Home Economics: Answering your property questions
Personal Finance expert Sinead Ryan answers your property questions.
Q. My daughter is leaving her flat after a year to move nearer college, but the landlord refuses to refund her deposit. He's claiming there is damage to the walls and paintwork, some furniture and the floor is chipped, and the glass on a print cracked. I would consider this 'wear and tear' rather than damage. She has also put up with mould in the bathroom which he refused to re-tile. She needs the deposit for her next apartment. What rights does she have?
A. Her rights are in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, enforced by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). Deposit retention accounts for 22pc of all complaints. The odds are on her side, as 78pc of cases result in full or partial return of the deposit to the tenant.
The RTB provides adjudication services for €15 online (www.rtb.ie), but they told me: "The security deposit is considered the lawful property of the tenant, unless the landlord establishes a right to some or all of it, and they are legally entitled to its refund where there is no rent/utilities owing, where the tenant has not carried out an early termination of the lease and where there is no damage to the dwelling beyond normal wear and tear at the end of a tenancy." The latter is, of course, where your daughter's problem lies.
They add: "While a dwelling should be left clean and tidy on its vacation, a landlord cannot expect the dwelling to be returned in the same condition it was presented in at the commencement of the tenancy. A landlord must take into consideration the length of the tenancy and whether any deterioration to fixtures, furnishings, walls or floor coverings reflected 'ordinary and reasonable use'.
"Damage in excess of normal wear and tear would likely include holes in walls or doors, burn marks or excessive staining to carpets, missing fixtures, nicotine damage in the event that smoking was expressly prohibited in the lease agreement, torn curtains and broken glass in windows."
Honestly, I'd say the landlord is on a sticky wicket here and probably knows it. Nothing you've described amounts to unreasonable damage. I'd have her write to him, mentioning she's complaining to the RTB and asking for a full, written report of the alleged damage. He might be of the opinion that a young student is an easy mark.
Q. Myself and my husband have resigned ourselves to the fact that we are going to be long-term renters. We haven't a hope of pulling together a deposit for a house, but I am due our second child and may have to give up work, compounding the decision. I'm worried if something were to happen my husband - like cancer or worse - I couldn't possibly afford the rent. I know that with mortgages, people take out protection policies with the bank, but is there anything similar for renters?
A. Rents are up over eight per cent higher than the boom heights, so I can see your dilemma. It's a really good idea to consider family protection at any time, but certainly in your case. You don't need a special 'renters' insurance, as this type of life insurance can be taken out by anybody. With mortgages, it is usually insisted upon by the bank so they benefit if the mortgage payer dies. In your case, you would directly.
Joe Charles of Royal London Assurance, who specialises in this type of cover, says "850,000 people live in rented accommodation, many of them long term. It leaves them in a potentially precarious position if the bread-winner were to become seriously ill or pass away. 'Rent Protection' is simple to put in place, for life and serious illness, to ensure rent and other expenses would continue to be paid for a surviving family".
I don't know your ages, but for non-smokers aged 33 and 35 looking for 10 years' cover on rent of €1,500 per month, or €180,000, he's quoting around €23 per month. Talk to a broker.
The Ryan Review
You have to feel for Simon Coveney. He's full of bright ideas, a real determination to sort out the housing crisis and the type of cutting-through-the-crap attitude that his predecessors swapped for loud rhetoric.
And yet, you'd still feel sorry for him because you know that the assault course he's jumping through has more hidden landmines than a war zone.
His latest light-bulb moment: the handing over of 1,700 hectares of State-owned land to build up to 50,000 houses and apartments is brilliant. In fact, it is so brilliant it comes simultaneously with questions of "why didn't anyone else think of that?" and "what's the catch?".
Allowing private developers free land is not 'selling off the family silver' as he has been accused of. In fact, it's the equivalent of clearing out the potting shed of all the accumulated crap from the last decade and paving the way for a garden centre.
But a very tough hand will be needed to ensure builders don't, for example, hike up the house price to compensate for the freebie or engage in the usual behaviour of 'swapping out' their social housing requirement in Killiney to a plot of land in Ballymun.
He promises all of this through a tough system of checks and balances. That sounds like bureaucracy on speed. If it was that easy, why then didn't the local authorities get a grip on it before now and won't they resent the implication? He deserves our support while we find out.