People taking advantage of the Government’s Rent-a-Room scheme can find themselves with “nowhere to turn” when things go wrong, according to a Dublin homeowner.
The scheme allows homeowners to take in up to €14,000 a year tax-free when renting out a room in their home.
Under the scheme, homeowners and renters are not covered by tenant legislation and do not fall under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board.
Instead, disputes can be taken to the Small Claims Court for resolution.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, homeowner Bernadette said she has had “two very bad experiences” with the scheme in the past year.
“I’m not a landlord or a slum landlord,” she said. “I am just a homeowner trying to make ends meet.
“The way these two tenants have treated me is deplorable and I have found myself with nowhere to turn.”
“I had a new tenant move in with me in February, and then in March we had the lockdown and the ban on evictions, so I fell under that or at least I thought I did.
“I had this new tenant and she was out and about galivanting – mixing with everybody in the country, going away for weekends.
“I have an 84-year-old mother and twice I had to go into self-isolation because there was the potential possibility this girl had brought COVID into my home.”
She said she explained her situation to the tenant and “everything was rosy” for a few days until the following week, she “took off and went missing for five days.”
“When she came back, I had no choice,” she said. “I booked a hotel room for her for three nights and I asked her to leave my home.
“She went upstairs, locked herself in her room, rang a lawyer and threatened to sue me for illegal eviction. She said she was going to take me to court for €25,000 and called the Gardaí on me.
“I ended up spending the night in my car so I wouldn’t have any interaction with her.”
Bernadette said the tenant eventually moved out – but the damage had already been done.
“It was just the stress and nobody would help me,” she said. “Citizens Information and the RTB wouldn’t tie themselves to answers.”
Bernadette’s other experience involved a doctor who had been living with her since 2016.
“Then COVID broke out and he told he would rather not be in the country for COVID dealing with the epidemic,” she said.
“He never paid me for the months of April, May, June or July and it is crazy. I have all his belongings here, it is like he has gone on a long-term vacation, I have no idea when he is coming back and I can’t reach him.
“He just went away in March and any contact he made, he just kept saying, “I will be back shortly, I will be back shortly.”
"Vanished into thin air"
When he came back in August, Bernadette set up a repayment plan, which worked out for the first few months until, at the start of November, he disappeared again.
“I came home on November 31st and he was gone,” she said. “Vanished into the air – never to be heard from again.
“He has blocked my email; he has blocked my phone. He has left me with two month’s rent unpaid and bills. He damaged property in my house and he left half a car in my garden shed.
“He basically just took anything he valued from my home and left the rest behind.”
Rent a room
Renting out a room in your home is not covered under landlord and tenant legislation.
Renters are classed as licensees rather than tenants and are only entitled to “reasonable notice” if the homeowner decides to end the agreement.
Both sides are advised to sign a written agreement before the rental begins.
Any breach of the agreement can be taken to the Small Claims Court by either side.