Landlords brought to book with IT system
THOUSANDS of unregistered landlords are facing prosecution in a major crackdown.
The Irish Independent has learned that a new computer system that can cross-reference records held by the Department of Social Protection with those held by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) will become operational in the first weeks of January.
It will highlight any landlord whose tenants are in receipt of rent supplement payments -- but who has failed to register with the PRTB.
The records held by the PRTB are also passed on to Revenue to ensure that landlords are tax compliant.
Failure to comply with the law on registering with the board can result in fines of up to €3,000 and/or six-month imprisonment.
PRTB director Anne Marie Caulfield said that more than 14,000 enforcement letters have been sent to unregistered landlords since it was set up in 2004 -- and it expects there will be thousands more sent early in the New Year.
"Up until now we had to go through the records manually and we only have a permanent staff of 40," she said.
"The new system will do it for us now."
She said that those highlighted as being unregistered are sent a number of warning letters. The landlord then has to pay a late registration fee, which is double the standard €70 fee.
However, this is rising to €90 next year, meaning those who have failed to register will have to pay €180.
And if they fail to do so, criminal proceedings will be initiated against them.
The PRTB secured its first convictions in the district court last month, with further prosecutions pending.
William Buckley, of Cedarwood Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare, was fined €1,100 and had €2,129 in legal costs awarded against him.
Gavan Doyle, of Dalton Mews, Malahide, Co Dublin, was fined €3,000 for failing to register a tenancy in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Legal costs of €3,458 were awarded against him by the court.
Ms Caulfield said the PRTB has also seen a 300pc increase this year in the number of cases being brought to court to enforce orders they have made.
The PRTB presides over disputes between landlords and tenants and makes binding orders to the parties. Many of the cases relate to rent arrears and deposit retention.
Ms Caulfield advised any landlord who had not yet registered to do so.
"Do it now, because we will have the capacity to find unregistered landlords in a much more systematic fashion.
"If we then get to the stage of issuing a summons and instructing our counsel, we will pursue the prosecution."
To date they have initiated 147 criminal prosecutions and a further 62 civil prosecutions.
Dispute applications have also risen from 30 per week in 2008 to up to 50 per week this year.
A total of 106 appeals to their rulings were received in 2008 -- rising to 430 up to October this year.