How do I prevent tenant problems?
The key to dealing with problems is having a good lease agreement in place; this combined with a prompt response from a professional landlord will help to nip most problems early on. Good Tenant screening at the letting stage will also help to prevent problems occurring.
What are a landlords legal obligations?
Landlords must comply with the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004
Under the act landlords are obliged to:
· Register with the RTB within 30 days of commencement of the tenancy
· Repair and maintain the premises to the standard that it was originally let at
· Give the tenants peaceful and exclusive occupation
· Provide the tenant with a contact address and telephone number
· Ensure that tenants comply with their obligations particularly with regard to anti-social behaviour
· Serve tenants with a valid Notice of Termination
What rights do tenants have?
Tenants have certain rights in relation to their tenancy. These include the right to:
· Quiet and peaceful occupation of the dwelling
· Obtain contact with the landlord or agent at all reasonable times
· Reimbursement for reasonable expenditure on any repairs carried out by them for which the landlord was responsible
· Refer a dispute to the RTB relating to the tenancy and not be penalised by the landlord for doing so
· Be charged a fair market rent
· The rent can only be reviewed every two years and 90 days written notice in a prescribed format must be given of any rent increase
the prescribed rent review notice template can be downloaded here
What are tenants obligations?
Certain minimum obligations are laid out in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. Failure to comply with any of these obligations could result in the termination of the tenancy subject to the landlords compliance with the act.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 tenants must:
· 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,
· Provide the landlord with the information required so as to register the tenancy with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)
What is anti-social behaviour?
Anti-social behaviour is defined as behaviour that constitutes the commission of an offence, causes danger, injury, damage or loss, or includes violence, intimidation, coercion, harassment, obstruction or threats. It also includes persistent behaviour that prevents or interferes with the peaceful occupation of neighbouring dwellings by others in the building or its vicinity. (source RTB)
When do I register with the RTB?
A tenancy must be registered with the RTB within 30 days of the tenancy commencing
Registration costs €90
How do I contact the RTB?
Phone the RTB: 9:00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday - 0818 30 30 37
How do I resolve a dispute with my tenant?
Firstly, try to discuss the issue calmly and stick to the facts. Try to leave emotion out of the situation and try to reach an amicable solution.
A formal dispute case to the RTB can be slow and stressful on all parties and should be the last resort.
Can I increase the rent?
The rent can be increased once during any 12 month period. The increase cannot exceed the ‘market rent’
What is Market Rent?
Market rent is defined by the RTB “as a rent that a willing Tenant not already in occupation would give and a willing Landlord would take for the dwelling, having regard to other terms of the tenancy and the letting values of dwellings of a similar size, type and character to the dwelling and situated in a comparable area to that in which it is situated.”
Do I have to cut the grass or is it the tenant’s responsibility?
This depends on the individual tenancy and should be covered in the lease agreement. Some landlords will maintain the gardens themselves as it gives them an opportunity to keep an eye on the property. Others will supply a lawnmower for the tenants to cut the grass. Whichever option you choose make sure it is clearly outlined in the lease agreement and pointed out to the tenants at the beginning of the tenancy.
My tenant wants to paint a room – should I let him?
The first thing to do is to clarify that your tenants do not expect payment or a reduction of rent in return for painting a room. Secondly does the room need painting? If so, are you confident the tenants can do a neat and proper paint job. One approach may be for you to agree on the colour with the tenants and for you to pay for the paint and materials needed. Often tenants who have been in a property for a number of years will look to paint some rooms. It is best to confirm any agreement in writing.
My tenants asked me if they can get a dog?
This is an individual landlord decision. It is not recommended to allow pets into rental properties. It generally results in greater damage and wear and tear. A good lease agreement should include a clause that prohibits animals in the property - it is important to highlight this condition to the tenants when signing the lease agreement.
Can I inspect my property after the tenants move in?
A good lease agreement should contain a clause, which permits the landlord to inspect the property. The tenant should be given prior written notice and it is best to arrange a time that is mutually suitable to both landlord and tenant.
If the tenant continually refuses you access to the property, they are in breach of their obligations as a tenant.
The rent is late, what should I do?
When the rent is late, the tenant should be contacted immediately. This lets the tenant know you are a professional landlord and on top of things. A gentle reminder is usually enough to prompt tenants to pay their outstanding rent. If the rent remains outstanding the landlord must notify the tenant in writing that the rent is owing and give them 14 days to pay the rent. If the rent continues to be outstanding the landlord may serve a Notice of Termination on the tenant. The notice must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 in terms of the content of the notice itself and the amount of notice given.
How much should I increase the rent by?
This depends on a few factors:
· The market rate
· The quality of your tenant
· The availability of new tenants
· The location of the property
· The quality of the fit-out
If you have a good tenant, try to keep the increase down to an absolute minimum. Good tenants are worth keeping so don’t drive them out with excessive rent increases.
How much notice do I have to give tenants?
Duration of Tenancy Notice by Landlord
Less than 6 months 28 days
6 or more months but less than 1 year 35 days
1 year or more but less than 2 years 42 days
2 years or more but less than 3 years 56 days
3 years or more but less than 4 years 84 days
4 years or more but less than 5 years 112 days
5 years or more but less than 6 years 140 days
6 years or more but less than 7 years 168 days
7 years or more but less than 8 years 196 days
8 or more years 224 days
Under what circumstances can I ask my tenants to leave?
The landlord can terminate the tenancy without specifying grounds during the first 6 months, but once a tenancy has lasted 6 months, the landlord will be able to terminate that tenancy (known as a “Part 4 tenancy”) during the following 3½ 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 occupants 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.
How do I end a tenancy?
Termination of a tenancy requires the service of a valid Notice of Termination giving the appropriate amount of notice, which is 28 days where the tenancy has lasted less than 6 months or termination is for breach of tenancy obligations. The notice period increases with the duration of the tenancy
Termination of a tenancy for serious anti-social behaviour also requires the serving of a valid Notice of Termination but the required notice period is only 7 days. In the case of landlords terminating a tenancy, the only exception to the requirement to do so by way of a valid Notice of Termination is where the tenancy is for a fixed term of less than 6 months and the landlord wants the tenancy to terminate on the expiry of the fixed term.
What is a Notice of Termination?
The person ending the tenancy (it can be either landlord or tenant) must serve a Notice of Termination (a written notice) on the other party and that notice must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 in terms of the content of the notice itself and the amount of notice given. The content of the notice will depend on whether it is served by the landlord, or tenant, the length of the tenancy and the reason for the termination.
In order to be valid a Notice of Termination must:
· Be in writing
· Be signed by the landlord or by his/her authorised agent
· Specify the date of service
· State the reason for termination (where the tenancy has lasted for more than 6 months)
· Specify the termination date (the tenant has the whole of the 24 hours of this date to vacate possession)
· State that any issue as to the validity of the notice or the right of the landlord to serve it must be referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board within 28 days from the receipt of the notice.
What happens when a tenant won't leave?
If a Notice of Termination is not complied with and the tenant does not leave, the only recourse is to refer a dispute to the RTB about the tenant’s failure to comply with a valid Notice of Termination. The landlord may not take the law into his own hands. A dispute case referred to the RTB about an illegal eviction will be given priority and there are procedures in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 under which the RTB may apply to the Circuit Court for an interim or interlocutory injunction to restrain the landlord and re-instate the tenant pending the RTB’s determination of the dispute.
If a tenant has vacated a dwelling and the rent is at least 28 days in arrears, the tenant’s tenancy is deemed terminated under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and the landlord is free to recover possession of the property.
What is a void period?
A void is when the property is empty and not generating any rent. Landlords try to minimise void periods. Many novice landlords who have been told that their rental property is worth €1500 per month, will then end up with it empty for 3 months only to then have to let it for €1300 per month. It is much better for landlords to have a property let at the outset for a realistic rent. Once a void is experienced then a landlord will never get this money back. It is financially better to get €1300 for 12 months of the year than to get €1500 for 10 months (€15,600 versus €15,000).
What is subletting?
Subleasing occurs when a tenant permits another party to lease the rental property that the tenant has leased from the landlord. The tenant then assumes the position of landlord (known as the head tenant) in relation to his or her subtenant. Subleasing usually occurs because the tenant has signed a fixed-term lease and wants, for whatever reason, to get out of the lease before it expires. Subletting can only be done with the consent of the landlord.
Where a landlord refuses to sublet a tenant, the tenant can serve a notice of termination on the landlord.
What is Assignment of a lease?
Assignment is where a tenant transfers his or her entire interest to a third party. The original tenant then ceases to have any interest or involvement in the tenancy and the assignee becomes the tenant who now owes obligations to the Landlord.
If a tenant assigns a Part 4 tenancy to a person other than a sub-tenant, the protection provided by a Part 4 tenancy ceases. The new assignee will require 6 months of continuous occupation in the dwelling before qualifying for Part 4 tenancy rights.
If a tenant assigns a dwelling to an existing sub-tenant, the Part 4 tenancy will continue to exist in favour of the new assignee for the remaining period of the original Part 4 tenancy and the assignee becomes the tenant of the Landlord. Assignment can only be done with the consent of the Landlord. Where a landlord refuses an assignment of a Tenancy, a tenant can serve a notice of termination on the landlord.
What do I do if a tenant causes damages?
The first thing to do is to record the damages. Take a written note of all damages and it is also advisable to take photographic evidence. A digital camera is ideal for this purpose.
Establish the costs of the damage
If possible, it is best to get professional estimates of the cost of any repairs. If the matter comes before the Private Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) it will not be sufficient to have estimated the costs yourself. It is also not allowable to put a cost on your own time for repairs and to deduct this cost from the deposit or to claim as an expense against tax. Keep copies of all receipts and invoices for repair work carried out.
Put it in writing
The tenant should be informed in writing of the reasons for withholding all or part of the deposit and the cost of any repairs.
What is considered normal ‘wear and tear’?
This is a grey area and a cause of many landlord/ tenant disputes.
Most disputes with regard to wear and tear occur because the landlord did not prepare a detailed and accurate inventory of contents and their condition when the tenants moved into the property. It is also advisable to take numerous photographs with a digital camera at the beginning of each tenancy. These can then be used at a later date if there is a dispute as to the condition of the property and its contents.
When can I keep the security deposit to cover damages?
This is the area that causes most disputes between landlords and tenants. A deposit (or a portion of it) can only be retained if the tenant breached the terms of the lease agreement that results in loss or damage to the property that exceeds ‘normal wear and tear’.
Tenants are entitled to a refund of the deposit amount paid at the commencement of the tenancy, where there is no rent outstanding and there is no damage to the dwelling beyond normal wear and tear at the end of the tenancy. Landlords are required to refund the deposit promptly less any deductions in respect of outstanding rent and damage in excess of normal wear and tear.
If the landlord retains a deposit, the tenant must be provided with a written and itemised explanation of the reasons why. It is important to keep receipts for repairs to damages or items replaced. These will be required if the tenant complains to the RTB.
Note: It is not possible to claim for your own time e.g. if you re-paint a room yourself. You cannot put a value on this time and deduct it from the tenants deposit.