Private tenants: security of tenure
When you rent your home from a private landlord or an approved housing body, you have an agreement or contract with that person or body, known as a tenancy agreement – which may or may not be in writing. The most common types of tenancy are fixed-term tenancies and periodic tenancies – both described in more detail below.
The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 gave tenants the right to stay in rented accommodation for up to 4 years, following an initial 6-month period (with some exceptions - see below). This right applies to both periodic and fixed-term tenancies. Your tenancy then becomes a Part 4 tenancy and can be followed by a further Part 4 tenancy – both described below.
The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 extended the period of a Part 4 tenancy from 4 years to 6 years. This applies to all tenancies created from 24 December 2016. Read more about this change on the Residential Tenancies Board’s website.
The Act also changed the rules on termination of a further Part 4 tenancy, with effect from 17 January 2017.
Scope of legislation
If you are getting Rent Supplement, you are probably renting from a private landlord, so you would be covered by the residential tenancies legislation. It also covers tenancies under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
A fixed-term tenancy is an agreement that covers a specific amount of time. It is generally (but not always) set down in a written contract, called a lease. It may be for any period, but can range from as little as 6 months up to a year or more. It is important to note the following points about a fixed-term tenancy:
- Your landlord may not end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term unless you have breached your obligations under it
- In general, you may not end the tenancy before the end of the term unless the landlord has breached his obligations under it; you are exercising a break clause; you have got someone to replace you; or you and the landlord both agree to end it
- However, if a private landlord* refuses to consent to an assignment or sub-let of the tenancy, you can terminate the tenancy under Section 186 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004
- In general, you acquire security of tenure after 6 months – see ‘Part 4 tenancy’ below
- If you wish to stay in the dwelling after the end of the fixed term, you must notify the landlord at least a month before the term expires
*Tenants of approved housing bodies (housing associations) cannot assign or sublet their tenancy, so this does not apply.
The lease will state how much rent you have to pay, how often you have to pay it and other conditions. You are strongly advised to make sure that you understand the terms of the lease before you sign it. A lease is a binding contract between you and the landlord and contains important information on the terms of your tenancy. In particular, it should state what will happen if either of you breaks the terms of the agreement.
However, a lease should not contain terms that contradict the legal rights of tenants and landlords. If this happens, your legal rights as a tenant or landlord supersede the terms in the lease. For example, your landlord cannot enter the property at any time without seeking your permission. This is the case even if your lease states that the landlord may enter the property at any time.
If you sign a lease together with other people, you each become responsible for all the rent. So, if your fellow tenants cannot pay their share of the rent, you may be legally liable for the entire amount. If you sign a lease on your own on behalf of the other tenants, you become responsible for all the rent.
If the yearly rent on the lease for residential accommodation is over €30,000, the tenant is responsible for stamp duty on the annual rent. It is your responsibility as a tenant to pay this to Revenue.
Read more about leases on the website of Threshold, the national housing charity.
A periodic tenancy agreement does not specify a fixed length of time. The period of the tenancy may be weekly or monthly, depending on how often the rent is due. Periodic tenancy agreements may or may not be in writing.
Your landlord may end the tenancy at any time during the first 6 months without having to give a reason, but, in general, you acquire security of tenure after 6 months – see ‘Part 4 tenancy’ below. You must always get a valid written notice of termination and there are detailed rules about the period of notice that must be given, depending on the length of the tenancy (with some exceptions). Read more in our document If your landlord wants you to leave.
As a tenant, you may end the periodic tenancy at any time. You do not have to give a reason. Again, there are detailed rules about notice periods and what constitutes a valid notice of termination – see ‘Ending your tenancy’ below
Part 4 tenancy
If you have been renting for at least 6 months and haven't been served with a valid written notice of termination, in general you automatically acquire security of tenure and can stay in the property for a number of years.
- If your tenancy started on or before 24 December 2016, this period is 4 years
- If your tenancy started after 24 December 2016, this period is 6 years
This security of tenure continues in 6-year (formerly 4-year) cycles.
So, after the first 6 months, your tenancy becomes what is known as a Part 4 tenancy – this refers to Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which deals with security of tenure. If you have a periodic tenancy, you do not have to claim the Part 4 tenancy in writing, but you do need to claim it if you have a fixed-term lease – see below.
Exceptions to general rule
If you are renting a flat or apartment that was originally part of the landlord's main house, your landlord can choose to opt out of the Part 4 provisions on security of tenure. Read more in our document on Sharing accommodation with your landlord.
Tenants of certain dwellings let by housing associations (transitional dwellings) cannot gain the benefit of Part 4 rights.
Further Part 4 tenancy
After the first cycle (4 or 6 years) of your Part 4 tenancy has ended, your Part 4 tenancy ends and a new tenancy begins. You now have a further Part 4 tenancy. Up to 17 January 2017, your landlord could end this tenancy at any time in the first 6 months without having to give a reason. The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 has repealed this provision with effect from 17 January 2017.
When you have acquired a Part 4 tenancy or further Part 4 tenancy, your landlord can terminate your tenancy only in certain circumstances. Read more in our document If your landlord wants you to leave.
If you want to leave and you do not have a fixed-term agreement, you do not have to give a reason, but you must give the correct period of notice in writing as required under the legislation – see ‘Ending your tenancy’ below.
Preventing a further Part 4 tenancy
Ifyour landlord wishes to stop a further Part 4 tenancy coming into existence, they may serve a notice during the original Part 4 tenancy, with the notice period expiring on or after the end of the tenancy. A notice served in this way should provide a reason for termination. The reason does not need to be one of the valid grounds for terminating a Part 4 tenancy.
Claiming a Part 4 tenancy at the end of a fixed-term lease
If you have a fixed-term contract or lease and you wish to remain in the property under the rights acquired under Part 4, you must notify your landlord of your intention to stay in the property. You must do this between 3 months and 1 month before the expiry of your fixed–term tenancy or lease agreement. You can use this sample letter of notification to remain in the property under Part 4.
If you do not notify your landlord, you cannot be refused coverage under Part 4, but you may have to compensate the landlord for any financial loss that they incur because you did not notify them of your intention to remain in the tenancy.
Ending your tenancy
The following outlines the requirements for a tenant who wishes to end a tenancy. (As noted above, landlords must also comply with detailed rules if they wish to end a tenancy.) There is more detail for both tenants and landlords in this leaflet Terminating a tenancy (doc), published by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
Format of termination notice
As a tenant, you can terminate your tenancy (whether fixed-term or periodic) without giving a reason, but you must provide a valid notice of termination to your landlord. In order to be valid, this notice must:
- Be in writing
- Be signed by you
- Specify the date that you are serving it on the landlord
- Specify the termination date of the tenancy (you have the full 24 hours of this date to vacate possession)
- State that any issue as to the validity of the notice may be referred to the RTB within 28 days of receipt of the notice
You can use Threshold’s sample notice of termination (doc).
Required notice periods
You must also give the required period of notice as set out in the table below.
|Length of tenancy||Required period of notice by tenant|
|Less than 6 months||4 weeks (28 days)|
|6 months or longer but less than 1 year||5 weeks (35 days)|
|1 year or longer but less than 2 years||6 weeks (42 days)|
|2 years or longer but less than 4 years||8 weeks (56 days)|
|4 years or longer but less than 8 years||12 weeks (84 days)|
|8 years or longer||16 weeks (112 days)|
Ending a fixed-term tenancy
If you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement or a lease, you are also subject to the terms of this agreement, as well as having to comply with the notice periods listed above. This means that you may lose your deposit if you leave before the term stated in the lease, even if you give the correct amount of notice. However, there are some exceptions, as follows:
- If there is a break clause in your lease, you can use it to end the tenancy
- If you and the landlord both agree to ending the tenancy sooner
- If the landlord has breached their obligations under the lease, and has not rectified the breach within a reasonable time, then you only need to give 28 days’ notice
- If the landlord’s behaviour causes imminent danger of death or serious injury, or danger to the fabric of the dwelling, then you only need to give 7 days’ notice
- If a private landlord has refused permission to assign or sublet
The RTB has a checklist for tenants on serving a valid notice of termination.
Its One Stop Shop has further useful resources and a webchat facility.
Where to apply