Resolving disputes between landlords and tenants
In many cases, disputes between landlords and tenants can be resolved informally between both parties. However, sometimes a third party is needed to hear both sides and recommend a resolution. This document outlines how to deal with such disputes in residential tenancies and where to get help.
Most private residential tenancies are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015. All such tenancies should be registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), which provides a dispute resolution service (see below). With effect from 7 April 2016, housing associations are covered by the legislation and come under the remit of the RTB.
Dealing with disputes
If a dispute arises between you and your landlord, you can first try to resolve it between you. If your landlord is a housing association, you should use its complaints procedure.
Make sure that you are aware of your rights and obligations, that you know what you want to say and that your facts are correct. It may be useful to write to your landlord giving details of your complaints and providing any evidence needed to back up your points, such as photographs or receipts for repairs. Keep a record of all contacts between yourself and your landlord, including copies of all correspondence and documents.
If you cannot resolve the dispute in this way, you may need outside help.
- For any problems with your tenancy, you can contact Threshold, the national housing charity, which provides information and advice to people in private rented housing
- If your dispute is about your home not meeting minimum physical standards, you can complain to the Environmental Health Service of your local authority, which is responsible for ensuring that private rented accommodation meets these standards
- If your dispute is about the landlord’s failure to give you a rent book, receipts or statements of rent paid, you can complain to the housing department of your local authority, which is responsible for enforcing the regulations on rent books
- If your dispute still cannot be resolved, you may decide to take your case to the RTB
The RTB's dispute resolution service
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) offers a dispute resolution service to landlords (now including housing associations) and tenants. Any agreement reached with its help, or adjudicated by it, is legally binding on both parties. Landlords, tenants or other parties who have been directly affected, such as neighbours, can initiate the process. Landlords must be registered with the RTB to use the service but tenants can use it even if their landlord has not registered the tenancy.
The service covers disputes about deposits, lease terms, termination of tenancies, rent arrears, market rents, complaints by neighbours, breaches of statutory obligations by either landlord or tenant and any other matters related to the tenancy. It can also deal with disputes about terms of a lease or other tenancy agreement that are not specified in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. You do not need legal representation when taking a case to the RTB.
Certain types of dispute have defined limited periods. The RTB may extend these limits in exceptional circumstances.
- You must refer any dispute about rent increases to the RTB before the rent increase is due to take effect or within 28 days after receiving formal notice of the new rent (whichever is later)
- You cannot refer disputes about rent more than 28 days after the tenancy has terminated
- You must refer disputes about notices of termination within 28 days of receipt of the notice
How the process works
There are 2 stages to the RTB’s dispute resolution process. Stage 1 is confidential mediation or adjudication. The parties (landlord and tenant) can decide which method they prefer. If the parties do not wish to accept the mediator’s or adjudicator’s decision, the dispute can be appealed to the Stage 2, which is a public hearing by a 3-person Tenancy Tribunal. This appeal must be made within 21 days.
A mediated agreement or the decision by an adjudicator or the Tribunal results in a determination order from the RTB. Determination orders are enforced through the Circuit Court. You can appeal a Tribunal decision to the High Court, but only on a point of law.
Mediation means that an impartial mediator helps the parties to come to an agreement together. It can only go ahead if the RTB considers it to be the most appropriate means of resolving the dispute and if both parties agree to it. You can opt for face-to-face mediation or fast-track telephone mediation.
- In telephone mediation, the mediator contacts each side individually in a series of telephone calls
- For face-to-face mediation, the mediator arranges a private hearing, where each party can state their case and present any supporting evidence
The mediator aims to help both sides to reach a resolution that is acceptable to everyone. A report of the mediation is sent to each side, along with a letter of acceptance and a letter of rejection of the proposed agreement. There is a cooling-off period of 21 days, after which the parties must return either the acceptance letter or the rejection letter to the RTB. If both accept the mediation agreement, it becomes a legally binding determination order of the RTB.
If the two parties do not agree to the mediation process, or if the RTB decides that mediation is not the best option, the case goes to adjudication. This means that an adjudicator makes a decision, which may or may not reflect any agreement reached between the parties. The parties then decide whether they are willing to accept this decision.
The adjudicator is appointed to investigate the case fully. Based on the evidence and witnesses of the two parties, the adjudicator decides how the dispute is to be resolved. In some cases, a paper-based assessment process is used.
As with the mediation process, the adjudicator's report is sent to both parties, along with letters of acceptance and rejection, one of which must be filled out and returned to the RTB within 21 days. If both accept the adjudication decision, it becomes a legally binding determination order of the RTB.
Read more in the RTB’s FAQs on dispute resolution.
The Tenancy Tribunal is the second stage of the RTB's dispute resolution service. A dispute can be referred to the Tenancy Tribunal for any of the following reasons:
- If an agreement cannot be reached using mediation
- If either party wants to appeal an adjudicator's decision within 21 days
- If any of the parties request a Tribunal hearing
- If the RTB refers the dispute directly to the Tribunal, for example, where there appears to be imminent risk of damage to the property or danger to the parties involved
If your case is to go before the Tribunal, the RTB will notify you in writing. This letter tells you the date, time and venue of the hearing and gives an outline of the dispute and of the procedures that will be adopted at the hearing.
The decision of the Tenancy Tribunal is issued to all parties as a determination order of the RTB and is legally binding. You can view determination orders on the RTB website. Tribunal decisions can only be appealed to the High Court on a point of law and the appeal must be lodged within 21 days.
Read more in the RTB’s Tribunal FAQs.
The Circuit Court is responsible for the enforcement of RTB Determination Orders. If any of the parties do not comply with a determination order, they can be reported to the RTB, which can apply for a Circuit Court Order directing them to comply. You can also apply to the Circuit Court directly if you are affected by someone's failure to comply with an order. Read more about enforcement of orders, including a set of FAQs.
Fees for applying to the RTB are as follows:
|Dispute resolution by mediation||No charge||No charge|
|Dispute resolution by adjudication||€15||€25|
If you get legal representation for an appearance before the Tenancy Tribunal, you must pay for it yourself.
Threshold’s services are free of charge.
How to apply
Threshold’s leaflet Resolving
problems during your tenancy (pdf) covers many of the issues that may
arise. The RTB publishes a checklist
for tenants on how to prevent disputes, along with a similar checklist
To report a failure to comply with a Determination Order, either contact the RTB or apply directly to the Circuit Court.
For information and advice about problems with your tenancy, contact Threshold in the following ways: