Threshold, the national housing organisation, welcomes the serious consideration being given by the Minister for Housing, Michael Finneran TD, to the issue of the illegal retention of deposits. However, the organisation believes that a deposit protection scheme – as advocated by Threshold earlier this year, and which would see deposits being held by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) for the duration of all tenancies – would be more effective in reducing the number of disputes than the introduction of fines for landlords, as proposed today.
Last year, Threshold helped over 3,000 tenants around the issue of deposits. While the Minister didn’t include a deposit protection scheme in the proposals announced today, Threshold welcomes the fact that further research is being conducted into the area of deposit retention. In other countries – such as Australia and the UK – such research has ultimately led to deposit protection schemes being introduced.
In relation to the non-payment of rent by tenants during a dispute process, Threshold believes rent arrears is a serious issue and that the first obligation of every tenant is to pay their rent. However, in Threshold’s experience, rent arrears often arise because of issues relating to the structure of the Rent Supplement scheme: a common reason why tenants fall into arrears during the dispute process is because their rent supplement payment is suspended by a Community Welfare Officer. The Rent Supplement scheme has not been reformed since the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act and today’s proposals highlight the need for this to be done, according to Threshold.
The organisation also welcomed the proposal to include voluntary and cooperative housing associations within the remit of the Residential Tenancies Act, saying this will put tenants of voluntary housing associations on the same footing as tenants in private rented accommodation, and will offer tenants recourse to the dispute resolution process of the PRTB.