You have managed to secure a place in college and now it’s time to find somewhere to live. Finding accommodation at this time of year can be a challenge, as there is often an influx of new and returning college students. Although it can be tempting, you should not sign a tenancy agreement or pay a deposit for the first place you see - take some time to view other properties and find somewhere that can best meet your needs. All landlords are required to register their tenancies with the RTB. You can check online to see if the previous tenancies have been registered, or you can ask the landlord when they will be registering the tenancy.
When viewing accommodation available to rent, remember that a landlord or agent can't discriminate against you because of your age, gender or sexual orientation. Click here for more information about the equality legislation that covers private rented accommodation.
When viewing accommodation available to rent, check that it meets basic minimum standards. All rented accommodation must meet a certain number of basic requirements, for example, hot and cold water must be available to the tenant. The Local Authority where the tenancy is located is responsible for making sure your accommodation complies with the minimum standards. Local authorities carry out inspections of rented accommodation to ensure the basic requirements are provided for tenants. If a landlord does not provide the basic requirements, they may be prosecuted. Landlords are encouraged to conduct regular inspections of their rented property, but should arrange these inspections with the tenant, providing adequate notice. Tenants are entitled to privacy in their accommodation and this should be respected by landlords.
Landlords will often ask for a deposit at the start of the tenancy. There are no legal guidelines as to how much of a deposit should be paid, however, the usual amount is one months’ rent. A landlord holds the deposit until the end of the tenancy and should return it promptly when the tenancy ends. To ensure you get your full deposit back, it is important to follow the conditions outlined in the tenancy agreement, keep the property in a good condition, and return the accommodation in the same way it was provided. It is also important to remember that in some cases, a landlord may be entitled to keep a portion of the deposit. For example, if you have not paid your rent and are in rent arrears at the end of a tenancy, a landlord may keep all, or a portion of, the deposit to cover the arrears. If there is damage to the property that is in excess of normal wear and tear, a landlord may keep all or a portion of the deposit to repair any damage done. If you are in a fixed term tenancy (e.g. 12-month tenancy) and leave the tenancy before the end of the fixed term, a landlord may be entitled to keep your deposit or deduct a portion of it to offset the costs of re-letting the accommodation and any rent lost from the fixed term. Remember to get a receipt from your landlord when you pay a deposit, and if possible, do not pay a deposit in cash. Ideally, you should only pay a deposit once you have viewed the property and are happy with the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Click here for a checklist that is helpful when seeking the return of a deposit.
If you are sharing accommodation with friends or other students, be clear at the start of the tenancy that you are all aware of the information contained within the tenancy agreement, and your rights and responsibilities as tenants. For example, if three people sign a fixed-term tenancy agreement, and one tenant leaves the tenancy early, the other two tenants are now responsible for ensuring the total rent is paid. A landlord has the right to know who is living in the accommodation, and also has the right to decide if tenants can sub-let the property. Tenants should make sure they have the contact details of the landlord or agent working on their behalf and should maintain open lines of communication with their landlord.
A Rent Pressure Zone is an area where rents can only be increased by up to 4% annually. If you are beginning a tenancy located in a Rent Pressure Zone (click here to check if your tenancy is in a RPZ), the landlord is required to provide you with the following information at the beginning of the tenancy:
The rent for the tenancy must be in line with local market rents for similar properties, and a landlord must provide three examples of rents for comparable properties to show this. It is important to remember that not all tenancies located in Rent Pressure Zones are subject to the Rent Pressure Zone rules. For example, if a property is new to the rental market and has not been rented at any time in the previous 2 years, it does not fall under the Rent Pressure Zone restrictions. Properties which have undergone a substantial change are also excluded from the Rent Pressure Zone restrictions. Click here for more information on tenancies in Rent Pressure Zones.