Sunday 11 December 2016

Complaints to tenancy body surge to 6,000 in 10 months

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin

Almost 6,000 complaints were made to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) by landlords and tenants as the rental crisis gripped the country over the past 10 months.

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Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show that the PRTB has had to become involved in a flood of disputes since the start of the year.

One in every three of the cases take between three to four months before a resolution is found, while the worst rows have taken more than seven months to resolve.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has proposed beefing up the powers of the PRTB to play a more significant role in setting rents as part of a plan to settle the dispute between Environment Minister Alan Kelly and the Department of Finance over the introduction of rent certainty.

A Labour spokesperson last night confirmed reports in the Irish Independent that plans to link rent increases to the Consumer Price Index will not be in the final package.

"The index-linked element is unlikely to materialise," the spokesperson said.

This is a major blow to Mr Kelly, who has staked huge political capital on securing rent certainty, although sources say he is still fighting for measures that will offer tenants greater security.

As negotiations over the long-awaited housing package continue, the Department of Finance is arguing that social welfare should be used to help struggling families, while Mr Kelly maintains this won't solve the problem unless there is some mechanism to stop rents rising.

One report compiled for the department suggests that rent certainty will distort the market, while another by the National Economic and Social Council disputes this. "We will possibly get a compromise between those two positions," said a source.

The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that measures aimed at making it harder for landlords to raise rents and evict tenants are being teased out as part of the final package.

Under the plan, an obligation will be placed on landlords to give tenants longer notice periods and to provide market evidence to justify hikes in rent.

In the Dáil yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the ongoing talks as "chaotic" and likened Mr Kelly to struggling Chelsea soccer boss José Mourinho.

"Worrying in response - the José Mourinho type response - he (Kelly) goes into the third person and he attacks the 'cowards', the 'anonymous cowards', that are leaking against him. He talks about his colleagues, Fine Gael senior ministers he is talking about," Mr Martin said.

"Meanwhile, Taoiseach, as all this in-fighting goes on, we read all the headlines. 'AK 47' versus 'Buddha' in the form of the Minister for Finance nodding silently and sagely."

In response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he hoped an agreement between ministers Kelly and Noonan would be reached in the coming week.

Speaking in the Dáil last night, Mr Kelly said there was no issue he took "more seriously" than the housing crisis. "There is no issue I spend more time on ... The biggest issue we have is a growing economy which has created this pressure. We also have a problem in relation to the private rental sector because there is a small percentage of unscrupulous landlords."

Irish Independent

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