverse, it will grow and change. Alternative rental models such as co-living will continue to develop, as will models of affordable renting. We will need to think carefully about regulatory frameworks for new models that respect the individual and unique attributes of different models. Safe to say, for the rental sector as whole, the next 15 years is likely to see the RTB continuing to have a key role to play.

 

To discuss this article, contact Kathleen Mckillion: kathleen.mckillion@campbelltickell.com

This article is also featured in the latest CT Brief – Ireland Edition

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