With a significant proportion of college students living in rental accommodation during the college year, it is crucial to have some awareness of the rights and responsibilities that come with a landlord/tenant relationship.
As young, often first-time renters, it can be easy to be taken advantage of when on the hunt for accommodation, which is why some knowledge of your rights is so important. Some of the most frequently arising issues which I am hoping to shed a little light on are issues of; contractual rights and obligations, issues of repair and maintenance and disputes surrounding rent and ejectments.
Contractual rights and obligations
The first thing to note is that the residential contract should be a lease and not a licence. A lease gives a proprietary interest which affords you the right to sole occupation and is enforceable against third parties, this effectively offers you more protection should a dispute arise. The courts recognise the imbalance of power in a residency agreement and will tend to respect the vulnerable party (the tenant).
Your starting point when it comes to legislation in this area is the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016. Part 2 of this act sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. This is available to view on irishstatutebook.ie and should be your first go to if you’re unsure what rights may be afforded to you, or what your obligations are as a tenant.
Section 12 contains a long list of the obligations of landlords which is very helpful to be familiar with should a dispute arise.
Repairs and maintenance
It seems to be a common issue for student renters to be unable to get their landlord to fix anything, be it broken heating or maybe an issue with a leak. While a tenant has an obligation not to act in such a way that would cause damage to the property (s.16(f)), the landlord has the obligation of ensuring that any damages arising by no fault of the tenant are repaired or replaced. (s.12(1)(b)(ii)).
Your landlord must at the very least maintain the property in the condition it was in at the time when the tenancy began. Aside from owing this obligation to you personally, under s.18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, your landlord has the legal obligation to ensure the structure complies with the standards set out in this act.
Rent and ejectment
With the price of rent skyrocketing in Dublin, this is the most common area of dispute for student renters. While a rent freeze is currently in place, here I will be laying out some of the more general concepts surrounding this issue.
Part 3 of the Residential Tenancies Acts deals with the issue of rent and the relevant rights for tenants. The most important thing to be aware of is that it is prohibited for a landlord to set the rent for a tenancy at an amount higher than the market rent for the tenancy at the time. What this means, effectively, is that landlords cannot create arbitrary rents, they must consider the market value at the time. The rent price can only be reviewed once in each 12-month period. (s.20(1)(a)) This protects you, as the tenant, from unexpected rent increases and no matter what the contract may state, this rule will apply regardless.
When it comes to ejectments, notice must be given by the landlord and the duration of the notice will depend on the duration of the tenancy. Grounds for termination are set out in s.34 of the Act and it is maintained that a landlord must have reasonable grounds for termination to occur.
While this does not even begin to cover the issues faced by student renters every day, hopefully, this has offered a good starting point on where you can find your rights, obligations and more information on the main issues above.
Louise Kennedy – Law Columnist