We Lose Millions to Landlords Each Year but Still Fail to Complete a List of Tenancies; My View; Ireland's Most Trusted Finance and Money Writer

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Byline: Colm Rapple

Landlords are required by law to register tenancies with the Private Residential Tenancies Board. But a quarter of them have never bothered.

Between them they own more than 70,000 houses and apartments. Many of them are, undoubtedly, avoiding income tax and, it can be safely assumed that most of them haven't paid the household charge. If they did, they'd run the risk of being prosecuted for not registering with the Tenancies Board.

It's a failure of monumental proportions that's costing the Exchequer significant revenue and must cast some doubt on Minister Phil Hogan's claims that the household charge will eventually be collected from all those liable.

The board must bear some of the blame but, by all accounts, it is underresourced.It can't staff a public office and only accepts phone calls up to 1pm each day. At last count it had a permanent staff of 25 with another 18 seconded from other departments.

Of course, its main role is handling tenancy disputes rather than compiling a register. But to have registered only two-thirds of tenancies in eight years is a failure.

It was also unfortunate enough to have signed a 20-year lease on two floors of Dublin's O'Connell Bridge House at the top of the market in 2007.

Last year it was revealed that 37% of landlords with tenants in receipt of social welfare rent supplement, were not registered. It is claimed that has now been reduced to 18%, thanks partly to more advanced computerisation of records and the fear instilled in errant landlords by the prospect of better communications with the Department of Social Protection.

It is, however, obviously still too high. Last year over [euro]500m was paid out in rent supplement and, on the basis of these latest figures, some [euro]90m of that goes to unregistered landlords who are unlikely to be declaring it for tax. And these are not the only landlords who are not registered.

At last count the Tenancies Board had 231,818 tenancies on its books while, according to the Census there are 305,377 households in private rented accommodation.So there are at least 73,000 tenancies unregistered. The figure could be significantly higher since there is no requirement on landlords to report the ending of a tenancy. The board's figures must include many lapsed tenancies.

Ironically, the Tenancies Board is constantly being mentioned as one of the sources of information on who owns what. …