Monday 15 October 2018

'My landlord charged me €30 to get my passport back' - The loophole leaving renters exposed

Lauren Conlon said her landlord refused to give her passport back unless she paid him
Lauren Conlon said her landlord refused to give her passport back unless she paid him
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

An engineering student has told how she had "virtually no rights as a tenant" because she lived under the same roof as her landlord.

Lauren Conlon (22) from Kinnegad, Co Meath, wants to highlight the loophole that leaves many students living in digs or with a landlord exposed.

If you are renting a room that is part of your landlord's home, your tenancy is not covered by residential tenancies legislation, according to the Citizens Information Board.

Lauren claimed that her landlord, who was in his 30s, refused to give her passport back unless she paid him €30. She also claimed he locked her and her fellow housemates out of their Dublin 9 home one night.

She was shocked to learn that her rights were extremely limited. In fact, she wasn't a tenant at all, but a "licensee".

"I was walking home on a Friday evening from college and the front door was a bit stuck, it tended to get stuck quite a bit...next minute the landlord started rushing out onto the road and started accusing me of slamming and breaking down doors," Lauren told Independent.ie.

"A week later he locked the door, his car was out there and eventually we had to get the guards involved. They said they couldn't do anything as it was his property and we were guests, therefore he had the right to deny us entry."

Lauren studies engineering at Dublin City University and was living with two fellow engineering students at the time.

"We were good tenants, one was in final year and it was by no means a party house."

She said the landlord accused her of damaging the floor in her bedroom and for that reason, withheld her passport.

"We had pictures showing there was no damage and when I was rushing to get all my things out, I somehow managed to leave my passport behind."

The guards eventually managed to convince the owner to allow them into the property to collect their things.

"I just couldn't believe how little rights we had."

The rent was €350 each month and the security deposit, which she didn't get back, was also €350.

Her rental situation sadly didn't improve after she moved out.

"I had to move out of the next place after 6 months because the landlord decided to up the rent per room from €400 to €700," she said.

The Citizens Information Board advise the following: "If you are renting a room in your landlord's home, your situation is very different. You do not have a standard tenancy agreement. Instead, you have a licensee agreement with your landlord. This means that you are in the property by the landlord’s consent or invitation. As a result, you cannot avail of the type of protection that tenants are entitled to under the residential tenancies legislation."

The Residential Tenancies Board outlined what protections are available for renters.

A spokesman said in a statement: "The Residential Tenancies Act offers protections to tenants leasing/renting self contained accommodation such as a house or an apartment where the landlord is not also sharing the same accommodation.

"Tenants may rent a self-contained flat within a house, in which the landlord also resides. The distinguishing  feature in this type of arrangement for the Residential Tenancies Act to apply is that both the landlord and the tenant have self contained accommodation.

"In these situations the landlord is obliged to register the tenancy and the tenant has the same rights and obligations ,as a tenant who is renting a property in which the landlord does not also reside.

"If a person is renting a room in a landlord’s home, they are not covered under the protections afforded in the Residential Tenancies Act, and are not covered under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board.

"As such, there are no legal requirement for the landlord to register that situation with the Residential Tenancies Board. Any notice of termination is at the landlord’s discretion."

Independent.ie has contacted Lauren's landlord for a comment.

If you are living with your landlord, you are not entitled to any of the following:

  • Your landlord is not obliged to provide you with a rent book or a statement of rent paid;
  • There is no legal requirement for your accommodation to meet minimum physical standard;
  • Any notice you may get of the termination of the tenancy is at your landlord's discretion (although the landlord is obliged to give  reasonable notice, the specifics of this notice may vary);
  • Your landlord is not obliged to register the tenancy with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB);
  • You cannot use the RTB's dispute resolution service if a disagreement arises between you and your landlord;
  • You are not protected by the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015, which prohibit discrimination on grounds of gender, civil status, family status, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and membership of the Traveller community – and now also on the ‘housing assistance’ ground.

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