Ultimate Guide to Renting Property in Ireland
When a tenant rents a property from a landlord, the terms governing that tenancy should be in writing and signed by both parties. The written tenancy agreement is known as a lease.
“Part 4” Tenancy
Part Four Tenancies are so called by means of reference to Part Four of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 which deals with security of tenure. You can view the Act by clicking on the above link. Once a tenant has been in situ for a continuous period of six months, they accrue security of tenure rights that mean they can only be served with notice to quit under certain circumstances, as prescribed in the Act. These circumstances are covered in more detail below.
Fixed Term Lease
A fixed term lease is, as the name suggests, a tenancy agreement that has a prescribed start and end date. It is worth noting however, that a Part Four tenancy runs alongside such a tenancy. For example, if a 12 month fixed term lease is signed with a tenant, they accrue Part Four rights after six months and so will not be obliged to vacate the property after 12 months, regardless of what the lease says.
A periodic lease / tenancy is one without a prescribed end date. The vast bulk of tenancies in Ireland are periodic i.e they have no predefined end date. The landlord can only terminate under certain circumstances. The tenant can terminate at any point but must give sufficient notice. The notice required to be given to the landlord from the tenant is outlined in the below table.
|Duration of a tenancy||Tenants notice periods|
|Less than 6 months||28 days|
|6+ months, but less than 1 year||35 days|
|1+ year,but less than 2 years||42 days|
|2+ years,but less than 4 years||56 days|
|4+ years,but less than 8 years||84 days|
|8+ years||112 days|
Security of Tenure
The Residential Tenancies Act gave tenants who have security of tenure the right to remain in the property for a period of four years. The Planning and Development (Housing) & Residential Tenancies Act 2016 extended this four year period to six years, as part of the Irish Government’s ongoing efforts to prioritise tenant rights over those of landlords. Tenancies created between December 24, 2016 and 10 June, 2022 will benefit from this six year period. From 10 June, 2022 tenants in situ for six months will be entitled to a tenancy of unlimited duration i.e. the tenant will be entitled to stay in the property indefinitely unless the landlord terminates for one of the permitted reasons.
The ongoing rebalancing of rights away from landlords in favour of tenants has led to an exodus of small, private landlords from the market. An argument could be made that by making the regulatory environment increasingly hostile for landlords, the government is in fact depriving tenants of much needed supply. Tenants would argue that these measures are long overdue and that landlords are well remunerated for their troubles in the form of high rents.
Bases on Which a Part Four Tenancy can be Terminated
Further details can be found in the Act itself but the reasons under which a Part Four tenancy can be terminated are as follows:
- 1. Tenant has failed to comply with his or her obligations under the tenancy e.g. rent arrears, anti-social behaviour.
- 2. The dwelling is no longer suited to the needs of the tenant & any persons residing with him or her.
- 3. The landlord intends to sell the property.
- 4. The landlord or a family member intends to live in the property.
- 5. The landlord intends to carry out substantial refurbishments of the dwelling.
- 6. The landlord intends to change the use of the dwelling.
The notice period that the landlord must give to the tenant is outlined in the below table.
|Duration of a tenancy||Landlord notice periods|
|Less than 6 months||28 days|
|Not less than 6 months, but less than one year||90 days|
|Not less than one year, but less than three years||120 days|
|Not less than three years, but less than seven years||180 days|
|Not less than seven years, but less than eight years||180 days|
|Not less than eight years||224 days|
License agreements are used typically in hotels, b&b’s and for situations when a lodger shares a house with its owner. In order for the license agreement to be valid, several criteria must be met:
- The licensee must not have exclusive access to the property.
- The licensor must have continuing access to the property.
- The licensor can move the licensee to another part of the premises e.g. from one hotel room to another or from one room in the house to another.
As license agreements do not come under the purview of the RTB or Part Four regulations, landlords will sometimes use them inappropriately i.e. rent an apartment to a tenant but have them sign a license agreement instead of a lease. The courts however will examine the substance of the practical day to day realities of the arrangement and not just what the agreement states. If the courts deem the actuality of the situation to be a landlord / tenant relationship, they will judge this to be a lease and not a license agreement.
Rent a Room Scheme
Under the Rent a Room Scheme a homeowner can rent a room in their property while paying no tax on the associated rent up to a maximum of €14,000 per annum. The rationale is to incentivise those with spare rooms in their properties to rent them out by offering this lucrative tax exemption to this rental income. The person renting the room is classed as a lodger and stays in the property as a licensee, not a tenant. The licensee can be removed at the home owner’s request and the lodger has no recourse to the RTB and has no security of tenure.
Assignment is when a tenant assigns their rights and responsibilities in a lease to another party. When this happens, the assignee takes over the responsibilities and accrues the rights that the assignor had prior to the assignment. The landlord must agree to this.
Subletting is when a tenant sublets the property in which they are a tenant to a third party. This would typically be used when a tenant needs to end a fixed term tenancy early and doesn’t want to lose the deposit. In this instance, the original tenant is defined as the head tenant and continues to deal with the landlord and to be responsible for the obligations of the original lease. The original tenant, in effect, becomes the landlord of the subtenant. The landlord must agree to this arrangement.
Landlords are tightly restricted in terms of how frequently and by how much they can increase rents. The Rent Pressure Zone Calculator available here: https://www.rtb.ie/calculator/rpz gives all of the necessary information in relation to rental increases.
A landlord is entitled to collect a security deposit up to a maximum of one month’s rent. This deposit must be returned to the tenant once the tenancy ends assuming that the tenant has adhered to the terms of the lease.
Examples of Situations in which Deposit Can be Retained
Property DamageNormal wear and tear is not included but a landlord can retain a deposit to cover the cost of repairs necessitated by damage to the property.
Outstanding Utility BillsIf the tenant leaves outstanding bills in the landlord’s name, the deposit can be retained to cover these costs.
The RTB provides a range of cost-effective dispute resolution mechanisms to tenants, landlords and even third parties. For example, a third party neighbour may seek redress from the RTB against a landlord if tenants in a property that (s)he owns are causing upset to them. Landlords cannot wash their hands of upset being caused by their tenants and have a responsibility to ensure that their tenants are behaving in such a way as not to cause upset and to remove them if they are causing disturbance to neighbours.
The RTB advises parties to exhaust all options in terms of direct discussions and negotiations before involving the RTB. Once the RTB is involved, the process can become adversarial, confrontational and goodwill can start to dissipate quickly. Ideally parties can approach problems with goodwill and a genuine desire to find resolutions. Alas, where no resolution can be agreed, the next step is to bring the matter to the RTB.
Professional mediation is a free option open to tenants and landlords. This is an informal process whereby a trained mediator from the RTB works with both parties to try to find an amicable consensus and path forward. Both parties and the mediator join a conference call, the basis of the dispute is outlined and the mediator endeavors to find common ground and a mutually agreeable route forward. If agreement is achieved, and neither party resiles from it during the ten day cooling off period, this agreement then becomes binding on both parties.
Where direct discussions and mediation have failed to find consensus, the next step is adjudication. This is a formal, adversarial process, similar to a court, where both sides submit evidence supporting their case and a trained RTB adjudicator issues a formal and binding determination order. There is a €15 cost to avail of this service which is incredibly good value when you consider what it would cost to air the matter in court.
Disputes brought forward for adjudication typically involve:
Rent ArrearsDetermination orders can find that rent is duly owed and will set forth a repayment schedule. If the schedule is not adhered to, the outstanding balance then often becomes immediately due.
OverholdingOverholding is when a landlord claims that a tenant has remained in the property beyond the expiration of a validly served notice to quit. If the RTB adjudicates that the tenant is overholding, they will issue a date by which the tenant must vacate the property.
Validity of Termination NoticesTenants will frequently contest the validity of notices to quit. The RTB will examine the evidence and make a determination. If the notice is deemed to have been invalid, the landlord must start from scratch again in terms of notice periods. This underscores the need for landlords to dot i’s and cross t’s when serving notices to quit.
Retention of DepositsThis is a regular source of conflict. Deposits may only be retained owing to outstanding rent / utility bills or damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. Disputes will often emerge as to what constitutes damage versus wear and tear.
Anti-social BehaviourThird parties such as neighbours can bring cases for adjudication where tenants are behaving in a disturbing, anti-social manner and the landlord has failed to take appropriate action up to evicting the tenants.
The RTB has published a very helpful guide on what types of evidence they expect to receive for various case types and how to submit evidence on their website. The below table is a useful reference point.
The RTB publishes all determination orders on its website available for anyone to view. Below is an example of an actual determination order issued in relation to an overholding case brought by a landlord.
Appeals & Tribunals
If one of the parties is unhappy with the outcome of an adjudication, there is an appeal mechanism which costs the appellant €85. The aggrieved party can request the convening of a Tenancy Tribunal. This typically involves a complete rehearing of the dispute with both sides invited to speak. Members of the Dispute Resolution Committee will be present on behalf of the RTB. Based on the submissions of both sides and the evidence provided, the tribunal will issue a tribunal report. This will either fully uphold the determination order, amend it slightly or on rare occasions overrule it.
For example, in one report, the tribunal agreed that the tenant’s deposit was unlawfully retained by the landlord and ordered it to be returned without delay but overturned the finding of the adjudicator that the tenant was further entitled to damages for the delay in returning the deposit. A tribunal is the end of the road in terms of the RTB and can only be appealed to the High Court on a point of law.
A determination order is a legally binding decision and those against whom the orders have been made generally comply with the decision e.g. return deposits, vacate the property, pay rent arrears etc. However, when an order is not complied with, the RTB takes this very seriously and provides legal assistance to those looking to enforce their decisions through the district court. In this regard, the RTB works with a panel of solicitors nationwide to help parties to enforce their orders through the courts. However, this assistance is subject to budget constraints and urgent cases are prioritised for legal assistance e.g. overholding, serious rent arrears. If legal assistance isn't promptly forthcoming from the RTB to enforce a determination order, a party can pursue the matter themselves via the courts and the RTB has issued guidance on how to do this which is available here.