New figures from the Residential Tenancies Board show that the annual growth rate in rents has remained below 2% for two consecutive quarters for the first time since late 2012. 

The Residential Tenancies Board's rent index for the third quarter of the year shows that on an annual basis, rents grew nationally by 1.4%, which is marginally lower than the growth rate in the second quarter. 

The annual national standardised average rent increased by €17 a month, increasing from €1,239 in the third quarter of last year to €1,256 in the third quarter of this year - the lowest national annual growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2012. 

The RTB said the county with the highest standardised average rent was Dublin at €1,758 a month, while the county with the lowest monthly rents was Leitrim at €600 a month. 

At the Local Electoral Area (LEA) level, the LEA with the highest standardised average rent was Stillorgan in Co Dublin (€2,319 a month) and the lowest was Carndonagh in Co Donegal (€498 a month). 

Eight counties had standardised average rents above €1,000 a month - Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, Louth, Meath, and Wicklow. 

This is the first time that standardised average rents in Limerick exceeded €1,000 a month. 

Today's figures show that the fastest growing rent in the third quarter of 2020, by county, was seen in Co Waterford with a growth rate of 7.9%. The county with the largest year-on-year decline in rents was Sligo, where rents fell by 6.5%. 

The RTB Rent Index is compiled in conjunction with the Economic and Social Research Institute.

It is based on actual rents paid on 25,193 private tenancies registered with the RTB in the quarter, which is made up of homes new to the rental sector, new tenancies in existing housing stock and renewals of existing tenancies. 

The RTB said the presence of public health restrictions on economic and social life in the second quarter of 2020 due to Covid-10 likely affected the balance of registrations between the second and third quarter as households may have put off registrations until the economy reopened in the third quarter.

Padraig McGoldrick, Interim Director of the RTB, said the effects of Covid-19 on the rental sector can be seen once again in the third quarter of this year.

Mr McGoldrick said there is an ongoing moderation in rental price growth which can be seen throughout the country, most notably in Dublin and the Greater Dublin Area. 

"We know Covid-19 has impacted both landlords and tenants and the RTB are working to support both by ensuring that information is available on new rental legislation and supports are available for those affected," Mr McGoldrick said. 

He said that further measures and the extension of temporary protections for those facing rent arrears have been introduced by Government.

"If rent arrears arise in a tenancy it can be a distressing and difficult time for both landlords and tenants - the RTB is working in collaboration with MABS to assist tenants in accessing their services. Free telephone mediation services are also available to assist in sustaining tenancies," he added.

He said the RTB continues to encourage those who are experiencing issues in their tenancies to visit the RTB website [www.rtb.ie] for information on how to resolve issues.