Rental rights: Here’s everything tenants need to know

Information on deposits, standards, discrimination and rising rental prices

Never hand over the deposit until you have seen the property in person and  are happy with its standards. Photograph: iStock

Never hand over the deposit until you have seen the property in person and are happy with its standards. Photograph: iStock

 

What do you need to know when renting a new home? What rights do you have if your landlord tries to put up your rent? Who can you turn to for support if worried about losing your home? We’ve gone through the most important tips and pointers for those renting to help you feel secure and comfortable in your home.

What are the minimum standards I should expect when renting?

Your landlord has a legal duty to make sure your home is in a habitable state of repair. He/she must ensure that roofs, roofing tiles, slates, windows, floors, ceilings, walls, stairs, doors, skirting boards, tiles on any floor, ceiling and wall, gutters, down pipes, fittings, furnishings, gardens and common areas are in good condition.

Your landlord must also ensure the electricity or gas supplies are safe and in good repair and that every room has adequate ventilation with natural and artificial lighting.

Private landlords must provide tenants with a washing machine, a clothes-dryer if the home does not have a garden or yard, a 4-ring hob with oven and grill, a cooker hood or extractor fan, a fridge and freezer, microwave oven, adequate space for food storage, a sink with mains water supply, hot water and draining area.

As of July 2017, landlords must also ensure that windows located above a certain height are fitted with safety restrictions, that there is a permanently fixed heater in each bathroom/shower room and that all homes contain, where necessary, carbon monoxide detectors and alarms.

When should I hand over a deposit?

Never hand over the deposit until you have seen the property in person and you are happy with its standards. Housing charity Threshold warns that increasing numbers of people, who are desperate to find affordable housing, are transferring a month’s rent before actually visiting the property. The charity’s advice is to avoid paying until you are completely happy, not to pay in cash and always get a receipt. A deposit tends to be a month’s rent however there is no statutory limit on what the landlord can charge. Once you have agreed on the tenancy, the landlord must register with the Residential Tenancies Board within a month.

Can a landlord discriminate against me because of my age, gender or nationality?

In one word, no. Private rental accommodation is covered by the Equal Status Act meaning you cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, race, membership of the Traveller community, disability.

A landlord also cannot discriminate against you if you are paying rent through rent supplements or the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). This type of discrimination can be more indirect with landlords looking for additional information like employer references and additional money up-front. If you feel you are being discriminated against for one of the above reasons, contact Threshold or the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for more advice.

Can my landlord visit my home whenever he/she wants?

Your landlord is only allowed to enter your home with your permission. Your landlord should get in touch and make arrangements if he/she needs to carry out repairs or inspect the premises. You also are entitled to have your landlord’s contact information eg telephone number, email address, postal address.

Who covers the cost of repairs?

Your landlord. And if you pay for them, you should be reimbursed.

I’m renting a bed in a shared-room with three others and feel I’m being overcharged. I’m also worried about health and safety with so many people living in one apartment. What should I do?

Facebook has become the home of advertisements for shared-room options across Irish cities, with a number of groups offering young people, students and migrant workers the option of sharing a room for a slightly lower price than what you would pay for a private room. However, with anything between 2-12 people crammed into one room - sleeping in bunkbeds and without proper storage facilities - there are increasing fears that these overcrowded house shares could result in serious health and safety problems.

While landlords must adhere to minimum standards under housing regulations, a gap in legislation means there is no rule on how many people can occupy one property. Threshold Dublin manager Stephen Large warns that foreign students and migrant workers, who may not speak much English when they arrive in Ireland, are at particular risk of exploitation. “These apartments seem to be targeted at migrant workers and you’ve got situations where people are sharing beds on a shift routine with more than one person using a bed in a communal setting. This is a huge gap in our legislation and needs to be reformed before we have a serious issue.”

When must the landlord let me know if he/she wants me to leave?

This all depends on the type of tenancy you have agreed to and how long you have lived in the accommodation. Your landlord must always give you valid written notice when asking you to leave. If you have agreed to a fixed-term tenancy, the landlord usually cannot end the tenancy unless you are in breach of the contract.

During the first six months of your tenancy the landlord can ask you to leave without giving reason (unless you’re on a fixed-term tenancy) but must write to you with at least 28-days notice. Only seven days notice is required in the first six months if you have behaved anti-socially or caused serious damaged to the property.

A landlord cannot email or text you if he/she wants you to leave. The termination must be written and posted to your address or handed over in person.

I’m worried I might lose my home, who should I contact?

Tenants worried about housing security can contact the Threshold housing charity for free advice and help in applying for an increase in rent supplement.

What do I do if my landlord decides to put up my rent?

The first thing you need to do is find out whether you are living in a ‘rent-pressure zone’ or not. Tenants can type in their address in the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) website to find out whether their home is located in one of these areas where rents are rising and it is difficult to find housing.

In these ‘rent-pressure zones’, landlords are only allowed to increase rent by up to 4 per cent a year or 12 per cent over three years under the Government’s rent-control policy. All of Dublin, Cork city and some of its suburbs, areas of Galway city and parts of commuter counties around Dublin, such as Meath, Wicklow and Kildare, have been classified as rent-pressure zones.

If you are already in an existing tenancy, at least 24 months need to pass before your landlord can seek to increase the rent. He/she must give you 90 days notice, three comparable examples to show the increase is within market rent and must also show how the rent is calculated. As a tenant you have 90 days to dispute the rent increase and refer it to the RTB.