A Guide to renting for renters!
- Finding a place to rent
- Be Picky
- Negotiate your Rent
- Contract & Legal Issues
- The Landlords Right of Entry
- Insure your belongings
- If disputes arise
- If the Landlord wants you to leave
We all know buying a house is cheaper than renting in the long term and for most people there comes a time when it’s right to consider buying. However, there are a lot of renters out there who are not in a position to buy or are at a stage in their lives where renting suits them. There are great advantages to renting including you get to live where you want and don’t have to compromise on a long commute to work. Renting is less hassle, once you pass through the trauma stage of actually finding a suitable place! When something goes wrong it’s the landlord who has to take responsibility and pay for fixing it.
Finding a place
MyHome.ie/Lettings is the place to start – an exclusively Lettings based website it accommodates tenants, landlords and estate agents. You could save a lot of effort by registering with MyHome.ie/Lettings, setting up a search and MyHome.ie/Lettings will do the rest of the work by notifying you by email, sms or mobile when something matching your search is added to the site. The site also provides a comprehensive list of estate agents throughout the country and the advice & news section gives tips and advice for everything related to renting.
It normally takes a letting agent about ten working days to take up and confirm references, clear your payment covering the first rent period and deposit, arrange for inventories and the transfer of utility accounts into your name.
Properties used by letting agents could be more expensive but it is substantially less likely you will end up with a dodgy landlord or substandard accommodation.
Whatever your reasons for choosing to rent, it makes sense to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than handing out your hard earned cash every month when you’re not entirely satisfied. Your home is somewhere where you should feel safe and happy, your refuge from the world.
You are within your rights to view the entire property before you commit, and to ask whatever questions you feel need answering. If a landlord is not forthcoming, you should be suspicious.
Make the same checks as if you were buying. You might end up living there for a good few years, longer than someone lives in a house they’ve bought, so set high standards.
Don’t rush into renting somewhere, its a big hassle to move a couple of months later. This checklist below coverers the essentials.
- Is the area quiet or noisy? What is it like on a Saturday night. Is the property near any rowdy looking pubs or nightclubs.
- What types of people live in the surrounding area? Do you feel safe walking around at night. Do a trial run one night.
- Is the available transport appropriate for you? Although it’s time consuming you need to do a trial run of you daily routine. That manageable weekend train journey could turn into a stressful nightmare when you can’t get on to the packed train at 8am on a Monday morning.
- If you have a car space outside the property with public access what is the risk of someone regularly pinching your space and leaving you to fork out for on-street parking?
- Will the property be cheap to heat and light? If there is no central heating it is probably going to be pretty chilly (and expensive) in the winter.
- Can you really afford it? It could make sense to pay a higher rent for a house where you can work, entertain your friends or where you can walk to work, thus saving on going out and transport costs. However, if you are out all the time, and away a lot, is it worth it?
- Does the property look to be in good condition? A badly maintained property is a mark of a careless landlord. If the property is in a poor condition but you still wish to rent it, make sure you use its faults to negotiate a lower rent.
- Check the security provisions. The door and windows should be solid, with good locks. But watch out for bars on windows, which might impede exit in an emergency.
Haggle on the rent
Most landlords are looking for suitable long-term tenants rather than those who will pay the highest rent. If you reckon you are a good prospective tenant, even if you don’t look so good on paper, then sell yourself. If you are using a letting agent ask if you can meet the owner. If you are in a good job use this to the max. A reference from an employer is better than a reference from a past landlord.
It is quite a flexible market in Ireland at the moment and landlords are being accommodating. If you are prepared to commit to a longer lease, a year rather than six months, they should use that to negotiate on rent.
If you find a place and it looks as if it needs a lick of paint, or if the landlord says it will be redecorated before you move in, suggest you do it yourself which will get you a discount on the rent.
Also if you are flush, offering more than one month rent in advance may help to secure a reduced rent.
Contracts and legal Issues
Many landlords will expect to you sign some form of contract, usually committing you to at least six months. A year is standard in many cases. Read this contract carefully before you sign it – it is a legal agreement.
Also check the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), which is an organisation set up by the Government which provides information on landlord and tenants rights and from September 2004 all landlords must register new tenancies with the board. Check your landlord is registered and if not, you should ask why.
Deposits are usually about four to six week’s rent, required to be paid in advance of moving in. It covers any damage you may inflict on the property or non-payment of rent. What is considered as damage on a property can often become a tenuous area.
Unscrupulous landlords have been known to keep deposits on shady allegations of damage. Ensure you receive a signed receipt for the amount deposited, and an inventory of the contents and state of the property. This way, you cannot be held accountable for existing damage. If the landlord hasn’t prepared one draw one up yourself and get them to sign it. Remember you cannot set your deposit against the last rent payment due.
A landlord may withhold a deposit (or part of a deposit) only if the tenant has not given proper notice when leaving, or if they have left outstanding bills (i.e. electricity or telephone), or the tenant has caused damage beyond normal wear and tear.
NOTE: Last December (2009), Minister of State for Housing Michael Finneran proposed new legislation governing tenancy disputes. Landlords will face receiving fixed fines of several thousands of euro (likely to be three times the amount of the deposit) if they illegally retain tenants’ deposits.
The legislation which is due to come before the Oireachtas next year will also provide scope for the legal termination of a tenancy where tenants have stopped paying rent during a dispute and will stop tenants from withholding rent as leverage in any disagreement with their landlord.
Your landlord has a right to reasonable access to carry out emergency repairs, but elsewhere they should always ask for your permission and should give you at least 24 hours notice.
Landlords cannot take or retain tenants’ property even if they are behind with the rent.
Insure your belongings
You will need to consider buying insurance for your belongings. Although the landlord will usually be responsible for insuring the property and the items in it that do not belong to you, the possessions that you bring with you are unlikely to be covered.
If disputes arise
If a dispute arises regarding private tenancy agreements, you may take your case to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).
One of its main functions is to mediate disputes between landlords and tenants in private rented accommodation.
A landlord must:
- Register the tenancy with the PRTB and also provide the tenant with a rent book or statement of rent paid
- Make sure the tenant has correct contact details so they can easily get in touch with the landlord (or the agent’s details)
- Insure the property (If it is impossible to get insurance or the cost is unreasonable this does not apply.) Check this out with your local Credit Union.
- Ensure the property meets certain minimum standards and repair and maintain the interior of the property to the standard it was in at the start of the tenancy
- Compensate the tenants for any repairs the tenants carry out which are under your remit
- Provide the tenant with information about any agents authorised to deal on your behalf – management companies, relatives if they are collecting rent etc
- Give 28 days notice of any rent reviews and provide tenants with a valid notice of termination in writing if this situation arises (see below on terminating contracts)
If the landlord wants you to leave?
Any termination notice given must be in writing and signed by the landlord or an authorised agent. If the tenancy is longer than six months the landlord must explain the reason for terminating the tenancy and state that any issue with the termination must be referred to the PRTB within 28 days from the receipt of the notice.
Landlords can terminate a tenancy that has lasted between six months and four years in the following circumstances:
- After three and a half years
- If the landlord needs the property for yourself or an immediate family member
- If the tenant does not comply with the obligations of the tenancy
- If you want to sell or refurnish the property
- If the property is no longer suited to the tenants’ needs (for example you rent a one-bedroom flat to a couple and two more people move in, causing overcrowding)
- Any notice given must be in writing and be signed by you or an authorised agent. It must list the date of termination, the reason (if tenancy is longer than six months), and state any issue with the termination must be referred to the PRTB within 28 days from the receipt of the notice.
The length of notice depends on the length of the tenancy.
Length of tenancy notice by landlord
Less than 6 months: 4 weeks
6 months to a year: 5 weeks
1 – 2 years: 6 weeks
2 – 3 years: 8 weeks
3 – 4 years: 12 weeks
4 years or more: 16 weeks