Our landlord is a very greedy person. We have been renting his house for two years. We sleep on old mattresses, only on springs. We do not have a refrigerator. For a whole year we lived without heating (the oil furnace did not work). At our own expense, we repaired the toilet and taps in the bathroom. At our own expense we changed the electric box (we lived for three weeks without electricity). We can’t shower normally since September 2019 (the shower in the bathroom is broken). Our landlord closes his eyes to everything. He has also raised the rent since January 2020.
If we tell him about the problems, he just says: "Leave." We have lived in such a hell for two years. We regularly pay rent, utilities, no debt. While we have not written to him, we have called. However, we have not received any help or justice. What should we do? We have been living and working in Ireland for 15 years. This is the first time we faced such a problem.
As the son of a foreign migrant who came to live in Ireland in the early 1960s, I was always conscious of the challenges he faced in adapting to the laws, customs and practices of a strange country. Dealing with new laws and customs when they are being observed can be challenging enough; when they are not being observed, as clearly appears to be the case here, is another matter entirely.
If everything you have described in the above is correct, then I regret to say you have encountered the unacceptable face of the private residential market. This landlord is conducting himself contrary to the legal and social norms one would expect from any landlord in this country.
He is in breach of the 2004 Tenancies Act and the Minimum Housing Standards as set out in the most recent housing Acts. Rather than cataloguing the rules and regulations he is in breach of, I will advise you on what you need to do to remedy the situation, while also taking this person to task and teaching them a valuable lesson.
You should proceed to the housing department of your local authority area and ask it to carry out an inspection to ensure the rented dwelling you reside in complies with minimum standards, as set out in the recent housing Acts. This is a detailed piece of legislation that has a much higher set of standards than for those living in an owner-occupied residence. I have no doubt there are multiple breaches of these standards where you reside. The department will serve a notice on the landlord, which he will legally have to comply with.
I would then proceed to contact Threshold, which is a tenants' rights organisation, and ask it to take the case on your behalf to the Residential Tenancies Board, setting out the difficulties you have encountered and seeking compensation.
The landlord is responsible not only for the maintenance of toilets, taps, shower, heating and so on, but also for ensuring repairs are carried out in a timely and safe manner. Please also note that if the rent was increased, you ought to have been served with a notice of rent review as set out in the 2004 Tenancies Act, amended in 2016. If you did not receive this notice you do not have to validly pay the increased rent. Given the landlord’s track record I suspect he did not serve a valid notice.
Currently we are in an extremely strange position, where all notices are suspended by the Government as a consequence of the coronavirus emergency measures. As a consequence, the landlord cannot serve notice to sell the property or to occupy it for himself or his family. During the current restrictions, landlords cannot serve tenants with notice to vacate if they default on their rent. However, I would advise you continue to pay your rent as it leaves you in a stronger position in a Residential Tenancies Board case.
While wider problems may arise due to issues with the temporary legislation, there are positives from your perspective in that it will afford you some breathing space and allow you to set these matters in train.
No tenant should accept this treatment from any landlord and I hope you are successful in remedying the situation as quickly as possible. I can assure you that even prior to the 2004 Tenancies Act, this was not the custom and practice of the vast majority of landlords I have encountered in more than 40 years in property management.
Kersten Mehl is a chartered residential agency surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie