Resolving disputes between landlords and tenants

Introduction

Disputes can arise between landlords and tenants regarding rented accommodation. In many cases, these disputes can be resolved informally between both parties. Sometimes however, it is necessary to get an independent and impartial third party involved. A third party can hear both sides of the story and decide on the most appropriate resolution. This document outlines how to deal with common disputes in private residential tenancies and the bodies and organisations that can help.

A private residential tenancy means a tenancy that is agreed privately between a landlord and a tenant. Private residential tenancies are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which sets out the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants. Most of the information provided here does not apply to local authority tenants or to tenants who live with their landlord. If you are a local authority tenant or if you rent accommodation from a social housing organisation (e.g. a voluntary housing association or student accommodation let by a recognised educational institution), you can get more information about your rights as a tenant here.

You may be renting a room in your landlord's home, in which case, your legal rights are different from those in private residential tenancies.

Dealing with disputes

If a dispute arises between you and your landlord, you should initially try to resolve it between you. A meeting between the two parties can clear up misunderstandings and allow both sides to voice their opinions. Make sure you are aware of your rights and obligations, that you know what you want to say and that your facts are correct. You can read about common disputes between tenants and landlords and ways to solve them by clicking on the further information tab above.

It may help to send a letter to your landlord, with clear details of your complaints. You should keep a record of all contacts between yourself and your landlord as you try to resolve the dispute. Tenants and landlords are not always able to resolve their disputes between them. If this is the case you may need outside help.

Local authorities

Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that private rented accommodation meets certain minimum physical standards. If your dispute relates to problems with your accommodation or to noise pollution they may be able to help. Talk to your local authority Environmental Health Officer for more information.

The Private Residential Tenancies Board

The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) offers a dispute resolution service to landlords and tenants. Any agreement reached with the help of the PRTB or adjudicated by the PRTB is legally binding on both parties.

The dispute resolution process used by the PRTB is confidential and non-confrontational. Landlords, tenants or other parties who have been directly affected (e.g. neighbours) can initiate the dispute resolution process. Landlords must be registered with the PRTB to use the service but tenants can use the service even if their landlord has not registered the tenancy.

Before contacting the PRTB, you should always contact Threshold (see below) for advice on your situation. The PRTB does not run an advisory service and you should only contact them if you want to make an application to use their dispute resolution service. If you decide to refer a dispute to the PRTB, you should contact them by e-mail or phone and discuss your case with a dispute resolution officer. They will let you know if the PRTB is the most appropriate body to help you.

Threshold

Threshold, is a charitable organisation that provides information and advice to people with housing problems. You can contact them by phone, fax, email, letter or you can make an appointment at one of their 3 centres (Dublin, Cork and Galway). Its Access Housing Unit offers a subscription service to landlords which includes advice on mediation with tenants.

If your dispute still cannot be resolved, you may be advised to take your case to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).

The PRTB dispute resolution process

The first step of the process is to fill out an application form and return it to the PRTB with a fee of 25 euro. If you have any difficulties filling out the form, a member of the PRTB staff will help you. You should include as many details as possible of your dispute on the form and return it to the PRTB along with any evidence you think may support your claim. A copy of the signed lease (if you have one) should also be included. If you are sending photographs, the PRTB ask that you supply them with three sets of prints. Any information given to the PRTB will be copied to all parties involved.

You will receive a letter from the PRTB, acknowledging receipt of your application form and the other party in the dispute will receive a letter of complaint. You will also both receive the following: a letter of acceptance of mediation and a letter of rejection of mediation.

  • Mediation means that the parties are helped by a PRTB mediator to come to an agreement together
  • Adjudication means that an adjudicator makes a decision that may or may not reflect any agreement reached between the parties. The parties then decide whether they are willing to accept this decision.

You must fill out one of these letters and return it to the PRTB.

Mediation

The mediation process can only go ahead if both parties agree to the mediation and if the PRTB consider it to be the most appropriate means of resolving the dispute. If this has been agreed, a PRTB Monitor is appointed to the case and will contact both parties with a date and time for a private hearing. At this hearing, both parties can state their case and present any evidence they feel supports that case.

The PRTB Mediator will help them to reach a resolution to the dispute that is acceptable to everyone. A report of the mediation will be sent to both parties along with a letter of acceptance and a letter of rejection of the agreement. Both parties have a cooling off period of 21 days after which they must return either the acceptance or rejection letter to the PRTB. If both accept the mediation agreement, it becomes a legally binding determination order of the PRTB.

Adjudication

If the two parties do not agree to the mediation process or if the PRTB decide that mediation is not the best way of dealing with the case, it goes to adjudication. A PRTB adjudicator is appointed to investigate the case fully. Based on the evidence and witnesses of the two parties, the PRTB adjudicator decides how the dispute is to be resolved.

As with the mediation process, the adjudicator's report will be sent to both parties along with letters of acceptance and rejection, one of which must be filled out and returned to the PRTB within 21 days. If both accept the adjudication decision, it becomes a legally binding determination order of the PRTB.

Tenancy Tribunal

The Tenancy Tribunal is the second stage of the PRTB dispute resolution service. A dispute can be referred to the Tenancy Tribunal for four reasons:

  • If an agreement cannot be reached using mediation
  • If any party wants to appeal the Adjudicator's decision within 21 days
  • If any of the parties request a tribunal hearing
  • If the PRTB refers the dispute directly to the Tribunal, e.g. where there appears to be imminent risk of damage to the property or danger to the parties involved.

If your case is to go before the Tribunal, you will be notified in writing by the PRTB. This letter tells you the date, time and venue of the hearing as well and gives an outline of the dispute and of the procedures that will be adopted at the hearing. You shouldn't need legal representation when taking a case to the PRTB but you can bring a solicitor to the hearing if you wish. You can also bring witnesses to give evidence to support your case but remember that any costs you incur (i.e. solicitor's fees and witness costs) must be paid by you. The Tribunal will rarely award costs and there is no legal aid available if you want to bring legal representation with you.

The Tribunal is made up of three people from the PRTB's Dispute Resolution Committee, who have relevant professional knowledge and experience. All hearings are held in public and are similar to court hearings so you will be allowed to present your case to the Tribunal. The Tribunal has the authority to summon witnesses, demand the production of relevant documents and take evidence under oath.

The decision of the Tenancy Tribunal will be issued to all parties as a determination order of the PRTB and it is legally binding. You can view determination orders on the PRTB website here. Decisions made by the Tribunal can only be appealed to the High Court on a point of law and the appeal must be lodged within 21 days.

Enforcement of PRTB Determination Orders

The Circuit Court is responsible for the enforcement of PRTB Determination Orders. If any of the parties do not comply with a determination order, they can be reported to the PRTB who can apply for a Circuit Court Order directing them to comply. You can also apply to the Circuit Court directly if you are affected by someone's failure to comply with an order.

Rates

Threshold provides a free advice and mediation service.

If you make an application to the PRTB, you will have to pay a fee of €25. There will be a further fee of €40 if the case is heard before a Tenancy Tribunal.

Applications to the District Court regarding complaints about noise cost €18. You do not require legal representation in order to appear before the PRTB's Tenancy Tribunal. If you obtain legal representation for an appearance before the Tribunal, you are obliged to pay the full costs of this advice.

How to apply

Applications to the PRTB Dispute Resolution service can be made after discussing your case with a Dispute Resolution Officer. If you decide to use the service, they will send you a form, which you will need to fill in and return to the PRTB with the €25 fee.

If you want to report a failure to comply with a Determination Order from the PRTB, you can apply directly to the Circuit Court by contacting the clerk of the court.

Complaints about noise and breaches of minimum standards can be reported to the Environmental Health Officer in your local authority.

If you want to make a complaint about noise directly to the District Court, you should contact the clerk of the court to make an appointment for a hearing.

If you want to avail of Threshold's advice and mediation service, you can contact Threshold and discuss your options with an advisor.

Where to apply

Private Residential Tenancies Board

PO Box 47
Clonakilty
Co. Cork
Ireland

Tel:+353 (0) 818 30 30 37
Fax:+353 (0) 818 30 30 39
Homepage: http://www.prtb.ie/

Threshold

21 Stoneybatter
Dublin 7
Ireland

Tel:(01) 635 3651
Fax:(01) 677 2407
Homepage: http://www.threshold.ie
Email: advice@threshold.ie

Threshold

22 South Mall
Cork
Ireland

Tel:(021) 427 8848
Fax:(021) 480 5111
Homepage: http://www.threshold.ie
Email: advicecork@threshold.ie

Threshold

3 Victoria Place
Merchant's Road
Galway
Ireland

Tel:(091) 563 080
Fax:(091) 569 273
Homepage: http://www.threshold.ie
Email: advicegalway@threshold.ie

Further information

This section lists common problems that can occur between landlords and tenants. It also suggests possible ways of solving these problems.

Accommodation standards

The property you are renting from your landlord must meet certain minimum standards that are set out by law. If you feel your property does not meet these standards you should raise your concerns with your landlord. If your landlord refuses to carry out necessary repairs, Threshold advises that you complain to your local authority and the Private Rented Tenancies Board (PRTB). Both can compel your landlord to comply with these standards but some local authorities will not act until they are contacted by the PRTB. If your landlord fails to comply with the regulations, they could be liable for penalties up to 1,270 euro plus an additional 127 euro for each day that the offence continues.

Repairs

As a tenant, you are responsible for any damage such as broken windows or damage to furnishings over and above normal wear and tear. Your landlord is responsible for all other repairs. If repairs are necessary, tell your landlord as soon as possible. If you pay for essential repairs yourself, make sure you get receipts for any money you spend. Your landlord is obliged to cover these expenses. However, if your landlord refuses to pay for essential repairs or to reimburse you for repairs, you can contact Threshold for advice. They may advise you to take your case to the PRTB. If there are serious problems that could affect the health or safety of tenants, such as vermin, problems with water, sewage or electrical or structural problems, you can contact the Environmental Health Officer at your local authority.

Rents

Your landlord can only increase your rent once in a 12-month period, unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the property, such as extensive renovation. Your rent cannot be increased over and above the market value of the property and you must be given notice of any change in rent as stated in your rental agreement. If you feel that a rent increase is unfair or unlawful, you can contact Threshold and ask them to mediate between you and your landlord. You can also make an application to the PRTB. You must contact the PRTB before the rent increase is due to take effect or within 28 days of receiving formal notice of the new rent (whichever is later).

Deposits

When you leave a property at the end of your agreed rental period or after giving the agreed notice, your landlord must return your deposit, promptly and in full. However, if there are rent arrears, unpaid bills, damage that is above normal wear and tear or if you have not given adequate notice, your landlord may keep part or all of your deposit.
Note that if you have signed a lease for an agreed period your landlord may keep your deposit if you leave before the end of this period, even if you give notice. In some cases you may also be liable for the amount of rent due until the end of the lease. If this is the case it should be stated in your lease agreement. If your landlord refuses to return your deposit or deducts what you consider to be an unfair amount, you can contact Threshold for advice. They may advise you to make an application to the PRTB. It is illegal for your landlord to hold your possessions in lieu of money that you owe, however, a landlord can make an application to the PRTB if they feels your deposit does not cover rent arrears or the cost of damage to the property.

Inventory

Your landlord must give you an inventory of the contents of the property. Although it is not compulsory, it is a good idea to record the condition of all furnishings and appliances listed in the inventory and agree this in writing with your landlord. If you are in dispute with your landlord about repairs or damage to property (for example, if your landlord is withholding your deposit to cover damages) you can use to this record to support your case.

Access

Your landlord cannot enter your rented property without your permission. If repairs or inspections need to be carried out, you must allow your landlord or repair staff access to the property by prior arrangement. If your landlord has entered your property without permission, remind them that this is a violation of your rights as a tenant. If the problem continues, you should contact Threshold for advice. Again, they may advise you to make an application to the PRTB.

Notice of Termination or Eviction

If you have been a tenant for a six-month period, you are entitled to remain in the tenancy for a further three and a half years. The landlord can terminate the tenancy during the three and a half year period but only on specific grounds. For more information, see if your landlord wants you to leave. If you are in dispute with your landlord over the termination of your tenancy, you should contact Threshold, who can advise you of your rights based on details of your situation and may recommend that you take your case to the PRTB.

Public utility service charges

You may be liable for local authority service charges for water, waste collection etc. since you are the 'occupier' of the premises. You should discuss this with your landlord to make sure you know what charges you will be expected to pay. Also, check with the local authority that you are only being billed from the time you move in. Make sure you are not billed for arrears for previous tenants. If you have questions or complaints about service charges, you should contact your local authority for more information.

Visitors

You can have visitors to stay overnight, unless specifically forbidden in your tenancy agreement. However, if an extra person moves into the premises, you should inform your landlord as they have the right to know who is living in the property.

Noise

As a tenant, you are entitled to peaceful occupation of your home. If noise from other tenants or neighbours is disturbing you, you should contact them in writing and ask them to stop. You should also inform your landlord. A complaint can be made to the Environmental Health Officer in your local authority or to the local District Court under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994, which can make a Court Order to deal with the nuisance. View further information on noise pollution in Ireland here.

Page updated: 6 July 2011

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