Looking for a place to rent
Things to consider and be aware of before you sign the lease
The search for a rental property can be a lot of work, but it can also be really exciting, because at the end of it, you’ve got a new place! Along the way you’re bound to have a few questions, though, so here’s an article about things to consider before you sign the lease.
Before you move in
A potential landlord is not allowed to discriminate against you (i.e. not let to you) for any of the following:
- Your gender
- Your civil status (whether you live with/are married to someone)
- Your family status
- Your sexual orientation
- Your religion
- Your age
- Your race
- If you are a member of the Traveller community
- If you have a disability
- If you receive rent supplement or housing assistance
Sometimes ads will have things like “rent supplement not accepted” or “professionals only;” this counts as discrimination and is not acceptable. If you feel you have been discriminated against while you’re seeking a rental property, you should contact the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for more information.
What your potential landlord can ask for
Your prospective landlord may, however, request that you provide certain information. You should only show them these things if they are offering you a tenancy and you want to take it, and not before. Sometimes, a landlord will ask to see:
- Your PPS number (for the registration of your tenancy)
- A reference from a previous landlord or employer
- A photo ID
- Evidence of residency
- A bank statement or payslips
If you are unsure why they are asking you for the information, you can ask, and you don’t have to show them anything you don’t want to.
Watching out for rent fraud
Renting a privately owned property can be risky, and some people can fall victim to a rent fraud, where they hand over a deposit or personal information and then never get to move in. There are some things you can do that can go toward making sure the tenancy is genuine.
- Never agree to rent a property without having seen it, and making sure it’s acceptable.
- Make sure you’re equally okay with the lease and the terms and conditions—and if you’re not, or feel suspicious, don’t sign!
- Try not to use cash, and insist on a proper receipt for your deposit.
- Meet your landlord at the property for that transaction, and check that the keys they give you work.
- Make sure you have the proper contact details for your new landlord (full name, phone, address, and email address if possible)
- If you have any doubts whatsoever, just don’t do it.
- And, if you suspect you have been or could be the victim of a rent fraud, contact the Gardaí.
Dealing with letting agents
Frequently, landlords rent to tenants through a third-party letting agent. These agents are required by law to carry licenses, and you should never deal with an unlicensed letting agent, as you lose all protection if things go wrong.
Ensure the agent has a license at the Property Services Regulatory Authority website: www.npsra.ie/
Get your landlord’s full details anyway, as if you have a problem you will need these and not the letting agent’s.
Signing a Lease
A lease is an agreement between you and your landlord that designates how long you can live there, payments, and other terms and conditions, like who is responsible for damages, etc. Legally, your landlord doesn’t have to offer you a lease, but it’s usually a good idea. Here’s what you should know:
A lease is legally binding, and you can’t get out of it (or your landlord can’t give you notice) unless there’s:
- a clause in the lease that allows it
- if you (or your landlord) violates the law
- if both you and your landlord agree to end the lease.
The terms of the lease cannot be changed during the lease, unless, again, you and your landlord agree. You can, however, request to sublet to another person during this time, and must make the arrangements yourself for another tenant. If you break the lease, your landlord can’t keep or deduct from your deposit. They may, however, try to cover costs for the money they spend seeking a new tenant. If this is the case, ask to see the evidence of the costs.
If your lease is nearly up, you should inform your landlord in writing at least one month before the lease expires whether you’d like to stay or go.
Always read the lease very, very carefully, and get a second opinion on it if you can. If you think the lease is unfair in some way or violates the law, you can contact www.threshold.ie/ for advice.
Paying a deposit
Before you move in to a rented property, you will usually have to pay a security deposit to your new landlord, to cover any rent arrears, bills, or damage to the property while you’re renting it (beyond the normal “wear and tear”). It’s normally about the cost of one month’s rent, and you should be able to get it back at the end of your tenancy, provided you don’t owe anything.
- Don’t pay a deposit unless you’re absolutely certain you’re going to rent the property, and that you’re okay with its condition.
- Again, try not to pay in cash, and get a receipt.
- Pay the deposit directly to the landlord only.
- Make a note when you move in of any existing damage or wear and tear to the property, to avoid getting charged for it later. Take photos if you can, and date everything.
- If you pay a deposit and then decide not to move in, you do risk losing some or all of your deposit.
Your landlord’s responsibilities
Registering your tenancy
Your landlord is required by law to register your tenancy with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) within a month from the time you move in. In order to register your tenancy they may need certain details from you, such as your PPS number and identification.
If they do not register your tenancy, they will not be able to refer disputes to the board, but since it’s not your fault they didn’t register you, you will still be able to.
You can check if your tenancy is registered on www.prtb.ie/, and you can report if you’re not registered here.
Keeping a rent book
Your landlord is also required to keep a rent book or other document, such as a lease, which you keep.
- The document must have records and dates of every payment, deposit, etc. that you have made.
- It should also show the terms and conditions of the lease, and both your and your landlord’s complete contact information.
- When you pay your rent to the landlord in person, it should be recorded in the rent book.
- Alternatively, any receipts that you receive for your payments should show the amount, the date, and the purpose of the payment (e.g. “rent”)
- If you pay another way, for example through a direct-deposit method, your landlord must record it in the rent book or provide you with a receipt within three months of the payment.
If your landlord refuses to provide you with a rent book or to show you other documentation, first inform him or her that they are legally required to do so. If they do not comply, you can make a complaint to your local authority.
Inevitably, there will be some costs associated with renting that you will be responsible for. Sometimes, these services will be included in the rent, but it’s up to you to read the lease to see what you’re paying for. Here are some common ones:
Gas and electric
While it’s your landlord’s job to ensure that the gas and electric are safe and fully maintained, it could be your job to pay for the services. You can shop around for a good value, and make sure you know what to do at the end of your tenancy so you don’t get stuck with the bill for the next guy’s.
Usually it is the renter’s job to fill up the oil tank if the property heats with oil. You have to be careful not to let it go below the minimum, and you should tell your landlord immediately if there are any problems with the tank. (To keep this expense low, it may help to fill up the tank during the summer off-season, when oil is cheaper.)
Once again, your landlord must provide you with access to safe (pest-proof) places to store your trash in. Again you can shop around for the best or best-budget providers, and you can also recycle and use organic waste bins to lower costs.
If there is a TV in your rental property, you will still be responsible for ensuring that you have a TV license in order to use it.
If there is internet available to you in your rental property, make sure it works before you move in, or if it doesn’t or if there is no internet installed, make sure your landlord will allow you to improve or install it before you move in.
Getting help with rent
If you’re unable to afford rent, you may qualify for rent supplement, either to help you find a place to rent or to help you continue to pay your rent.
- There are rent limits that state that, depending upon your household size and the place you’re living, the rent can’t be above a certain amount. (See more information on rent limits here, and contact your local Department of Social Protection representative to find out if you qualify.)
- However, if your rent is being increased and you qualify for rent supplement, the Tenancy Protection Service (TPS) may be able to help you, even above the limit, if it means you won’t become homeless. (See more information here)
- Furthermore, a new form of support called Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is being introduced. HAP is an income-based program that reassigns you a lower rent based on your ability to pay, and covers the remainder. For more information, go here.
It can be difficult sharing privately rented accommodation, as a lot of the rules change right off the bat. However, most of the basic ones stay the same: read those terms and conditions, and get all of your agreements down in writing.
If you’re sharing with the landlord
Note that normal landlord and tenant laws won’t apply in this situation, so you won’t be able to refer any disputes should they arise. Make up an agreement anyway that states rules for the deposit, payments, bills, house rules, etc., and how to end the “lease” if you need to.
If you’re renting from tenants (including if you’re subletting or just sharing the property with them)
- Once again note that normal landlord/tenant rules may not apply in this situation.
- After six months, however, you can apply to be a tenant, to receive the same terms and conditions as a normal tenant.
- Make sure you trust the people you’re sharing with, as the lease you all sign will apply not just to yourself but to them as well. For example if someone doesn’t pay their rent for the month, you’re also responsible.
- If you’re not all getting along, it may be best just to end your tenancy, rather than live in bad conditions.
Student accommodations are becoming trickier and trickier to find, so it’s necessary as a student to be particularly sharp when looking for a place. Just to recap, here’s one final list of what to do when you’re looking for a place.
- Check the place out thoroughly beforehand.
- Make sure electrical and gas appliances are in good working order.
- Get in writing what repairs need to be made before you move in.
- Try not to pay your deposit in cash, and insist that you get a receipt.
- READ THAT LEASE! Know when you’ll have to move out, what you have to do then, and who pays for what and when.
- After you move in, take photographs of any damaged items so that you’re not liable.
- Check out contents insurance options, as your landlord’s insurance won’t pay for your belongings if they’re stolen or damaged.
- Make sure you have access to a rent book, and that your landlord registers your tenancy.