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private rentals

Dispute over regulator's figures for unregistered landlord complaints

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said the figures currently show a ‘worrying lack of enforcement’ in the rental market.

A TD HAS questioned figures held by the private rental sector regulator, after it claimed that it only needed to investigate a quarter of complaints about unregistered landlords it received last year.

The Residential Tenancies Board has been criticised by Social Democrats housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan who said it demonstrated a “worrying lack of enforcement” when it comes to unregistered tenancies in the rental market.

The RTB has defended the figures by claiming that when it checked complaints from tenants against its register, it resulted in a “large volume” of cases being closed.

But O’Callaghan queried this too, saying he believes it is “highly unlikely that such a high percentage of people making referrals hadn’t bothered to check the register” before making a formal complaint to the RTB.  

Data held by the RTB has come under increased pressure in recent weeks, after a significant discrepancy of approximately 84,000 properties emerged regarding different state bodies’ estimates of the size of the private rental sector. 

In correspondence with O’Callaghan, seen by The Journal, the RTB said documents show that in 2022 only 3,084 of 13,446 (23%) referrals of complaints regarding unregistered tenancies were acted upon.

This was the highest level of referrals in recent years, as the figure drops to 16% for 2021 and just 5% for 2020, which came at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.


While the RTB has 246,453 registered tenancies in its 2022 data, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) recorded a far higher figure of 330,632 private rented homes. It amounts to a difference of 84,179 homes.

During a discussion of the issue last month, the Oireachtas Housing Committee heard that the gap in data means it’s “unknown” whether the rental market is growing or shrinking.

“The figures provided to me by the Residential Tenancies Board show a worrying lack of enforcement when it comes to unregistered tenancies,” O’Callaghan told The Journal.

“This is particularly concerning considering that the census identified over 84,000 rented homes that aren’t registered with the Residential Tenancies Board.

“A lack of protections stops may renters from ever reporting their unregistered tenancies – it is crucial that the Residential Tenancies Board take effective action for those who do.”

The RTB told the TD that when it receives a referral, “we must cross reference the tenancy against the RTB Register which results in a large volume of cases being closed off”.

When contacted for comment, the RTB said any failure by a landlord to register a tenancy which should be registered remains a key priority.

It writes to landlords where non-registration is suspected and gives the landlord “reasonable opportunity to comply” before a prosecution is initiated. Landlords receive two notices from the RTB before any legal letters are issued.

The RTB added: “Separately, and as a further step in the process, the RTB also issues statutory legal notices (also known as First and Second notices) as part of the statutory prosecution process under Section 144 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended).

“The RTB expects that the vast majority of landlords will engage with the first and second notice process, however, where landlords fail to engage with the RTB, prosecution under Section 144 of the Act will be considered by the RTB.”

All landlords are required to renew the registration of their tenancies to the RTB. Since 2022, they are required to do so on an annual basis.

In its statement to O’Callaghan, the RTB said it was aiming to improve the data it collects.

“Currently the RTB does not have specific data on additional registrations that have been made due to reports of unregistered tenancies,” it said.

This includes a new strategy for the State body which prioritises “improving our research analysis” of our data to create meaningful insights to inform policy and the public.

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