Your rights when dealing with problems during your tenancy
Evelyn takes a look at everything from increased rent to noisy neighbours
Navigating the ins and outs of renting property can be stressful, especially if not everything runs as smoothly as it should. Sometimes, problems are going to spring up, but if you know your rights, don’t stress, and take steps, odds are you can get your problem taken care of. Or, if not, you can contact the appropriate authorities for help.
So, here’s what to do if:
Your rent increases
Once you begin renting a property, your rent is set for 24 months after the time you began renting, and for 24 months after your last review. After this time, your landlord may request a rent review. He or she must give you 90 days’ notice of the new rent, and when it is to start, in writing only. If an increase in rent is a problem for you, you do not have to accept the review, and there are steps you can take.
Check the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) rent index, newspaper ads, and real estate websites, to see how much is being charged for similar properties in your area. Your landlord can’t charge you more than “market rent,” so if the properties’ rents around yours look lower than your new rent you may have a case.
- Negotiate with your landlord. You can try to negotiate the increase over a longer amount of time, or remind your landlord that your tenancy is well-established and they don’t want to have to get a new tenant if you have to leave due to a higher rent.
- If your landlord refuses or if you can’t reach an agreement, you can refer the review to the PRTB within 28 days of being notified of the review. You should continue paying the same rent during this process until a decision is made. However, it’s also possible that the PRTB will accept the review, and add the charge of the higher rent to rent that was paid during the proceedings.
- If having to pay higher rent could make you lose your tenancy or become homeless, you can contact www.threshold.ie for help.
You have trouble paying your rent
It’s your job as a tenant to pay the rent on time and in full every month, to the best of your ability. If you’re struggling with that, or are building up rent arrears, or late fees, it’s important not to ignore them, because they won’t just go away. Here’s what you should do:
- Keep track of how much money you owe. It’s your landlord’s job to keep a rent book, which keeps track of your payments as well as how much money you may owe.
- Tell your landlord if you’re struggling, as soon as possible. If they know, they may be willing to negotiate with you, to come up with a payment plan, or even to lower your rent for a time. Remember to be honest about how much you can pay every month, and keep track of any agreement you make in writing.
- Check if you are able to apply for a Rent Supplement from your local Department of Social Protection representative.
You have been given notice due to rent arrears
When you fail to pay your rent in full by the due date, your tenancy could be in trouble. If you inform your landlord that you’re struggling before you are in arrears, hopefully you’ll be able to work something out before it comes to a notice. If you are given a notice, there are still rules your landlord must follow for this process.
- You must be given written notice of the fact that you are in arrears.
- If you have not paid what you owe in 14 days, or come to an agreement, your landlord, if he or she decides to give notice, must give you a minimum of 28 days in which to leave, again in writing.
- Your landlord can not seize your belongings, forcibly remove you or your belongings, change the locks, or cut off your utilities; all of those constitute an illegal eviction and should be reported.
Your home is being entered without permission
Even though your landlord owns the property, it is still your home, and they are not allowed to show up unannounced, or enter whenever they want (except in cases of emergency). Here’s how to make sure your privacy is respected while you’re a tenant.
Discuss everything, and get your agreements down in writing. There are lots of things you and your landlord may need to reach agreements on, such as:
- how often inspections should be carried out
- how much notice you will be given before each one
- when and how repairs will be made
- whether or not a repairman can enter your residence if you are not present
- whether or when, during the end of your tenancy, the landlord can enter to show the place to a potential new tenant
If the agreements you and your landlord make are not being respected, or if your landlord repeatedly enters your property without your permission, you can file a complaint with the PRTB.
You’re having trouble with the neighbours or nearby noise
If you can, you should try to resolve issues with neighbours in person and informally; no one likes a fight. If you are unable to do this, however, there are still things you can do to prevent your peace and quiet from being interrupted. In general, you should try to keep records of complaints, including dates, times, and a summary of the issue. If possible, make recordings. Here are a few common problems and how to deal with them:
Anti-social or dangerous behaviours
If tenants in your building are a) committing offences which may directly affect your well-being, b) engaging in behaviour that could cause fear, injury, damage, or loss of life, or c) engaging in behaviour that effectively prevents you from peaceful dwelling in your residence, or basically making you uncomfortable in any way, you should report them to your landlord immediately. Your landlord can then give seven days’ notice, for the first two, or be served a warning to correct their behaviour in the last case.
There are no maximum noise levels in residences, but if you find yourself continuously disrupted, by a noise that is loud, continuous, at an inconvenient time, or otherwise annoying, you can report the noise to your landlord, who should then allow the offenders some time to correct their behaviour. If it continues, they could be given notice. If your landlord or the other tenant won’t cooperate, you can file a third-party complaint through the PRTB.
There are also no maximum noise levels set for construction sites, but you can contact your local Planning Authority to check if there are any conditions attached to the site (e.g. times of working) and whether or not they’re being violated.
Pubs or nightclubs
Public noise regulations state that you can take action against the causes in district court (http://www.courts.ie/) under The Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise). If the noise from a busy pub or nightclub is getting to you, you can take it up in court, or object to the renewal of their liquor license at Licensing Court.
If the noise is coming from loud people on the street outside the venue, you can call the Gardaí.
This one is also best to try and resolve with the dogs’ owner, and you should keep records of the incidents, duration, etc. If the problem does not get resolved, you can again take it up in district court.
You want security of tenure
If you have been renting for six months or more, you automatically get the right to stay in that property for another three and a half years. This is called a Part 4 tenancy, and it guarantees your housing rights. Here’s how to get it:
- Notify your landlord of your intention to continue to rent that property between three months and one month of the time your lease is up (find the form here)
- If you stay at that property for the full four years, and wish to stay there, just repeat the process: after the first six months of the fifth year, notify your landlord you’d like to stay. Note: during those six-month trial periods, your landlord is allowed to serve notice at any time without giving a reason. After the six months is up and you have secured your tenancy, they must follow the law regarding serving notices and must provide adequate time and reason.
Something big breaks
It’s your landlord’s job to ensure that your rental property is up to scratch, especially during the winter months, when a lack of heat or water could be dangerous.
- If something gets damaged, especially if it isn’t your fault, like due to a flood or pipes bursting, tell your landlord immediately. Not only is it their job to fix it promptly, but if you don’t inform them, you could face consequences.
- See what your landlord or your landlord’s insurance will cover; if you have to find temporary housing while repairs are being made, or if your property is damaged in some way, it’s possible you can get reimbursed.
Again, it’s best to try to settle any disagreements or troubles that you have internally, but if the person you have a problem with just won’t cooperate, you should go to the necessary authorities.
A quick review: to view the rent index, to file a complaint or to refer a rent review, visit www.prtb.ie/
For getting advice or help with any questions or problems you have, visit www.threshold.ie/