Wednesday 12 December 2018

Your Money: Six top tips for Generation Rent

As renting overtakes ownership in cities it's vital to know where you stand

Home truths: Renting has now overtaken ownership in our cities
Home truths: Renting has now overtaken ownership in our cities
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

The rental market remains as dysfunctional as ever. Ever-rising costs (despite rent control measures), fewer properties and landlords leaving in droves, paints an unhappy place for accommodation seekers to find themselves.

According to the 2016 Census, there are around 500,000 tenants, up 4.7pc since 2011. Rented homes make up 30pc of all dwellings and is the most prominent tenure status in cities (36pc), overtaking home ownership for the first time. This week, I'm looking at the strengthened laws for renters, and what you can expect.

Rent Tenancies Board

The Residential Tenancies Board (rtb.ie) handles disputes from landlords and tenants based on the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

It offers free mediation and decisions are binding. Most disputes are about deposits, squatting and rent increases. Its latest report shows a 20pc increase in complaints. A massive 92pc of cases found in favour of the tenant when it came to deposits being withheld, and an astonishing two in three rent review notices were found invalid. Meanwhile, €1.6m was awarded to landlords last year from non-paying tenants.

Starting a tenancy

Strict rules exist about inventories of contents, fire/safety and minimum standards.

In reality though, tenants often put up with sub-standard or unregistered properties such is the market shortage. New legislation is due to allow spot checks based on anonymous tip-offs. Landlords must be registered with the RTB by law, and it's advisable to keep a record of rent payments in case of dispute.

Rent Pressure Zones

There are 21 RPZs where landlords are limited to rent increases of 4pc a year. Rent must be in line with comparable properties in the area and three examples can be demanded. Exceptions exist where the property is new to the market or has been 'substantially' upgraded (usually additional rooms added, rather than cosmetic changes).

Security of tenure

For tenancies commencing before 24/12/16 once you are there six months, you have a right to remain for a further 3.5 years as long as rent is paid.

This is termed 'Part 4 Tenancy'. For later tenancies, this is increased to 5.5 years. After that, the Part 4 right increases to six years for all tenancies. There are exceptions: if you sign a 'fixed term' tenancy, then although it lasts a specific period, irrespective of the lease, you can still apply Part 4 rules.

Ending a Tenancy

If you are renting less than six months, the landlord does not have to give a reason to evict. For more than that, eviction is only allowed on specific grounds:

  • The tenant has breached their responsibilities (eg stopped paying rent);
  • The landlord needs the property for personal/family use. Evidence must be given in the notice of termination including the intended occupant's identity, relationship to the landlord and expected duration of occupation;
  • The landlord wants to sell the property;
  • The property is no longer suited to the tenant's needs (eg not enough bed spaces);
  • Significant refurbishment (not decorative), and the tenant must be offered first refusal if the property become available to rent on completion;
  • The use of the property is changing (eg to commercial from residential letting).

Eviction notice

The notice period depends on how long you have been a tenant, for example:

Under six months - 28 days; 6-12 months - 35 days; 1-2 years - 42 days; 2-3 years - 56 days; 3-4 years - 84 days, etc.

Shortcuts Where tenants can get help

Rental Tenancies Board (www.rtb.ie):

Handles dispute resolution, RPZ map and rent calculation, legal requirements for landlords and tenants.

Housing Assistance Programme (www.hap.ie):

Information on how HAP scheme works for landlords and tenants. Applications through local authority.

Threshold (www.threshold.ie):

Charity supporting tenants’ accommodation rights. Advice line 1800 454454. Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm.

Rebuilding Ireland (www.rebuildingireland.ie):

Government housing policy, planning and building.

Citizens Information (www.citizensinformation.ie):

Help in directing tenants toward benefits, rights etc.

Housing Agency (www.housingagency.ie):

Information on housing bodies, local authority and housing policy.

Irish Independent

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