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Your Rights ( & Responsibilities ) as a student tenant under Irish Land Law.

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Topics covered below:

- Leases

- Licences

- Digs

- Payment of Rent

- Obligations of your Landlord

- Obligations of the Tenant

- Further Advice


As we delve into your rights as the proud owner of a new set of keys, it is important to establish which category of key holder you actually are. 

Leasehold vs Licence

A pitfall (though thankfully not too common) that students can fall into is believing that they are under a contract of lease with their landlord when, in actual fact, they only have a licence to stay on the premises. The difference is significant as the table of rights afforded to you is vastly different for each. But don't be scared, the law is often on the side of the weaker party in such relationships and will usually find that a lease, rather than a licence, actually exists. Read on!

Leases

A Lease is the next best thing to owning the property. You have exclusive rights to possession of the property, usually for a limited period, which amounts to a legal 'interest' in the property. A Lease is a contractual relationship between a Landlord & Tenant. The student gets to possess (occupy exclusively) the property in exchange for a payment of rent. The student may also be liable for certain bills associated with the tenancy, however, and these should be thoroughly discussed with your landlord prior to handing over a deposit, along with any other contractual clauses such as the landlord's right to inspect the property periodically subject to notice, tenant's liability for the upkeep and maintenance of the property, etc.

Remember: always be 100% sure of what you are getting and how much it will cost. 

There are generally two types of leasehold relevant to students; a lease for a fixed term and a periodic lease. The former is a lease that will last for a defined term, agreed at the outset, and will terminate at the end of that term unless there is a clause contained in the document that entitles you to a right of renewal or early termination. The latter is a lease that lasts a specific period, such as a month or 6 months, and is automatically renewed at the end of that period until such time as a notice to quit is served on either the landlord or tenant. This form of lease can be implied simply by the periodic payment of rent.

Under S.28 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended) a continuous lease that lasts longer than 6 months will, in most cases, result in the establishment of a "Part 4 Tenancy". This status brings with it a number of protections for the tenant such as a right to remain bound by the lease for a period of no less than 6 years. There are, however, a number of ways in which your lease may be legally terminated by your landlord and these can be found under S.34 of the RTA 2004 (as amended).

There were, in the past, other types of lease but these were abolished by the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009

Licences

A licence is a much weaker agreement which does not grant the student an interest in the property. It may be revoked at any time, for any reason and is not protected by any statutory legislation. Where it proves difficult to ascertain whether an agreement is a lease or a licence, the courts will look at the overall arrangement and determine what the situation truly is. The current position of Irish courts generally is that, following from the case of Street v Mountford, where there is exclusive occupation of a premises (be that a room or the entire house), coupled with the payment of a rent (whether indeed called a rent or something else), this will usually amount to a lease. Every situation will differ, however, and it is for the courts to determine the truth of such arrangements, based on the facts. Proceed with caution and double check everything before you sign anything or pay anything!

Digs

Digs are a unique arrangement insofar as land law is concerned. They are not currently afforded the protection of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended). That said, a private contract may well exist between the student and home owner by virtue of the fact that the student has agreed to pay a fixed sum in exchange for a room (& other related services) in the home owner's house. Both parties intend to enter into a legal relationship and are of sound capacity to do so at the time of the agreement. In order to protect both host and student such contracts should be written down with all the basic ground rules included, along with the payment schedule, duration of letting, date of agreement and it should also set out what entitlements the student is granted. (use of kitchen & bathroom facilities, times etc.) Each party should sign and retain a copy of the contract in order to avoid any clashes in the future. 

Payment of Rent

The Residential Tenancies Board along with the Union of Students in Ireland have set out a number of very helpful pointers in relation to the payment of rent. The full guide can be found by clicking on the following link: RTB / USI Accommodation and Finance Guide.

You should never hand over any money, in any form, until you have inspected the premises, are assured of the facilities being rented, are aware of who else has keys to the property, who else will be living in the house with you, how long the tenancy will last for and how much the rent will be for the entirety of the lease. 

In order to protect yourself from any potential fraud or mistake you should always pay your rent via an electronic transfer which will create a record of the transaction. If this is not an option for you then the very least you should do is obtain a signed and dated receipt from your landlord, in the presence of an independent witness. Your landlord should provide you with a rent book. This book is your record of all payments made by you so be sure to look after it. A copy of a rent book is available in the RTB/USI guide above. 

Failure to pay your rent will usually constitute a breach of the letting agreement and may result in your tenancy being legally terminated. In such cases you will usually lose your security deposit also. 

Obligations of your Landlord

Under S.12 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended) your landlord is statutorily obligated to carry out the following services:

- Allow the tenant to enjoy peaceful occupation of the dwelling.

- Carry out any structural repairs necessary in order to maintain the structural standard for such houses set out in S.18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 and carry out all such repairs to the interior as are necessary from time to time so that the fittings are in, at least, as good a condition as they were at the commencement of the letting and are in compliance with the regulatory standards of that time. This does not apply where the tenant has caused the said damage contrary to S.16(f) of the 2004 Act.

- Provide receptacles suitable for the storage of rubbish outside the dwelling, save where it is not within the landlord's power to do so.

- Where possible and at a reasonable cost, maintain a policy of insurance on the property against any structural damage and which also indemnifies the landlord to an amount of, at minimum, €250,000 against any liability arising out of his or her part in owning the property.

- Return or repay promptly any deposit paid by the tenant on entering into the lease. This will not apply if, at the time the request to return the money is made, there remains any rent outstanding or any other applicable charges in accordance with the lease agreement are owed or where any damage has been caused contrary to S.16(f) (see link above) and the cost of carrying out such repairs is equal to or greater than the deposit amount.

- Notify the tenant of the name of any person who is authorised by the landlord to act on his or her behalf in relation to the tenancy. (Rent collector, maintenance person etc)

- Provide their contact details to the tenant and be contactable at all reasonable times. 

- Reimburse the tenant for any expenses incurred from repairing or maintaining the interior of the property where the landlord has failed or refused to carry out the repairs in a timely manner or where not carrying out the repairs would have presented a real risk to the health & safety of the tenant or other occupants or where the living conditions of the tenants would have been significantly reduced. Proof of such expense must be provided by the tenant.

- Where the property is located within a Rent Pressure Zone the landlord must furnish the new tenant with details regarding the amount of rent that was last set under a tenancy for the dwelling, the date the rent was set and a statement setting out how the current rent has been calculated. Properties in RPZ's are subject to strict regulations on rent increases so make sure your landlord is not in breach of the law. Click the Rent Pressure Zone link above to find out more.

Always check the Residential Tenancies Board list of registered landlords to see if yours is registered. Landlords are under statutory obligations to register your tenancy with the RTB within 1 month of the letting commencement and must declare any security deposit you have paid - See S.134 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended by the 2019 Amendment Act). If a landlord refuses to return your deposit, they will have to explain to the RTB the reasons why and may face hefty fines for breaching legislation. The 2019 Amendment to the 2004 Act (above) empowered the RTB to investigate and sanction non-compliant landlords so don't be afraid to confront your landlord where genuine issues arise and remember the RTB are always there to help you.


Obligations of the Tenant

S.16 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as amended) sets out your obligations as a tenant. You should apprise yourself of the contents of this section very carefully as you are entering into a contractual agreement with the landlord. I know, this is the less fun side of being young, wild and free but this really is where you need to put on your grown up face and actually adult for a bit. 

As a tenant your are obliged, by law, to abide by the following:

- To pay the rent on the due date as determined by the lease agreement. This includes and taxes and charges as have been determined by the lease agreement, unless such a charge is unlawful or contravenes any other legislation.

- Must not carry out any act or omission which prevents the landlord from carrying out any of his/her statutory obligations as set out above.

- Allow, at reasonable intervals, the landlord, or any person or persons acting on the landlord's behalf, access to the dwelling (on a date and time agreed in advance with the tenant) for the purposes of inspecting the dwelling.

- Notify the landlord or his or her authorised agent of any defect that arises in the dwelling that requires to be repaired so as to enable the landlord comply with his or her obligations, in relation to the dwelling or the tenancy.

- Allow the landlord, or any person or persons acting on the landlord's behalf, reasonable access to the dwelling for the purposes of allowing any works (the responsibility for the carrying out of which is that of the landlord) to be carried out.

- Not do any act that would cause a deterioration in the condition the dwelling was in at the commencement of the tenancy excluding any deterioration in that condition owing to normal wear and tear, that is to say wear and tear that is normal having regard to—

    (i) the time that has elapsed from the commencement of the tenancy,

     (ii) the extent of occupation of the dwelling the landlord must have reasonably foreseen would occur since that commencement, and 

     (iii) any other relevant matters.

- The tenant must, if the above section is not complied with, take such steps as the landlord may reasonably require to be taken for the purpose of restoring the dwelling to the original condition or to defray any costs incurred by the landlord in his or her taking such steps as are reasonable for that purpose.

- Not behave within the dwelling, or in the vicinity of it, in a way that is anti-social or allow other occupiers of, or visitors to, the dwelling to behave within it, or in the vicinity of it, in such a way.

- Not act or allow other occupiers of, or visitors to, the dwelling to act in a way which would result in the invalidation of a policy of insurance in force in relation to the dwelling.

- If any act of the tenant’s, or any act of another occupier of, or visitor to, the dwelling which the tenant has allowed to be done, results in an increase in the premium payable under a policy of insurance in force in relation to the dwelling, pay to the landlord an amount equal to the amount of that increase (“the increased element”) (and that obligation to pay such an amount shall apply in respect of each further premium falling due for payment under the policy that includes the increased element).

- Not assign or sub-let the tenancy without the written consent of the landlord (which consent the landlord may, in his or her discretion, withhold).

- Not alter or improve the dwelling without the written consent of the landlord which consent the landlord—

    (i) where the alteration or improvement consists only of repairing,     painting and decorating, or any of those things, may not unreasonably     withhold, 

    (ii) in any other case, may, in his or her discretion, withhold.

- Not use the dwelling or cause it to be used for any purpose other than as a dwelling without the written consent of the landlord (which consent the landlord may, in his or her discretion, withhold).

- Must notify, in writing, the landlord of the identity of each person (other than a multiple tenant) who, for the time being, resides ordinarily in the dwelling.

Further Information relevant to the above:

alter or improve”, in relation to a dwelling, includes—

( a) alter a locking system on a door giving entry to the dwelling, and 

( b) make an addition to, or alteration of, a building or structure (including any building or structure subsidiary or ancillary to the dwelling), 

behave in a way that is anti-social” means— 

( a) engage in behaviour that constitutes the commission of an offence, being an offence the commission of which is reasonably likely to affect directly the well-being or welfare of others, 

( b) engage in behaviour that causes or could cause fear, danger, injury, damage or loss to any person living, working or otherwise lawfully in the dwelling concerned or its vicinity and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, includes violence, intimidation, coercion, harassment or obstruction of, or threats to, any such person, or 

( c) engage, persistently, in behaviour that prevents or interferes with the peaceful occupation— 

(i) by any other person residing in the dwelling concerned, of that dwelling, 

(ii) by any person residing in any other dwelling contained in the property containing the dwelling concerned, of that other dwelling, or 

(iii) by any person residing in a dwelling (“neighbourhood dwelling”) in the vicinity of the dwelling or the property containing the dwelling concerned, of that neighbourhood dwelling.

Further Help & Advice

Although student accommodation is often snapped up faster than tickets for Ed Sheeran in Croker, please, please always do your research before signing the lease. You can ask in the College or University Student's Union for help finding accommodation or else check out the following sites who can help you get sorted:

RTB Student Specific Accommodation

Union of Students in Ireland

Homestay.com

The Home Share

Threshold.ie

Lastly, always carry out due diligence and document everything from the date you sign the contract. That means photographs of all fittings, fixtures, doors, windows, electricity meter and appliances, etc. Keep both hard and soft copies of all communications between you, your housemates and the landlord along with all rent and utility receipts. This may prove invaluable at the end of your lease when your deposit is due to be returned. 

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