The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has apologized to landlords and letting agents for any inconvenience caused during the introduction of a new rental registration software system over the past few months.
However, the board expressed confidence that the system is fit for purpose and will accommodate the significant increase in activity that annual registration requirements will introduce.
It follows complaints from rental property owners and their agents about the ongoing challenges they face when interacting with the system, which went live in November 2021.
Landlords and agents say they had problems registering on the site, transferring or linking existing rental records from the old system to the new one.
They now face the threat of late registration fees from August, despite the difficulties they face.
They also complained about technical issues with the new portal and the quality of customer service offered by RTB, with reports of delays in getting responses by phone, web chat and email.
“There have been a huge number of complaints about it,” said Margaret McCormick, information officer at the Irish Property Owners’ Association (IPOA).
“It was extremely difficult, with a number of difficulties,” she added,
The IPOA recently wrote to the RTB registering a complaint on behalf of its members about the issues and subsequently met with the board to raise their concerns.
The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Appraisers (IPAV) said its members had also experienced significant problems with the new systems.
He said he has set up a working group with the RTB to try to address the concerns and that progress has been made.
The challenges were compounded by the introduction on April 4 of a new requirement for landlords to register rentals each year, within a month of the anniversary of their entry into force.
From August 4, any rental not registered within this time will be subject to a fine of €10 for each month not registered.
Ms McCormick said those fines should be suspended until the challenges of the new system have been resolved.
“We need to fix the starter issues,” she said.
In a lengthy statement in response to a series of questions submitted by RTÉ News, the RTB said it was fully aware that some customers were having problems with the new rental management system.
“We realize that change and transition can be difficult, and we are committed to working collaboratively and constructively with landlords and rental agents using the new registration system,” he said. .
He said the new system is designed to bring greater robustness to the verification of rental data and the integrity of this data and is a significant step forward from the old system.
The RTB added that further updates to the system, built by an external vendor at a cost to date of 7.3 million euros, which will address particular issues faced by customers are planned.
The board said it’s experiencing a high volume of customer communications due to the additional one-time account verification steps needed to ensure it doesn’t have multiple accounts for one person.
He said the verification process was working but customers were presenting information that did not match information held by the Department of Social Welfare.
“RTB is addressing the current staff turnover issues with our customer service provider and we are actively hiring new staff on the account – we are confident that we will see improvements in this area during the month of June,” he said. he declares.
It also created additional online resources to help owners through the new processes and implemented a data link service to help customers connect rentals that are on the old system with the new one.
He added that he would continue to waive late fees or refund fees, if incurred due to technical issues or difficulties in getting in touch with the RTB.
But the IPAV has agreed with the IPOA that the introduction of fines for late registrations must be postponed until at least January next year.
IPAV CEO Pat Davitt said that if this did not happen, the agents would be hit with the penalties incurred through no fault of their own and could not pass them on to their landlord clients.
In February, the Comptroller and Auditor General told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee that the original budget for the project was £3.2 million.
Confirming that the cost had now more than doubled to €7.3 million, the RTB said this figure includes additional costs resulting from subsequent legislative changes and necessary security reviews as a result of the HSE cyberattack.
But it doesn’t include all of the planned features that were originally meant to be included in the original contract price, he added.