Residential Tenancies Act 2019

1. What is the Residential Tenancies Act?

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 is the main legislation in Ireland governing the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. The Act applies to every dwelling that involves a landlord/tenant relationship with a few exceptions e.g. holidays homes. Further exceptions are set out in section 3(2) of the Act.

2. What changes did the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 (the 2019 Act”) introduce?

The 2019 Act was introduced to strengthen the position of tenants in the landlord/tenant relationship. The main reforms were in relation to Rent Pressure Zones, strengthening the powers of the Residential Tenancies Board (“RTB”), Notice Periods and Remedial Notices.

3. When do the amendments commence?

The majority of the amendments have now commenced with the first set of amendments in effect since 31 May 2019. There are a number of amendments which have yet to commence such as section 34 which relates to improper conduct by landlords and section 35 which allows an authorised officer of the RTB to conduct oral hearings for the purposes of an investigation.

4. What is a Rent Pressure Zone and what amendments have commenced?

A Rent Pressure Zone (“RPZ”) is a designated area where rents cannot be increased by more than 4% per annum. In non-RPZ areas, landlords can only review the rent once in every 24-month period. This applies to new and existing tenancies. RPZs are in parts of the country where rents are highest and where people have the most difficulty finding affordable accommodation. The intention of RPZs is to create a sustainable and stable rental market. On foot of the 2019 Act, 19 new RPZs have been created, coming into effect on 2 July 2019, in a number of counties including Cork, Galway, Limerick and Meath. All current RPZs have now been extended until 31 December 2021.

The 2019 Act has introduced a number of exemptions for landlords in relation to RPZs, meaning that not all properties are subject to the 4% rent increase restriction. Exempt properties include those which have not been rented for two years prior to the tenancy commencement date and those which have undergone a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation, i.e. the landlord has carried out works which have significantly improved the accommodation.

5. The role of the RTB and what amendments have commenced?

 The RTB has three main functions.

  1. Maintaining a register of private residential tenancies and tenancies of Approved Housing Bodies.
  2. Providing a dispute resolution service for tenants and landlords.
  3. Carrying out research into the private rented sector.

The 2019 Act has provided the RTB with a number of additional powers allowing it to carry out investigations and implement sanctions. Under this new regime a landlord may be liable for:

  1. Failing to comply with RPZ requirements e.g. attempting to increase rent above 4% or falsely seeking to rely on exemptions.
  2. Failing to register the tenancy or notify the RTB when rent has changed.
  3. Providing false or misleading reasons for terminating a tenancy.

The RTB may conduct investigations into potential breaches with or without a formal complaint. Where it is found that breaches have occurred, the RTB has the power to fine a landlord up to a maximum of €15,000 and costs of €15,000.

6. What is a notice period and what amendments have commenced?

A notice period is the time period which a landlord must provide to a tenant when serving a notice of termination. As of 4 June 2019, notice periods have been extended. It is essential that landlords serve the correct number of days as failing to do so can invalidate the notice of termination in full. The new notice periods are as follows:

Duration of tenancy 6 months Notice period 28 days
  6 months - 1 year Notice period: 90 days
  1 - 3 years Notice period: 120 days
  3 - 7 years Notice period: 180 days
  7 - 8 years Notice period: 196 days
  8 years Notice period: 224 days

7. What is a remedial notice and what amendments have commenced?

The Act introduced a Remedial Notice of Termination. Now landlords and tenants can remedy a defective notice of termination to fix any defect in the notice of termination which has been identified by the RTB. If an incorrect notice period was served by a landlord a Remedial Notice may be served within 28 days of the issue of the RTB’s Determination Order. This allows the landlord to add on the number of days by which the original notice of termination was short. This Notice is only applicable where a case has been heard by the RTB.

8. Are there any significant amendments which have yet to commence?

There are some significant amendments which, although not yet commenced, will do so in the coming months. Landlords who provide residential accommodation to students will now come under the remit of the RTB. Both landlords and student tenants will have access to the dispute resolution service provided by the RTB. All accommodation in which students are housed will be covered by the 2019 Act.

Finally, the 2019 Act provides for the annual registration of tenancies and creates a new fee structure for registration, namely €40 for the registration of private rented tenancies and €20 for the registration of Approved Housing Body tenancies.

For further information in relation to this matter, please contact Claire McCormack (Partner) or your usual AMOSS contact.