Tighten law on unruly tenants, say residents

A residents-led “landlord watchdog” has called on the housing minister to tighten proposed legislation designed to tackle antisocial behaviour in private rented housing.

The Cork University Area Residents Forum said a landmark case brought by a local residents’ association against a landlord last year highlighted several shortcomings in the proposed amendments to the Residential Tenancies Bill.

The Irish Examiner broke the story last December about how residents in a suburb of Cork City secured a historic judgment from the Private Residents Tenancies Board which sent shockwaves through the landlord community around the country.

In the case, the board ordered a landlord to pay almost €30,000 in damages to 13 residents in Bishopscourt, Cork, after his tenants subjected neighbours to persistent and serious anti-social behaviour.

The case was taken by the individual residents, who argued their cases as a group, and the award was one of the highest of its kind made by the board.

Following the landmark case, housing minister Jan O’Sullivan announced plans to propose two amendments to the Residential Tenancies Bill to make it easier for residents to bring similar cases to the PRTB.

The first amendment would allow residents’ associations and neighbourhood watch groups bring anti-social behaviour cases before the board.

The second would remove the requirement on a complainant to try and resolve an issue of anti-social behaviour with both the landlord and the tenant.

Ms O’Sullivan said that confronting a tenant, particularly one who is causing persistent distress in a community, can be an intimidating prospect.

“In the future, an individual or group will only have to show that they tried to resolve the issue with the landlord before lodging a case with the PRTB.”

Following a recent meeting of the university residents forum, Ms O’Sullivan has now been asked to consider several extra amendments, including directing the PRTB to appoint enforcement officers.

Forum spokesman Barry Keane described the PRTB’s current enforcement system — which relies on members of the public to report unregistered rental properties and non-compliant landlords —as “bizarre”.

“The Revenue Commissioners have always had an investigative branch; the TV license inspectors have always actively pursued non compliance but the PRTB does not actively investigate anyone,” Mr Keane said.

Ms O’Sullivan has forward the forum’s suggestions to her officials for consideration.

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