Students coming to university in Galway must be sure of their rights and responsibilities before signing a rental agreement or verbally agreeing to rent properties.
This is the message of the Private Residential Tenancies Board to students who are returning to NUI, Galway and the GMIT for the new semester. The board is calling on students, particularly those who will be renting for first time to log onto www.prtb.ie and familiarise themselves with the rules and procedures of renting.
Renting a property is a business arrangement and the PRTB is warning students to choose flat mates carefully, since in certain circumstances each individual tenant may be held jointly responsible for unpaid rent or damage to property caused by other tenants.
Tenants are legally obliged to pay their rent and if they fall into arrears they could end up facing prosecution. Students should consider whether a 12 month lease suits their needs, if they only need the property for the academic year, since breaking a lease may incur penalties.
The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses ) Regulations 2008 specify requirements in relation to structural repair, absence of damp, separate bathroom facilities, heating, ventilation, light, and safety of gas and electrical supply.
Kitchen facilities must include a four ring hob with grill and oven, a fridge and freezer, microwave, and washing machine.
The PRTB said that rents have decreased in recent times and the standard of accommodation is higher than ever.
The PRTB also maintains a register of all private tenancies and landlords are legally obliged to register the tenancy. The board maintains a public register on its website. The board has also replaced the courts for the vast majority of landlord and tenant disputes and cases can be referred for a €25 fee.
Deposit retention is the main source of dispute between landlords and tenants, comprising 52 per cent of cases heard in 2009. Deposits may only be retained in limited circumstances, where rent or utility bills are outstanding or where damage beyond normal wear and tear has been caused by the tenants.
Therefore it is important the students point out to landlords at the beginning of the term any damage or defect they see.
Rent arrears is the main issue referred to the PRTB by landlords, accounting for 21 per cent of PRTB cases last year. Non payment of rent is a serious matter, which could result in a conviction, so any students who find themselves behind should not ignore the problem but make arrangements with the landlord.
Students should have receipts for all rent payments made and should have an agreed inventory of the contents and condition of premises they propose to rent in case of problems at the end of the arrangement.