In today’s real estate market, finding affordable rental accommodation is particularly difficult. With a limited supply of rental properties available and huge demand, finding a place to rent can be a stressful experience. The pressure is strong to try to secure accommodation by posting a deposit as quickly as possible.
Before parting with your money, and to avoid falling victim to rental scammers, you should:
- Always visit the property – do not agree to rent it through a website or social media
- Never electronically transfer funds to someone claiming to be an agent/owner until you are sure you have a legitimate transaction
- Check that the keys are working and that you have full and correct details of the owner/agent authorized to rent the property.
You should never give a deposit to a prospective landlord/agent until you are sure you are happy with the condition of the property, the terms and conditions of the rental and are ready to rent it out.
Some landlords or agents may ask you for a security deposit when you decide to take the accommodation. This is an amount of money you pay to hold the property before you sign the lease and enter into a contract with the landlord. You should always get a written receipt for a security deposit.
Security deposits are often not refundable if you do not take the accommodation. As a tenancy has not been created, it is not possible to use the Residential Tenancies Board Dispute Resolution to attempt to recover your money. You may be able to take the matter to small claims court.
A security deposit will be required before moving into the accommodation. The landlord holds this deposit as security to cover rent arrears, bills due, or damage beyond normal wear and tear at the end of the tenancy.
You cannot be forced to make upfront payments for more than 2 months’ rent. This includes a deposit of one month’s rent and one month’s rent in advance. This restriction applies to all tenancies created on or after 9 August 2021 and is set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 2021 (No 2).
You should get a receipt for any deposit you pay. Your rent book should show the amount of deposit you paid.
Students in student-specific rentals can opt out of this restriction and pay a larger upfront payment if they wish. The Residential Tenancies Commission has a guidance document on this legislation.
If you are on social assistance and are unable to pay the deposit, the Department of Social Welfare representative (formerly the Social Welfare Officer) may be able to help you pay the deposit. a deposit under the supplementary social allowance scheme.
If you are in emergency homeless accommodation, your local authority can help you with any deposits needed to secure accommodation under the HAP scheme. You should contact the housing section of your municipality for more information on this subject.
CONDITION FILE AT BEGINNING AND END OF RENTAL
When you move in, your landlord must provide you with an inventory of the contents of the accommodation. You should keep a record of the condition of everything listed, taking pictures if possible, and agree in writing with your landlord.
Before leaving the property, you must clean it thoroughly, remove all your belongings, dispose of all rubbish and take dated photos to show the condition in which it was returned. This will be very useful if you find that the owner is reluctant to return your deposit and you need to file a complaint with the RTB. Ideally, you should ask to be present for a final inspection of the property with the owner/agent.
LOSING THE DEPOSIT
When you leave a property at the end of the agreed rental period or after giving the agreed notice, the landlord must return your security deposit, promptly and in full. However, if you leave before the end of the agreed period, the owner can keep your deposit, even if you have given notice. It is also possible that you will also be liable for the amount of rent due until the end of the lease, depending on what is stipulated in the lease agreement.
You risk losing part or all of your deposit if:
- You leave without notice or before the end of a fixed-term lease
- You cause damage to the dwelling beyond normal wear and tear
- You leave with unpaid bills
- You leave with rent arrears.
The landlord can’t hold your property against the money you owe, but they can go to the RTB if they think your bond doesn’t cover the back rent or the cost of damage to the property.
FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE RESIDENTIAL RENTAL COMMISSION
If you think your landlord is unfairly withholding your deposit, you should request it in writing. If your landlord claims there are unpaid bills/rents or damage to the property, you should request proof of those claims. If you cannot reach an agreement/guarantee the return of your deposit, you can file a complaint with the RTB and opt for mediation or arbitration on the matter. Mediation is free. Arbitration costs €15.00 if you apply online and €25.00 if you submit a paper application.
HOLDING TENANT DEPOSIT PROTECTION PLAN
A point to note is that the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 provides for a tenancy deposit protection scheme, under which the RTB would manage and hold deposits for tenants and landlords, but these provisions are not yet in force.
Anyone who needs information, advice or has an advocacy issue can call a member of the local Citizens Information Team in North Cork. Telephone: Fermoy 0818 07 7970, Monday and Tuesday 9am-5pm, Wednesday and Thursday 9am-1pm; Mallow 0818 07 8000, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 9am-5pm and Tuesday 9am-12.30pm; Mitchelstown 0818 07 8030 – calls are answered by Mallow.