The Residential Tenancies Act, 2004 applies to the mainstream private rented sector. However, it does not apply to:
• owner-occupied accommodation or ‘rent a room’ arrangements
• social housing
• the formerly rent-controlled sector
• long occupation equity tenancies
• business lettings
• holiday lettings
Part 7 of the act states that Landlords have to register details of all their tenancies with the PRTB within 3 months and a failure to register a tenancy is an offence. Changes to rent must also be noted. Tenants must supply landlords with the information they need to complete the registration form, including their PPS number.
Under Part 2 of the act there are certain obligations which must be adhered to whether or not there is a lease or written agreement and landlords and tenants cannot contract out of them. Additional obligations can be included in a lease.
- pay the rent and any other specified charges,
- avoid causing or make good any damage beyond normal wear and tear,
- notify the landlord of any repair requirements,
- allow access for repairs to be carried out and by appointment for routine inspections,
- keep the landlord informed of the identity of the occupants,
- not engage in or allow anti-social behaviour,
- not act, or allow visitors to act in a way that would invalidate the landlord’s insurance,
- not cause the landlord to be in breach of statutory obligations,
- not alter, improve, assign, sub-let or change the use of the dwelling without written consent from the landlord.
- allow the tenant to enjoy peaceful and exclusive occupation,
- carry out repairs, subject to tenant liability for damage beyond normal wear and tear,
- insure the dwelling, subject to the insurance being available at a reasonable cost,
- provide a point of contact,
- promptly refund deposits unless rent is owing or there is damage beyond normal wear and tear,
- reimburse tenants for expenditure on repairs that were appropriate to the landlord,
- not penalise tenants for making complaints or taking action to enforce their rights.
Under Part 3 rent may not be greater than the open market rate and may be reviewed once a year only unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation that warrants a review. Tenants are to be given 28 days’ notice of new rents.
Tenants may ask their landlord to review the rent if they feel it exceeds the market rate for the property – if more than a year has elapsed since the last rent review, tenants may seek a review. Disputes about any aspect of rent may be referred to the PTRB.
Termination of Tenancies
Under Part 4 of the act security of tenure is based on 4-year cycles.
The landlord can terminate without specifying grounds during the first 6 months, after this the landlord will be able to terminate a tenancy (known as a “Part 4 tenancy”) during the following three and a half years only if any of the following apply;
- the tenant does not comply with the obligations of the tenancy
- the dwelling is no longer suited to the occupant’s accommodation needs (e.g. overcrowded)
- the landlord intends to sell the dwelling in the next 3 months
- the landlord requires the dwelling for own or family member occupation
- the landlord intends to refurbish the dwelling – the landlord intends to change the business use of the dwelling.
Where a landlord seeks to terminate a tenancy on one of these grounds it is vital that they serve the correct notice of termination and one of the 6 reasons listed above must be cited. The length of notice will depend on the length of the tenancy.
The notice period to be given depends on the length of the tenancy as follows:
- Less than 6 months 28 days 28 days
- 6 or more months but less than 1 year 35 days 35 days
- 1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days 42 days
- 2 years or more but less than 3 years 56 days 56 days
- 3 years or more but less than 4 years 84 days 56 days
- 4 or more years 112 days 56 days
Shorter notice periods apply where termination is for noncompliance with tenancy obligations (7 days for serious anti-social behaviour, 28 days for other breaches) and the parties may also agree a shorter notice period at the time of termination.
The tenant will be free to terminate the tenancy at any time, subject to any fixed term lease or agreement.
Where a landlord refuses consent to assign or sub-let a fixed term tenancy, the tenant may terminate the tenancy before the expiry of the fixed term.
Under Part 6 of the act, disputes arising between landlords and tenants are referred to the PRTB instead of the courts. Either the landlord or tenant can initiate the process.
The dispute resolution process consists of two stages:
- Stage 1: Either mediation or adjudication as chosen by the parties and is confidential.
- Stage 2: A public hearing by a three-person Tenancy Tribunal.
A Tribunal decision may be appealed to the High Court on a point of law only. The enforcement of determination orders of the Board that are not complied with will be through the Circuit Court.
The Board may award damages of up to 20,000 and arrears of rent of up to 20,000 or twice the annual rent, whichever is greater (but a maximum of 60,000 applies to rent arrears awards). Cases involving amounts greater than these will have to be taken through the courts. The Board will have power to apply to the courts for injunctive type relief in the case of very serious emergency cases coming before it, e.g. illegal evictions, threat to life, etc.