A Guide To Landlord/Tenant Disputes
Feb 07, 2022
Wherever there are people, there are disputes, including in the rental sector. Thankfully, with a little thought and planning, many can be avoided before they even begin. But when they can’t, it’s good to know there’s help available to get them resolved efficiently. In this article, we explore the options open to tenants and landlords when conflict occurs.
What kinds of disputes might arise during a tenancy?
As in any relationship, a range of issues that can cause friction between tenants and landlords. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) includes a detailed list of potential problems on page 36 of their Good Landlord Tenant Guide. As you will see in later sections of this article, the RTB can help with dispute resolution; the dispute types in the guide are those which can be referred to the RTB.
Typically, disputes arise because of issues associated with:
The termination of a lease
Non-compliance with the tenancy agreement
How can I prevent disputes during a tenancy?
The most important thing is for both landlords and tenants to be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
For example, a landlord has the right to end a tenancy in the first six months without reason. However, they have the responsibility to return a tenant’s deposit when they are leaving the property (unless it is withheld for lawful reasons). A tenant has the right to be told about any rent increase, but they have a responsibility to pay their rent in full and on time.
Full details about rights and responsibilities can be found on pages 9-17 of the Good Landlord Tenant Guide.
It’s also vital to make sure that a clear tenancy agreement is in place. While these can be verbal or written, a written one is always a wiser choice. This should include:
Details about how much rent is to be paid and when
Rights and responsibilities of everyone involved
A statement about who pays the household bills such as electricity, internet, etc.
Any other relevant conditions not covered by law. For example, are pets allowed in the property?
It’s good practice to keep lines of communication open and to keep detailed written records of property discussions.
If you’re a tenant, always ask for permission to do anything that may infringe on the lease, for example getting a new pet or making any home improvements. Make sure to notify your landlord of any problems with the property as soon as possible.
If you’re a landlord, it’s important to provide written receipts for the deposit and all rent payments. Keep the rent book up to date at all times. Check in regularly with your tenant (the RTB recommends every three months) and keep written, signed and dated records of any problems and the solutions.
It’s a good idea for both parties to sign a detailed inventory of the property at the start of the lease. This process could include taking photographs or a video of the condition of the property before the tenant moves in.
What’s the first thing I should do if a dispute arises?
Ideally, disputes are resolved personally between the parties. If both sides respect the tenancy agreement and are clear about rights and responsibilities, this should be straightforward.
Arrange a time to talk that suits everyone and discuss the issues calmly and respectfully. The RTB, Threshold (Ireland’s housing charity) and Citizens Information have many useful articles and resources about a range of tenancy topics. You can refer to these if you need clarity about a particular issue.
If you think some extra help would be useful at this stage, contact Threshold. They may be able to provide support for the process.
As always, make sure to keep written records of your conversations.
What should I do if we can’t resolve a dispute ourselves?
Naturally, there will be times when discussions fail. In this situation, the RTB Disputes Resolutions Services can help. Since 2004, they have largely replaced the need to go to court with tenancy disputes.
Nonetheless, going down this route can be a big decision. For this reason, the RTB has a list of questions you should ask yourself before applying for dispute resolution.
To begin with, two different options are available: mediation and adjudication. You can find out more about each of these processes below. If the chosen process is unsuccessful, the landlord or tenant can choose to appeal through a Tenancy Tribunal.
If you are a landlord, please note that you must have registered the tenancy with the RTB before you apply for these services.
If you are a tenant, please note that the RTB cannot help resolve disputes if you are:
A tenant in local authority housing
Living with your landlord by renting a room from them
The spouse, child or parent of the landlord (without a written tenancy agreement)
Renting the property short-term for a holiday
What happens at mediation?
Mediation is a free service, facilitated by an independent mediator. On a telephone call, the mediator talks to each person individually. It’s hoped that these discussions will lead to an agreement.
Once agreement is reached, a ten-day cooling-off period begins. If everyone is still content with the details after that, the agreement is used as the basis for a legally-binding Determination Order. This explains the outcome of the mediation and clarifies exactly what each party needs to do next.
An important benefit of mediation is that it is confidential. Details of mediation outcomes are not published online (whereas Adjudication outcomes are).
You can read more about the mediation process here.
What happens at Adjudication?
Adjudication is a formal, evidence-based investigation. You can expect witnesses to be used in the process.
After considering all the evidence, the adjudicator makes a decision. This decision results in a legally-binding Determination Order. The order outlines the decision reached and clarifies exactly what each party needs to do next.
It’s important to be aware that Adjudication is not completely confidential; the Determination Order will be published on the RTB’s website. This will list the names of the parties involved and the address of the property.
There is a €15 charge to apply for Adjudication. You can read more about the process here.
What happens if mediation or Adjudication don’t work?
Either party has the right to appeal to a Tenancy Tribunal if they are unhappy. The cost to appeal is €85 and you can apply via a downloadable application form.
You have a limited window of 10 days in which to appeal. Detailed information about how this is calculated is included at the beginning of the form.
What happens at a Tenancy Tribunal?
A Tenancy Tribunal usually involves a full rehearing of the issue and both sides will be able to present their points of view again.
A tribunal is made up of either 1 or 3 people and the end decision is based on the information given that day.
Tribunal hearings are quite informal. You can choose to have someone to represent you, but it’s not a requirement or necessary. You can also choose to have a relative, friend or colleague come along for support.
As in the other processes, a Determination Order is issued once a final decision has been made.
You can find out more about Tenancy Tribunals here.
Where Can I Find Out More?
The best place to explore this topic in more depth is on the RTB’s Dispute Resolution page. It gives a clear overview of the entire process as well as in-depth information about each stage
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