Tenants who stop paying rent can live 'free' for 18 months
Tenants who stop paying the rent and play the system can effectively live in a property rent-free for up to a year-and-a-half, landlords have claimed.
They have criticised the system for dealing with problem tenants and the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), which regulates the sector.
A number of landlords, who inherited property or are renting out their home after moving back in with their parents, complained about delays in getting determinations from the PRTB, being left without rent but still having to pay mortgages, and tenants ignoring requests to pay arrears.
The PRTB was set up to replace the courts in disputes between landlords and tenants and operates on a quasi-judicial basis.
Margaret McCormick of the Irish Property Owners' Association said there was a growing problem of tenants building up rent arrears, with others engaged in anti-social behaviour but refusing to move out.
"If they don't pay your rent they can stay in the property for a year-and-a-half by playing the system and using the legislation. It is a nightmare for landlords as it protects the people who break the rules," she said,
The group, which has 5,000 landlord members, said the process of taking a case against a tenant refusing to pay rent is long and cumbersome, and subject to appeal. The whole process can take 18 months.
Even when the PRTB reaches a determination its order can only be enforced though the circuit court, she said.
"A landlord can do nothing until this process has been completed, and in the meantime forgoes rental payments, access to their dwelling and incurs ongoing costs associated with the dwelling."
She said landlords cannot force people out as the fine for an illegal eviction is €20,000.
Most landlords in Ireland own just one property, while around 475,000 people now rent, up 46pc since 2006.
Dublin-based landlord Ciara Kennedy said her tenant stopped paying the rent in May last year, leaving her to pay €11,000 in mortgage repayments in the meantime.
"I went through the usual channels of notifying her that she was in arrears. She didn't heed the notification to pay so I lodged a dispute with the PRTB," Ms Kennedy said.
She said the PRTB had done little to help her and she was still waiting for a determination.
A spokesman for the PRTB said: "The board takes very seriously the issue of non-compliance with its orders and since 2012 has referred some 900 cases to its legal advisers (Eversheds) for formal enforcement through the courts."
It has obtained in excess of 300 court orders to date, he added. Most of these orders relate to landlord cases for rent arrears. Another 30pc of cases were taken by tenants seeking the return of deposits.