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 disputes in residential tenancies and where to get help.
Most private residential tenancies are covered by the:
- Residential Tenancies Act 2004
- Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015
- Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016
- Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019
Housing associations are covered by the legislation above and come under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). Since 15 July 2019, student specific accommodation also comes under the remit of the RTB. All private residential tenancies, housing association tenancies and student accommodation tenancies should be registered with the RTB, which provides a dispute resolution service (see below).
COVID-19 and renting
From 27 March 2020, emergency measures were in place to protect tenants during the COVID-19 emergency period including a ban on evictions and rent increases.
On 2 August 2020, the ban on eviction notices and rent increases expired.
These measures have been replaced by new rental laws that protect tenants economically affected by COVID-19 and who are at risk of losing their tenancy. These provisions apply until 10 January 2021. The RTB has published a summary of the new rental laws (pdf) in effect since 2 August 2020. It explains who the new protections apply to and where to get help and advice if you are in rent arrears.
Under the new rules, landlords can now serve tenants with a notice of termination for the normal reasons but not for rent arrears caused by COVID-19. You can read more about who is considered economically affected by COVID-19 and the rules about termination of tenancy in our document on renting and COVID-19.
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 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, such as photographs or receipts for repairs. Keep a record of all contact 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 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. Any agreement reached with its help, or adjudicated by it, is legally binding on both parties. Landlords, tenants or other people 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 agreements that are not specified in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. You do not need legal representation when taking a case to the RTB.
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 increases to the RTB before the rent increase is due to take effect or within 28 days of receiving formal notice of the new rent (whichever is later)
- Disputes about rent to the RTB within 28 days of the tenancy ending
- Disputes about notices of termination to the RTB within 28 days of receiving the notice
How the process works
To read about how this process works during the COVID-19 emergency period, read our document Housing and COVID-19.
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 they do not want to 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. Since 4 June 2019 the RTB must publish 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.
Mediation means that an impartial mediator helps the parties come to an agreement together. Mediation can only go ahead if the RTB considers it to be 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
- 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 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.
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.
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 in the RTB’s FAQs on the dispute resolution process.
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
- 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 for 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.
Since 26 February 2018 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, including a set of FAQs.
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
- Does not register tenancies with the RTB and keep them up-to-date with changes to the rent
- 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
You can contact the RTB’s Investigations and Sanctions Information Helpline to discuss these concerns or make a formal complaint using the RTB Sanctions and Alleged Breach Complaint form (pdf).
These additional powers to investigate and sanction landlords were introduced under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act and commenced in July 2019.
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||€25|
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.
How to apply
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, or contact the RTB for an application for dispute resolution services (pdf).
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.
The RTB offers free training to landlords through its BetterLet: RTB Accredited Landlord training sessions (pdf) to help landlords manage their tenancies and keep up to date with the policy and legislative changes in the sector. Contact the RTB to find out more about upcoming training sessions.
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: