Renting a House

Signing your first rental agreement? Before you start packing those moving boxes and thinking about what colour curtains to buy, take some time to think about whether you’re protecting yourself when signing your lease agreement.

Remember, a lease agreement is a legal document and you should never assume that your estate agent or landlord have your best interests at heart. While it can be scary signing a document when you don’t have a law degree to your name, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re better protected.

Top Tip:

Your rent doesn’t have to go up automatically by 10% every year. You can negotiate this with your landlord whenever you sign your rental agreement. If you have a good relationship with your landlord, they might be more inclined to forgo this.

What You Should Know

The Rental Housing Act, Consumer Protection Act and the National Credit Act should contain the answers to just about every question you have about renting, either as a tenant or landlord.

While it might be near impossible to learn everything there is to know about these acts, here are the important highlights that you need to know:

What you Should Know about Deposits

1.

Your deposit should be kept in a bank account by a landlord, or in a trust account by a rental agent for the entire duration of the tenancy.

2.

The account where the deposit is kept must be interest-bearing and the interest must be included in the refund.

3.

Both the tenant and landlord (or representing agent) must attend both the moving in and moving out inspection. It is here that the condition of the property will be inspected and the inspection report will be signed. If the landlord / agent doesnt carry out both inspections, it is assumed that the property has been handed over in acceptable condition. The landlord cannot take any money from the deposit for repairs.

4.

When no deductions are taken from the deposit, landlords must refund it within seven days. If repairs need to be done, the refund must be made 14 days after the “restoration of the dwelling”.

5.

In cases where the tenant doesn’t come to the moving out inspection, the landlord will have 21 days to refund the deposit.

What you Should Know about Maintenance

1. Landlords need to make sure that their properties are “reasonably fit for the purpose for which it was let” right at the start of the tenancy. From here, landlords are generally responsible for maintenance of the structure of the building (such as plumbing, etc.) and the tenants tend to be responsible for wear and tear, including changing lightbulbs.

2. The tenancy agreement should include information about who is responsible for which repairs.

 

What you Should Know about Renewals and Rental Increases

  1. The 10% increase in your rent every year is not set in stone and it can’t be included in the rental agreement you sign at the start of your tenancy if you’ve signed for 12 months. Any increase in the rent must be negotiated when the contract is renewed.

 

 

The Rental Tribunal

The Rental Tribunal

No matter how hard you try, there might be times when you disagree with your landlord or estate agent.

When this happens, it’s a good idea to try to work out these differences in a fair and reasonable way, but if that’s not possible, you have another option – the Rental Tribunal.

What do They do?

The Rental Tribunal was put together as a result of the Rental Housing Act and its main aim is to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords. This service is free and can be used by tenants, estate agents, and landlords.

There are lots of matters that can be settled by the Rental Tribunal, including unacceptable living conditions, failure to refund deposits, maintenance issues, discrimination, exploitive rentals and much more.

Submitting a Complaint

There are two ways that you can lay a complaint with the Rental Tribunal:

  1. In person
  2. By mail – you can look up your local RHT offices by calling 0860 106 166 /       011 – 355 4000 / 012 – 483 5020.

Keep in mind that while the Rental Tribunal is in the process of handling this complaint, the tenant cannot be evicted. They will be expected, however, to continue paying all rent payable. The landlord must continue to maintain the property to an acceptable level.

When lodging a complaint, you’ll need to make sure you bring:

  1. YOUR ID / Passport / Permit
  2. Lease agreement
  3. Proof of payments
  4. Proof of physical address of both parties
  5. Contact telephone numbers

What happens after you make the complaint

After you have made the complaint, there are seven things that will likely happen, depending on the outcome:

  1. A file will be opened for the complainant.
  2. Letters are sent to all relevant parties outlining the nature of the complaint.
  3. The RHT will start with their preliminary investigation.
  4. A mediation session will be held to try to resolve the issue. If this is unsuccessful, the issue will then be referred for arbitration / tribunal hearing.
  5. After the hearing, a binding rule will then be handed down to both the tenant and landlord.
  6. Rulings will be enforced by the Magistrate’s Court Act.
  7. If a party is unhappy with the outcome, they can escalate the matter to the High Court.

It usually takes about three months for this process to be resolved.

Avoiding an RHT Dispute

Most of the issues that often come up at the Rental Tribunal could be sorted if both parties were happy with the initial rental agreement. If both parties can be involved in the drawing up of this agreement, it should work better for both of them, but this isn’t always possible. The key is to never sign a rental agreement that you havent read and agreed to.

It starts with the rental agreement

Most of the issues that often come up at the Rental Tribunal could be sorted if both parties were happy with the initial rental agreement. If both parties can be involved in the drawing up of this agreement, it should work better for both of them, but this isn’t always possible. The key is to never sign a rental agreement that you havent read and agreed to.

Joint Inspection

As a tenant, you need to make sure you’re present at the inspection at the start of the lease. Take pictures of all the issues with the property and then email these to your yourself, as well as the agent. During the inspection, all the defects need to be noted and the landlord needs to agree on a time by which to get them fixed.


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