Hunt for accommodation: What students need to know before paying deposits

Department guidelines set down strict rules for all rented flats and houses

Hunt for accommodation: What students need to know before paying deposits

File photo: RollingNews.ie

Students preparing to rent accommodation for the first time have been warned to ensure the property meets minimum legal standards.

Under current rules, enforceable by local authorities, all rented flats and houses are required to have adequate sanitary, heating and food preparation facilities.

Accommodation must have a toilet with a washing basin, supplied with both hot and cold water, as well as a fixed bath or shower.

Bathrooms, meanwhile, need to be separated from other rooms by a wall and have their own ventilation.

Kitchens must contain a four-ring hob with oven and grill, presses, a microwave oven, a sink with a draining area, extractor fan or cooker hood, and both a fridge and freezer.

A washing machine needs to be available in the unit or in the grounds of the building. Dryers should also be provided if you don’t have access to a garden or yard, according to the Department of Environment guidelines. 

Multi-unit dwellings are required to contain a mains-wired smoke alarm, fire blanket and an emergency evacuation plan.

Rental units that aren’t part of an apartment block need to have a fire blanket and either a mains-wired smoke alarm or at least two 10-year, battery-operated smoke alarms.

Drawing up an inventory

While the cost of deposits can vary, they're usually set at the equivalent of a month's rent.

Threshold encourages tenants to avoid paying in cash and always get a receipt. Deposits should also be handed over to the landlord and not to another renter, it says. 

Once your tenancy has begun, your landlord is required to provide you with a signed inventory of furniture and appliances. 

Dated photos of all rooms should be taken, too, to record the property's condition when you move in.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) also warns first-time renters not to sign a 12-month lease if they plan to only stay for nine months, as they could end up losing their deposits or having to pay the extra three months of rent.

A checklist drawn up by the organisation reminds tenants that they’re responsible for insuring their personal belongings, while landlords are obliged to cover the structure itself.

It also advises students against signing a lease with people they don’t know or trust, because it could leave them liable for unpaid rent, bills or damage.

Tenants are only entitled to get their deposits back if they've paid rent, given required notice, haven’t breached a fixed-term lease, haven’t damaged the property and paid their bills.

To avoid dodgy landlords, students can search for previous dispute cases on the RTB website. A summary of your rights and obligations as a tenant can be found on www.rtb.ie.