The Legal Stuff


The Lease

Any tenancy agreement you make with your landlord is valid in law whether it is made verbally or in writing. Written agreements are of benefit to both sides. Always read the lease carefully. Never sign a twelve-month lease if you only intend staying for the College year. If you break the lease you may be liable for damages as well as risk losing your deposit (unless you can find someone to take over the flat for you). Ask the Accommodation Advisory Service for advice.

Rent Book

Every tenant, paying for a house which includes an apartment, flat etc. is legally entitled to have a rent book supplied by the landlord. This applies to houses rented by private landlords as well as voluntary bodies, local authorities or employers, if a rent is payable.

Basically, a rent book is a record of rent and other payments made to the landlord. However by law, a rent book must also contain other information related to the tenancy. This information must include:

  • the name and address of the rented dwelling
  • b) the name and address of the landlord and his agent if any
  • c) the name of the tenant
  • d) the terms of tenancy, whether it be 6, 9 or twelve months or whatever.
  • e) the amount of rent and when and how it is to be paid
  • f) the particulars of any other payments to be made to the landlord for services e.g. heating or piped TV
  • g) the amount and purpose of any deposit paid and the conditions under which it will be refunded
  • h) an inventory of contents
  • i) a statement of information which informs the tenant of their rights
  • j) the date of commencement of tenancy

Your landlord must enter the details of tenancy in the rent book. Any changes to this agreement must be entered into the rent book within one month of the change (e.g. a direct increase) If you pay your rent money directly to your landlord (or his agent) your landlord must then either: a) record the payment and sign for it in your rent book or b) give you a signed receipt which contains full details of the payments.

If you pay by standing order or by bank giro, then your landlord must, within three months either: a) record and sign for the payment in the rent book or b) give you a written statement of the payment.

It is essential that you keep your rent book in safe place because you will need it if any dispute arises with your landlord. Rent books are prepared by Threshold and are available from all Threshold offices or the SU offices in House Six.

Deposits

Most landlords will demand a deposit of usually a month rent and is used as security against breaking the tenancy agreement. You may forfeit some or all of the deposit:

  • If you don’t give proper notice or you leave before the end of your tenancy (i.e. if you vanish mysteriously into the night at the end of the year).
  • For damage to the landlord’s property above normal wear and tear (i.e. if you have a wild party/carnival of the grotesque/drug-fuelled orgy and end up trashing the place).
  • For unpaid bills and rent.
If you do not get your full deposit back because of repairs or replacement of items, ask to see all the relevant receipts.

Rent Increase

Rent increase is a confusing subject, but it’s important to know your rights. If you’re living under a periodic tenancy agreement, your landlord can up the rent once every two years as long as he/she gives you four weeks’ notice. But if you have a written lease, your rent cannot be increased unless there’s provision in the agreement for it or there has been significant improvement to the property (new bathroom facilities for example). If your landlord tries it, tell him he’s breaking the law unless your contract allows it.

Insurance

It is up to you to insure your own belongings. However, this can be very expensive and it pays to shop around. Call into me in the SU Welfare Office for advice if you need it.

Privacy

Basically, this means you have the right not to be disturbed; your landlord is only allowed to enter with your permission. If the landlord needs to carry out repairs or to inspect the premises, it should be by prior arrangement. You are entitled to have overnight guests, unless specifically forbidden in the lease. (However this does not extend to another person moving in!)

Leaving a Property (Abdicating your Tenancy)

Under Irish law you are allowed to break the terms of your lease and leave the tenancy as long as you can find someone to move in to take your place. This is, however, done at the discretion of the landlord but if you have a reasonable relationship with them it is an option if you need to move out unexpectantly, are having roommate troubles or simply don’t like the place. The landlord can charge out of the deposit for any fees incurred through lost rent or re-advertising the property but shouldn’t keep the full deposit.

The Trinity Communications noticeboard is a good place to find someone to take over your tenancy. You can find this in the how do I find accommodation section.

Leaving a Property (Abdicating your Tenancy)

Under Irish law you are allowed to break the terms of your lease and leave the tenancy as long as you can find someone to move in to take your place. This is, however, done at the discretion of the landlord but if you have a reasonable relationship with them it is an option if you need to move out unexpectantly, are having roommate troubles or simply don’t like the place. The landlord can charge out of the deposit for any fees incurred through lost rent or re-advertising the property but shouldn’t keep the full deposit.

The Trinity Communications noticeboard is a good place to find someone to take over your tenancy. You can find this in the how do I find accommodation section.

Minimum Legal Standards

Since 1994 landlords have had a statutory duty to ensure that the accommodation that they rent complies with certain minimum physical standards. These standards are set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993.

In summary, they require a landlord to:

  • ensure that the house is in a proper state of structural repair.
  • provide a sink with hot and cold-water facilities in each dwelling.
  • provide toilet and bath or shower facilities in each dwelling.
  • provide toilet, bath or shower facilities, either in the flat itself or in a flat not more than one floor above or below the rented dwelling. Usually, there should be no more than two flats to each shower and toilet, but up
  • to four flats may share one toilet or bath/shower if each flat has only one tenant.
  • provide adequate means for heating, for installing cooking equipment and for storing food.
  • maintain installations for the supply of electricity or gas in good repair and safe working order.
  • provide proper ventilation and lighting to each room.
  • maintain common facilities for cooking, food storage, lighting and heating in good repair and safe working order.
  • maintain common sinks, toilets, baths and showers and other common areas in good repair and a clean condition.
  • provide a secure handrail for any common staircase.
The landlord is not responsible for anything the tenant is entitled to remove, or for repairing glass breakage in windows in any part of the building of which a tenant has exclusive use.

Issues with your Landlord

Getting kicked out

A landlord can remove a tenant for the following reasons:

1) If you do not comply with the obligations of the tenancy (http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/renting_a_home/if_your_landlord_wants_you_to_leave.html)

2) If the property is no longer suited to your needs (for example, if it is overcrowded)

3) If the landlord intends to sell the property within 3 months

or for the following specific purposes:

1) If the landlord needs the property for him/herself or for an immediate family member

2) If the landlord intends to refurbish the property substantially

3) If the landlord plans to change the business use of the property (for example, convert it to office use)

Unless you have security of tenure or a tenancy agreement that says otherwise a landlord can give you notice to leave at any time. Before 6 months living in a property your entitled to 28 days notice. After 6 months this is a 35 day notice period. This stretches to 42 days after 1 year and 56 days after 2 years.

This notice must be in writing. Once notice to quit has expired your tenancy is legally over. If you don’t have an appointed day and have not reached an agreement with your landlord then the landlord may go to court for an eviction order, which, if granted will be carried out by the sheriff. This could prove to be expensive for the tenant, as he/she might be liable for the landlord’s legal costs. An eviction by the landlord without a court order would however be unlawful and you should seek advice from the Students’ Union (either the Welfare Officer or Alan, the Employment and Accommodation Officer).

A landlord is prohibited from seizing a tenant’s goods as a means of enforcing payment of rent due on a premises let solely as a dwelling (Section 19 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992. In other words, a landlord cannot keep your stuff and sell it off if you owe them money. If you discover that your landlord had taken something it is theft, not payment in kind. Call into us and we’ll jump on them for it, or get in touch with the Free Legal Advice Centre at flac@csc.tcd.ie.

Last Resort

The small claims court deals with landlord disputes although you may want to seek advice from the Private Residential Tenancies Board for some free advice. You can reach them at O'Connell Bridge House, D'Olier Street, Dublin but are better calling their service line on 0818 30 30 37 between 9:00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday. Threshold are a housing charity who can also offer advice. You can find them at 21 Stoneybatter, Dublin or call (01) 678 6096. If all this fails contact the Welfare Officer or go through the small claims court. You can find procedures for the latter here:

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/justice/courts_system/small_claims_court.html

A few tricks and tips to help

If your landlord is not fulfilling his/her legal obligations with regards to minimum standards and a rentbook, they can be prosecuted and fined up to €1270 plus an additional €127 penalty for every day of a continuing offence. The local authority (the County Council or Dublin Corporation) is responsible for enforcing these legal requirements, so if you think that your landlord is breaking the law do get in touch with your local authority, or the Welfare Officer, or both.

Your landlord must also register you as a tenant within 30 days of your move in date. If they do not they could be subject to a hefty fine.

© Trinity College Dublin Students' Union 2017