The average asking price for rents fell slightly in the last three months of 2019, according to property site, but was more than 4% higher over the course of the year.

It is the first time average national rents have fallen on a quarterly basis since 2012 and leave prices 4.1% higher compared to the end of 2018.

Based on listings on the average national rent stood at €1,402 by the end of last year.

The website said rent asking prices rose in Dublin, Cork and Galway between September and December but fell elsewhere.

In Dublin the average was €2,052 - up 3.5% over the course of the entire year. The average sought in Cork was €1,386 - up 5.5%.

Galway saw the biggest percentage price rise, however, with a 5.6% gain to €1,309.

Meanwhile said there has been an increase in the number of homes listed for rent, albeit from a low base.

As of 1 February had 3,543 rental properties listed on its site - up 10% year-on-year.

It notes that while this continues a trend of growing supply, the number of rental homes on the market is still 80% lower than its 2009 peak.

"The increase in the supply is essential and a very positive development," said Stephen Faughnan, Irish Property Owners Association chairman.

"However, Rent Pressure Zones are a blunt instrument and do not take into account the level of rent being charged or the indebtedness of a landlord, making it uneconomical for some landlords to continue renting property."

"A Rent Freeze will not help the sector.  The State needs to protect the existing supply of accommodation by introducing a mechanism to increase rent where it is substantially below market rate, as well as incentivize further investment in the sector.  "