Finding accommodation and negotiating the accommodation minefield throughout your years at college is something most students cannot avoid. However, if you pay very close attention to this section your time in rented accommodation stands much more chance of running smoothly. You and your landlord need not be sworn enemies!

Don't panic there are lots of places you can go to seek advice on any issues you may have with your new accommodation and there is legislation to protect you from nightmare landlords and scary flats.

The Law

In 2004, a new law, the Residential Tenancies Act, was brought in to govern tenants (that's you) and landlords in the private rented sector.

Here we outline some of the main protections of the Act, but for further information see the websites below.

The 'private rented sector' means people agreeing to rent a place from someone else and paying that person rent.

On-campus accommodation, where your college is your landlord, does not fall under the Act.

Raising the Rent

It can be quite a shock to discover what people expect you to pay them for a little slice of home. The Act says that rents should not be above or below market rate so the landlord can't just make it up as they go along. Having said that, the Act also does not specify exactly what stands for market rate.

Rent can only be raised once in a twelve-month period and only more frequently if there has been serious work carried out on the place. If the landlord is looking to increase the rent, s/he must give you a written 28-day notice of his/her intention, where s/he specifies how much s/he wants to increase the rent.

How often you pay your rent and to whom you pay will depend on your agreement with your landlord/agent. We strongly recommend that whatever you pay and however you pay, you always leave a paper trail. Rent books will help with this and they also document your and your landlord?s contact details and if you paid any deposit or rent-in-advance.

Getting kicked out!

If you have been living in a place for less than six months then you have the right to a 28-day written notice to terminate, although the landlord does not have to give you a reason for asking you to leave.

If you are there more than six months, you have become what is known as a Part 4 tenancy. This means that you are entitled to a further three-and-a-half years peaceful occupation of the property and the landlord cannot ask you to leave except on very specific grounds (non-payment of rent, anti-social behaviour, landlord wants to sell, move himself or family in, place is being completely refurbished). If you have met all your duties as a good, law-abiding tenant then you must expect a written notice to terminate in line with how long you've been there (e.g. 6-12 months equals 35 days; 1-2 years - 42 days), as well as a reason as to why you must leave.

My landlord is always nosing around!

Your landlord has the right to check up on his property and make sure that it's being properly cared for. S/he, however, cannot just show up whenever s/he feels like it and let himself/herself in. S/he must give you a reasonable amount of notice that s/he wants to come over (and give the reason why) and seek your reasonable permission. Now, this does not mean you can keep putting him/her off because the place is in a mess and you're afraid you'll get told off, but you can suggest that a particular day and time might suit everyone best.

My place is a tip!

You may not get the fanciest of places and sorry to say but your landlord is not obliged to equip you with lots of little luxuries such as a TV, DVD player or kitchen utensils. However, no one expects you to share your living area with the friendly neighbourhood rats and mildew or to shiver your way through even the sunniest days. If you feel that the place you're living in really is just not up to scratch or poses a health risk to yourself or others (and you're not the cause of the problem) you can get an Environment Health and Safety Officer to come and inspect the premise and they will make out a report. Contact your local authority to register the complaint and to find out how to get in touch with your nearest and dearest Health and Safety Officer.

Your side of the bargain...

While you have rights, you also have obligations when you are renting. None of these are unreasonable and will be common sense for (hopefully) all of you but it's good to have it all down, in black and white.

You must:

  • Pay your rent on time and in full
  • Pay your bills (unless some other agreement was reached with your landlord) on time and in full
  • Pay waste charges
  • Be a peaceful neighbour and not put those in your flat/house or those outside it in any danger. Remember, your landlord is now obliged by law to act if his/her tenants are causing problems for the neighbours or for other tenants. This could lead to a process that sees you out on the streets.
  • Give your landlord the right notice (similar to what he should give you) in writing when you are planning to leave
  • Notify the landlord a.s.a.p. of any repairs are needed in the property
  • Allow access for repairs to be carried out or inspections when arranged with landlord
  • Ask the landlord's permission before altering the interior or exterior of the premises or inviting someone else to move in
  • Keep the place in good condition and pay for any damages caused that are beyond the normal wear and tear that will happen when people live in a flat/house for a period of time.
Some solid advice...
  • Get everything in writing. Rent paid, agreements made, notices or warnings, letters telling the landlord something needs to be repaired. If the proof's not in writing, it's very hard to prove that what you are saying is true should something happen.
  • Take pictures of your new place when you move in and when you are leaving. This way, no one can say you broke that old spluttering radiator when it was like that when you came into the place.
  • Get insurance because the landlord's house insurance usually does not cover your belongings.
  • If you are unsure of anything and feel something is wrong about the way you're being treated, phone or drop into Threshold for advice. Their number and address is in the back of this guide.
  • Get a rent book and use it!



For Further Information
 

Threshold National Housing Organisation
www.threshold.ie
Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB)
www.prtb.ie
Union of Students in Ireland
www.usi.ie
Student Housing Co-operative (North)
www.shac.org.uk