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The government needs to change the rules so that renters whose tenancies aren’t registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) can still claim the renters’ tax credit, a company specialising in tax rebates has said.
Thousands of tenants could be losing out on the rent credit of €500 a year due to the “unfair” landlord registration rule, says Marian Ryan, business development manager with Taxback.com.
The issue arises fairly often for clients, says Ryan. “The main problem they are experiencing is that the landlord simply refuses to register with the RTB and the tenants are afraid to report them … out of fear of losing their rental property.”
Taxback.com cannot process claims for the credit from unregistered tenants, she says, because the legislation explicitly states that the tenancy must be registered with the RTB, unless it is a licence to rent a room in the landlord’s own home.
The RTB website says that tenants don’t need to have an RTB registration number to claim the credit, as long as they have tried to get it.
But a spokesperson for the Revenue Commissioners says that while the tenant doesn’t need the RTB registration number to claim the tax credit, they must be living in a registered tenancy.
If the Revenue Commissioners come looking for it later, the tenant will need to produce the registration number, says the spokesperson. “Any credit already given may be withdrawn if they are still unable to provide the number at that stage.”
The RTB spokesperson says that there is no confusion about the need for the tenancy to be registered. “The RTB has also proactively engaged with the Revenue Commissioners to ensure that messaging to the public from both organisations is clear.”
Rory Hearne, a lecturer in social policy at Maynooth University, says it doesn’t seem fair that tenants are effectively being punished because their landlord refuses to register their tenancy.
“Proof of rental payment should qualify the tenant,” he says. “They shouldn’t suffer for their landlord’s failure to comply.”
A Buggy System
A spokesperson for the RTB says that tenants can proceed with their claims for the renter tax credit if they don’t have their RTB registration number.
But at the moment, it can be hard for renters to know whether their tenancies are registered or not.
Some tenancies that were previously registered are currently not showing up as registered online as landlords trying to re-register tenancies have battled with the RTB’s new online system.
The RTB first apologised to users trying to register tenancies in July last year and then in September it said it had technical difficulties.
In November it said it would temporarily pause the late fees it charges those who have not registered tenancies, and in December it suspended late fees “in recognition of the genuine difficulties among its user community”.
Roger Berkeley, an estate agent with Berkeley and Associates in Ballyfermot, says that they first encountered problems trying to register tenancies on the RTB’s new system last July. “We’ve had horrendous problems with it,” he says.
It took almost a year to register one property. Applications had to be done by hand, he says, because the online portal wasn’t accepting them and when you call the RTB it takes around an hour to get through, he says.
In the last few weeks, Berkeley says the service has improved for him at least. He has managed to register most of his tenancies now, he says. “As of two weeks ago, it seems to be improving.”
What is Being Counted?
As of 16 March, almost 180,000 people have claimed the rent tax relief for 2022, according to data from the Revenue Commissioners.
Nobody knows how many people are private renters in Ireland. The RTB publishes data on the number of registered tenancies, each year in its annual report.
But it estimated the data for 2021 because it says that figures included some tenancies that had ended but the landlord had not informed the RTB.
The RTB estimated that there were 276,223 tenancies in 2021. The number has dropped each year since 2017, when there were 313,002 registered tenancies.
“It is important to note that the overall tenancy register is working correctly,” says a spokesperson for the RTB.
“The specific data issue relates to the RTB not being informed by landlords about tenancies that have come to an end, which has resulted in possible inactive tenancies remaining on the register,” they said.
“This has caused an artificial increase in the number of private tenancies,” he says.
A spokesperson for the Central Statistics Office said that its census data for housing, which will include the number of renters in Ireland, will be published on 27 July.
Catherine Clancy, chairperson of a residents’ group in Cork, said the accuracy of tenancy figures have been in question long before the current bugs with the registration system.
The Magazine Road and Surrounding Areas Residents Association has used local information to work out that around a third of rental homes in its area are not registered with the RTB, says Clancy.
Members of the association identified which homes on their own streets were rental homes, she says. The association then collated all of those addresses and one member checked all of the addresses on the RTB register, says Clancy.
Out of 300 rental homes identified by members, 99 of them didn’t appear on the RTB database.
This isn’t because of current issues with registrations, she says, they have been flagging this for years. “Out of those 99, 54 of those we have been consistently telling the RTB since 2017,” says Clancy.
The rental data that is being used by government and state agencies to plan and make policy is simply incorrect, she says, because there are a lot more renters living in tenancies that are not registered.
“It is very common,” says Clancy. “If you know people who rent properties they will tell you that they never registered.”
Informative article on renters rights..but again appears the vulnerable person/family is punished by our tax systems and on Budget Day Pascal &Co will be telling us how much money they have given to hard pressed renters! But will they give tax breaks to the same landlords.no doubt they will queue up to take them up..no fear of audits for them..Marian
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