In Ireland, looking for somewhere to live can be difficult. The volume and range of rental accommodation available usually depends on the part of the country you are moving to. Larger cities and towns may offer greater options and price ranges than smaller towns and villages. On the other hand, rental prices outside larger urban areas are generally lower.
Advertisements, accommodation websites and word of mouth
A good place to start looking for a flat, apartment or house is the accommodation section of local and evening newspapers and accommodation websites. Try to buy the paper as soon as it comes out. Accommodation may also be advertised in shop windows or notice boards in supermarkets and colleges. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a place: word of mouth is surprisingly successful. Some places, especially if they’re being let through an estate agent, will have “To Let” signs outside. You should make an appointment to see the flat or house and arrive early.
Using accommodation agencies
Accommodation agencies are commercial organisations that may charge a fee for helping you find private rented accommodation. They normally deal with more expensive accommodation than newspapers. If they charge a fee, it is normally about 50 euro. Before you register with the agency and pay a fee, you should get answers to the following questions:
- Is the agency licensed?
- What services are offered for the fee?
- In what circumstances will you be entitled to a refund?
- how many landlords who accept rent supplements does the agency have on its list?
- If you decide to register, make sure you get a receipt for any money you pay.
Looking round a flat or house
Have a good look round the accommodation before making a decision. You might find the following checklist helpful:
- Are there any signs of dampness?
- Do the windows open?
- What security is available (i.e. window locks, burglar alarm)?
- Is a smoke detector provided and is it functioning?
- Who pays for the heat? What hours is it on, and who controls it?
- Is hot water available all or some of the time?
- Are the cooker and fridge clean and in working order?
- What sort of condition is the bathroom in?
- Do you have to share the bathroom? If so, with how many others?
- Is there storage for bicycles, parking space etc?
- Is there a bus route or other public transport nearby?
- Are there shops and other facilities nearby?
Landlords may ask for a deposit, which might be a week or month’s rent. If you are receiving social welfare payments, your Community Welfare Officer may help with paying a deposit, although you may have to pay some of it yourself. Make sure you get a receipt for any deposit you pay. You may lose your deposit if:
- You leave without giving proper notice or leave before the end of a fixed term lease
- You cause damage to the accommodation beyond normal wear and tear
- You leave with bills or rent unpaid
Before you agree to rent
Make sure you can afford the rent being asked. If you will be claiming rent supplement, make sure you know the local maximum rent level allowed by the Health Services Executive (HSE) Area. It is sensible to tell the landlord at this stage that you will be claiming it, since not all landlords will take tenants on rent supplement.
Be aware of your rights and your obligations and your landlord’s rights and obligations. Your landlord, for example, is obliged to provide you with a rent book. They are also obliged to ensure that the accommodation meets certain minimum physical standards. They should also register the tenancy with the Private Residential Tenancies Board, an organisation set up by the government to register tenancies and mediate disputes between landlords and tenants.
If the landlord wants to give you a fixed term lease of six months or a year, don’t agree to this unless you’re sure you want to stay that long. If you leave before the end of a fixed term lease, you may lose your deposit.
You should draw up and agree a list of furnishings and appliances provided, with the landlord. This will help to prevent disputes during your stay and when you are leaving. If there are any signs of damage by previous tenants, make sure this is noted too. This list should be included in the rent book.
If there are great repairs, ask the landlord to state in writing that he/she will carry them out.
If you live in private rented accommodation in Ireland and pay income tax, you may have right for tax relief on part of your rent.
To claim tax relief, you must be paying rent for private rented accommodation which is used as your sole or main residence. This includes accommodation such as a bedsit, flat, apartment or house.
You cannot claim tax relief for rent paid as follows:
- To a local authority or a State Agency
- Rent paid under a lease agreement for 50 years or more
Landlords living in Ireland
If your landlord is resident in Ireland, a receipt for rent you have paid must be provided if and when it is requested by Revenue. This rule applies regardless of whether you pay your rent directly to the landlord or to an agent on behalf of the landlord. Each receipt must show the following:
- Landlord’s name, PPS Number and address
- Amount of rent which you have paid
- Period of time covered by the receipt
Landlords living outside Ireland
If your landlord lives outside Ireland and you pay rent directly to them or to their bank account located in Ireland or abroad, you must deduct tax at the standard rate (20%) from the gross amount which you pay.
This deduction is not your tax relief, it is tax payable to Revenue from your landlord’s income.
For example, if your landlord lives in Germany and you pay him/her gross rent per month of €1000. Firstly, calculate the amount of tax to be deducted (€1000 x 20% = €200).Now deduct the tax due from the gross rent you pay (€1000 – €200 = €800). Your monthly rent paid to your landlord is €800 per month. Your monthly return paid to Revenue is €200 per month.
You must account for the tax you deduct by making a tax return to Revenue and paying over the tax you have deducted from your landlord. You can make a return immediately but in practice this rarely happens. Instead, if you are a PAYE employee you can pay over the tax deducted when you submit your annual Tax Return Form 12 to Revenue. If you pay tax by self-assessment, you can account for the taxes you deduct in your annual self-assessment Tax Return Form 11 which you send to Revenue.
If you fail to deduct tax from rent you pay to a landlord living outside Ireland will mean that you (and not the landlord) will be liable for any tax which should have been deducted.
Tax relief at the standard rate of 20% on private rented accommodation is available whether your landlord lives in Ireland or abroad. From 1 January 2008 tax relief on rent is as follows:
- Age Single Tax Allowance Married/Widowed Tax Allowance
- Aged under 55 years (max. relief) €2,000 €4,000
- Aged over 55 years (max. relief) €4,000 €8,000
To calculate what this is worth to you each year after tax, you multiply the tax allowance amounts above by 20%. So:
- For those aged under 55: this means, the maximum amount a single person under 55 can get is €400 (€2,000 x 20%) for rent paid in 2008. The maximum amount a married couple or widowed person can get is €800 (€4000 x 20%) for rent paid in 2008
- Over 55: this means, the maximum amount a single person over 55 can get is €800 (€4,000 x 20%) for rent paid in 2008. The maximum amount a married couple or widowed person can get is €1,600 (€8,000 x 20%) for rent paid in 2008
How to apply
To claim rent tax relief you must complete Form Rent 1 (pdf) and send to your tax office. (Copies of the form are also available from your local tax office). If you have any difficulty completing the form or supplying any of the information requested, staff in your tax office will be happy to help you.