Resolving disputes between landlords and tenants
Disputes between landlords and tenants can often be resolved informally between the people involved. However, sometimes a third party is needed to hear both sides and recommend a resolution. This page outlines how to deal with disputes in residential tenancies, and where to get help.
Most private residential tenancies are covered by residential tenancies legislation. Approved housing bodies and student specific accommodation are covered by the legislation and come under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). All private residential tenancies, housing association tenancies and student accommodation tenancies should be registered every year with the RTB. The RTB provides a dispute resolution service.
Dealing with disputes
If there is a dispute between you and your landlord, you should first try to resolve it yourselves. If your landlord is an approved housing body, you should use its complaints procedure.
Make sure that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities 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, such as photographs or receipts for repairs. Keep a record of all contact between you 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. Threshold provides free, independent, confidential advice to anyone in Ireland with tenancy problems.
- 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 it to the RTB which has a dispute resolution service
RTB's dispute resolution service
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) offers a dispute resolution service to landlords and tenants. Most of the process is online, with the majority of hearings held virtually and mediation often completed by phone. Any agreement reached with its help, or adjudicated by it, is legally binding. Landlords, tenants or other people who have been directly affected, such as neighbours, can begin 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 agreements that are not specified in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. You do not need legal representation when taking a case to the RTB.
Since, 27 October 2022 the default process for dispute resolution is mediation. This means that the RTB now prioritises resolving disputes through its mediation service.
Time limits for referring disputes to the RTB
Certain types of dispute should be referred to the RTB within a set timeframe. You must refer:
- Disputes about rent to the RTB within 28 days of the tenancy ending
- Disputes about notices of termination to the RTB within 90 days of receiving the notice, as long as you have kept your tenant’s obligations. If you have broken these obligations the notice period is 28 days.
- Disputes about rent increases to the RTB either:
- Before the rent increase is due to take effect (you must get at least 90 days’ notice of a rent increase)
- Within 28 days of receiving formal notice of the new rent (whichever is later)
The RTB may extend these limits in exceptional circumstances.
How the process works
There are 2 stages to the RTB’s dispute resolution process:
- Stage 1 is confidential mediation or adjudication. The landlord and tenant can decide which method they prefer. If either side does not accept the mediator’s or adjudicator’s decision, the dispute can be appealed to Stage 2.
- Stage 2 is a public hearing by a 3-person Tenancy Tribunal. This appeal must be made within 10 days of the mediator’s or adjudicator’s decision.
When a mediated agreement is reached, or the adjudicator or Tribunal make a decision, the RTB issues a determination order. A determination order gives the outcome of the case and details the conditions that each party must meet, and by when. The RTB publishes all determination orders. Determination orders are enforced through the District Court. You can appeal a Tribunal decision to the High Court, but only on a point of law.
If a determination order states that a tenancy should end between 30 October 2022 and 31 March 2023, the tenancy termination date will be postponed until April at the earliest. This is because an eviction ban was in place at this time.
Mediation means that an impartial mediator helps the parties come to an agreement together. Mediation can only go ahead if the RTB thinks it is the most appropriate way to resolve the dispute and if both parties agree to it. You can opt for face-to-face mediation or telephone mediation.
- In telephone mediation, the mediator contacts each side individually in a series of telephone calls. You will not have to speak to the other person involved in the dispute.
- In face-to-face mediation, the mediator arranges a private hearing, where each party can state their case
You do not need evidence for the mediation process. You submit a Mediation Position Statement outlining:
- What you hope to get from the mediation process
- The issues you feel have prevented the issue from being resolved so far
You can also send documents that highlight these issues. The mediator uses your statement and documents to understand what is important to you in the dispute.
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 letters accepting or rejecting the proposed agreement. There is a cooling-off period of 10 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. The RTB does not publish the outcome of mediated cases. Find out more about the mediation process on the RTB’s website.
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 if they are willing to accept this decision.
Adjudication hearings are held online, but you can request a face-to-face hearing. The RTB’s Guide to Virtual Dispute Resolution Hearings has useful information about the online process.
An adjudicator is appointed to investigate the case fully. You can send documentary evidence to support your claim to the RTB. This should be sent at least 5 days before your hearing. The RTB’s Guide to Evidence has useful information about types of evidence and how to submit them.
At the hearing both parties will have a chance to present their side of the dispute using the documentary evidence they sent. Based on the evidence of the two parties, the adjudicator decides how the dispute is to be resolved. The adjudicator's report is sent to both parties in the case, along with letters of acceptance and rejection, one of which must be filled out and returned to the RTB within 10 days. If both parties accept the adjudication decision, it becomes a legally binding determination order of the RTB. Read more about the RTB’s ajudication services and how they work.
The Tenancy Tribunal is the second stage of the RTB's dispute resolution service. The Tribunal is made up of 3 people from the RTB’s Dispute Resolution Committee. 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
- 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 be heard by the Tribunal, the RTB will notify you at least 21 days before the hearing. They will tell you the date, time and purpose of the hearing. You can submit additional evidence about your case to the RTB before the Tribunal hearing.
Tenancy Tribunal hearings are mainly held online. However, the RTB can schedule face-to-face hearings, if needed. At the hearing you will have the chance to present your case. The hearing is not formal and you can have a family member or friend with you, if you like. Legal representation is not needed at hearings, but you can arrange to have it if you want. Tenancy Tribunal hearings are open to the public and the RTB has Guidelines for Members of the Public Attending a Hearing. The RTB also has information on Tribunal Procedures, as well as a Guide to Virtual Dispute Resolution Hearings to help you with the process.
The Tribunal will hear your dispute and make a decision on it based on the evidence. 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 about making an appeal to a Tenancy Tribunal on the RTB website.
Enforcement of determination orders
The District Court is responsible for the enforcement of RTB determination orders (previously this work was done by the Circuit Court). If any of the parties do not comply with a determination order, they can be reported to the RTB, which can apply for a District Court Order directing them to comply. You can also apply to the District Court directly if you are affected by someone's failure to comply with an order. Read more about enforcement of orders.
Investigations and sanctions
If you do not want to want to go through the RTB’s dispute resolution process, but want to report an issue about a landlord breaking residential tenancies legislation, you can contact the RTB who will investigate certain issues and sanction the landlord if necessary. The RTB will investigate if a landlord:
- Does not comply with Rent Pressure Zone rules - including rules about rent increases in RPZ’s and RPZ exemptions
- Does not register tenancies with the RTB within 1 month of the tenancy beginning
- Does not notify the RTB of changes to a tenancy within a month of the changes taking effect. For example changes to the rent and tenant details.
- Does not offer a tenancy back to a tenant if the property becomes available to rent again, and the tenant was originally asked to leave the property because the landlord was selling the property, changing its use, substantially refurbishing it, or because they needed it for themselves or an immediate family member
- Provides false or misleading reasons for terminating a tenancy
- Looks for a deposit and advance payment of more than 2 month’s rent
You can contact the RTB’s Investigations and Sanctions Information Unit on 0818 776297 to discuss your concerns about a landlord who is not complying with these rules, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can make a formal complaint about the landlord using the RTB Sanctions and Alleged Breach Complaint form (pdf).
If you email or phone the Investigations and Sanctions Unit, your name will not be given to the landlord, and you will not receive any updates from the RTB about your issue. However, if you make a formal complaint this will be sent to the landlord with your name, and the RTB will also keep you updated about the investigation. Find out more about the investigations process on the RTB website.
The RTB has information on the differences between the dispute resolution process and the complaints process, if you are unsure about which way to resolve your issue.
These additional powers to investigate and sanction landlords were introduced under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act and commenced in July 2019.
How much do dispute resolution services cost?
Fees for submitting an application to the RTB for dispute resolution are:
|Dispute resolution by mediation||No charge||No charge|
|Dispute resolution by adjudication||€15||€30|
|Appealing a mediated outcome to the Tribunal||€30||€30|
|Appealing an adjudicated decision to the Tribunal||€85||€85|
You do not have to have legal representation at a Tenancy Tribunal. However, if you choose to get legal representation, you must pay for this yourself.
Threshold’s services are free of charge.
How to apply to the RTB to resolve a dispute
The RTB replaces the courts in dealing with the majority of disputes between landlords and tenants. The RTB provides full information on the dispute resolution process.
You can apply online for the RTB’s dispute resolution services. Or, you can download an application form and email or post it to the RTB. Use the mediation application form if you want to resolve your dispute by mediation, or the adjudication application form if you want your case adjudicated.
If you are appealing your case to the Tribunal, you must complete an appeal application form. Use the mediation appeal form if you are appealing the outcome of a mediation and the adjudication appeal form if you are appealing an adjudicated decision. Post the completed form back to the RTB, or email it to email@example.com.
Further information and contacts
Threshold’s website provides information on dealing with problems during your tenancy. The RTB publishes the Good Landlord/Tenant Guide, which has information on how to prevent and deal with disputes.
To report a failure to comply with a determination order, either contact the RTB or apply directly to the District Court.
For information and advice about problems with your tenancy, contact Threshold in the following ways: