The number of disputes between landlords and tenants reported to the rental property watchdog increased sharply last year.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) said there was a 20% increase in the number of applications for dispute resolution during 2016.
A total of 4,837 cases were notified to the RTB — more than 800 more cases than in 2015. Almost 60% of all cases were initiated by tenants.
However, the RTB said the increase was in line with a similar rise in the overall number of registered tenancies in the Republic.
Damages were awarded in almost a quarter of all cases with the average awards to landlords last year at €763 and to tenants at €960.
The RTB also reported a “notable increase” in the number of disputes over rent reviews since the introduction of rent pressure zones at the end of December.
The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 introduced a cap of 4% on the annual increase in rents permitted in certain areas including Dublin and Cork as well as towns like Naas, Cobh and Maynooth.
It followed the introduction of separate legislation last year which restricted landlords to reviewing rents only once every 24 months while any increase must also reflect local market conditions.
Landlords must show rents for three comparable properties when giving notice of a rent review. The changes were introduced as a measure to provide greater rent certainty.
The RTB said rulings had been issued in 44 disputes over rent reviews last year with 77% of rent increases above the market rate being declared invalid.
In its latest annual report, the RTB said the most common types of dispute remained rent arrears and overholding followed by invalid notices of termination and deposit retention.
RTB chair Catriona Walsh said last year was one of the busiest years in the history of the RTB since it was established in 2004.
Ms Walsh said there had been a sizeable increase in the proportion of households in Ireland who were living in the rental properties.
It is estimated that 28% of the population now live in rental accommodation.
She said the RTB supported the development of a sector that people use “not just as a transition to home ownership but as a long term tenancy option” not least through the development of its Strategy for the Rental Sector completed last year.
The RTB estimates that 23% of tenants are now paying more than €1,300 per month in rent.
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