Boost for tenants with new scheme to protect deposits
TENANTS will find it easier to get their deposits back from landlords under a new system being introduced by the Government.
The withholding of deposits by landlords accounts for almost three-quarters of all complaints by tenants to the State's private rental watchdog.
The disputes are costing the Private Residential Tenancies Board almost €500,000 a year to resolve.
Among the options is having tenants pay their deposit to a middleman who would hand it back when they move out of their rented house or apartment.
If there is a disagreement over the condition of the house or missing items, the landlord and the tenants have to send photographs and lists of contents by post or email to a special dispute resolution panel.
Another option is to allow landlords to keep the deposits but pay a small premium to an insurance company.
This means that a tenant can get the deposit back from the insurance company if the landlord refuses to hand it over.
Both of these systems are in operation in England and have radically reduced the number of deposits being withheld unfairly by landlords.
Consultants hired by the Government are doing a cost-benefit analysis on the best type of deposit protection to bring in.
Junior housing minister Jan O'Sullivan said she was determined to introduce a new system to help ease the problem.
"I know so many cases of tenants who didn't get their deposits back. One of my own children didn't get their deposit back," she said.
Ms O'Sullivan said she would bring forward an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Bill that is currently before the Dail once the best system was identified.
Her aim is to have the new system in place by next year.
"There are some cases where landlords are quite justified in holding on to deposits. We want to ensure we get it right," she said.
The new deposit protection system should lessen the workload of the Private Residential Tenancies Board, which has a waiting list of up to eight months to decide cases, mainly because of the number of disputes over withheld deposits.
The bill will also scrap the €25 mediation fee for tenants and landlords to encourage more of them to resolve their disputes quickly rather than going to a full tribunal hearing.