I want to ask you about my situation. In September 2014 I signed a contract to rent a house through a letting agency. After two years the landlord took over direct management of the property and dealt with me directly.
Then late last year the daughter of the landlord took over management of the property. First she told me that she would like to increase the rent and afterward I got a text message from her mother (the owner) that she wanted to increase the rent from January. Now from what I understood they should have sent me some official letter about the increase.
Is that correct? Is she allowed to increase the rent? Also, my income has been affected by Covid-19 and that is another worry.
Your understanding that the landlord should send you an official letter on this proposed rental increase is completely correct. In relation to the person or company who manages the property on behalf of the landlord you should consider the following: if the daughter is receiving any kind of payment from her mother to manage the property then the daughter must hold a Property Services Regularly Authority (PSRA) licence. One should not assume that the daughter is doing the management in good faith on behalf of her mother. Of course, if the daughter is not receiving any payment then no such licence is required. It is something to bear in mind if several people are involved in the management of the property, as appears to be the case here.
Now moving on to the subject matter of the rental increase. The landlord, her daughter or even an agent cannot just randomly contact a tenant by text, email or phone call and just announce they are increasing the rent from the next month onwards.
The reason for this is that there are very strict rules that govern how and when a landlord can issue a formal rent review notice. You will be happy to hear that this is not just best practice but written into law and legislated for under section 22(2) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, making it an obligation of the landlord to serve a rent review notice and stating the amount of the new rent.
Rent review notice
The format of how this rent review notice should be set out is readily available on the RTB website, rtb.ie. In brief, the notice must contain all the details of the property and the tenancy such as the address of property, the landlord's name, tenant's name and so on. More importantly, the landlord must use the RTB rent calculator when arriving at the new rent and that can only be done 12 months after the last rent increase was done. The landlord must also give 90 days' notice on when the new, increased rent will start from.
Bearing in mind the other terms of the tenancy, the new rent cannot be greater than the letting values of properties of a similar size, type and character in the area.
The landlord also must provide examples of three comparable properties in the same location to support their view that the new rent is not in excess of the current open market rents. In some rare cases there are exceptions but from the information provided, these do not apply here.
If you believe that your formal rent review notice is not in the correct format or that the comparisons are unfair, you may make an application to the RTB. Alternatively, and this may be a better route to go down in the first instance, you could contact your landlord in a friendly manner and let them know about their obligations when increasing rent. You could also guide them to the RTB website so they can “update” themselves on this subject. This will allow them the opportunity to re-issue the notice and potentially save both parties the time and trouble involved in going through a formal RTB dispute resolution process. Of course, that avenue still remains an option should the informal route fail to workout.
Finally, you mentioned that your income has been affected by Covid-19. Has this affected your ability to pay rent? Are you falling into rent arrears? Part 3 (Residential Tenancies) of the Planning and Development, and Residential Tenancies, Act 2020 (PDRTA) was enacted on December 19th, 2020, to provide for temporary modifications to the operation of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. During the period from January 11th, 2021, up to and including April 12th, 2021, and subject to certain conditions, a 90-day (rather than the usual 28 days) termination notice period applies, where a tenant is in rent arrears due to Covid-19 and is at risk of losing their tenancy.
Although you may not have made the appropriate self-declaration by January 10th, 2021, you might qualify if you had discussions with your landlord on this matter before this date. I would strongly advise you to contact the RTB on this subject and also read the information on this new piece of legislation to see where you stand.
No matter what happens though, the landlord cannot terminate your tenancy straight away and must follow strict procedures on sending you warning notices to pay your rent arrears. My final advice is that if you are finding it difficult to pay rent, that you explore alternative payment arrangements with your landlord first, rather than going down the formal dispute route straightaway. – Marcus O'Connor
Marcus O'Connor is a chartered surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie