Housing charity, Threshold, is calling for tenant rights to strengthened and ‘no fault’ evictions banned, following new research showing a “significant power imbalance” between landlords and tenants.
New research by Dr Michael Byrne from UCD and Dr Rachel McArdle from Maynooth University found that landlords have “considerable” power to terminate tenancies and that many tenants experience “retaliatory” behaviour if they challenge rent increases or other issues.
Based on the experiences of 24 tenants in Dublin, Cork and Galway, the ‘Security and Agency in the Irish private rental sector’ report identified a pattern of conflict between tenants and landlords that often shifts from a conflict trigger to a reaction from the landlord to crisis management.
Tenants, however, are often reluctant to speak up or bring a dispute to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) out of fear and uncertainty over how the landlord might respond and given the current rental market and housing crisis.
One-third of tenants surveyed said they experienced “retaliatory” or penalising actions from the landlord when issues were raised.
Half of all respondents had their tenancy terminated at some point and one-third had taken successful cases to the RTB.
During a homelessness and housing crisis and at a time when one in five homes are rented, Threshold said the Residential Tenancies Act must be reformed to provide greater protections to tenants.
Chairwoman of Threshold, Dr Aideen Hayden, said the Residential Tenancies Act is “too complex” and “inaccessible” to both tenants and landlords.
“The Act should be restructured to reflect the power imbalance in the landlord-tenant relationship, which emerges clearly from the research.
A major step towards achieving this would be to ban ‘no-fault’ evictions, which would increase security of tenure,” Dr Hayden said, adding that the “penalisation” of tenants should be investigated further to establish how widespread the practice is and how it is dealt with by the RTB’s resolution process.
Report author, Dr Michael Byrne, said recent policy changes, such as rent pressure zones, are “limited” in their impact and that it falls to tenants to identify breaches of legislation: “The legislative and market context of the private rental sector make tenants vulnerable, and that undermines the effectiveness of policy.”
* Threshold’s helpline is 1800 454 454 or threshold.ie/advice/help