Private tenants: security of tenure

Introduction

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.

What is security of tenure?

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. This right is known as security of tenure and 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 a Part 4 tenancy (security of tenure) from 4 years to 6 years. This applies to all tenancies created from 24 December 2016.

What tenancies does the residential tenancies legislation cover?

A private residential tenancy means a tenancy that is agreed privately between a landlord and a tenant. It covers tenancies under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). If you are getting Rent Supplement, you are probably renting from a private landlord, so you would be covered by the residential tenancies legislation. Since April 2016, residential tenancies legislation covers housing association tenancies, and since 15 July 2019 it also covers student-specific accommodation. However, there are some differences in how the legislation is applied to these tenancies. For example, Part 4 rights do not apply to tenants in student-specific accommodation.

Fixed-term tenancy

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 cannot end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term unless you have breached your obligations
  • In general, you cannot 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
    • You and the landlord both agree to end it
  • 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. This does not apply to tenants of approved housing bodies (housing associations), as they cannot assign or sublet their tenancy.
  • In general, you get security of tenure after 6 months – see ‘Part 4 tenancy’ below
  • If you want to stay in the property after the end of the fixed term, you must notify the landlord at least a month before the term expires

Leases

The lease will state how much rent you have to pay, how often you have to pay it and other conditions. You should 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 will overrule the terms in the lease. For example, your landlord cannot enter the property at any time without 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.

Periodic tenancy

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 can end the tenancy at any time during the first 6 months of the tenancy without having to give a reason, but, in general, you will get 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 how much notice you 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 can 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

In general, if you have been renting for at least 6 months and haven't been served with a valid written notice of termination, you automatically get 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

Then security of tenure continues in 6-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.

Part 4 rights do not apply to tenants in student-specific accommodation even though other parts of residential tenancies legislation was extended to cover these tenancies in July 2019.

Further Part 4 tenancy

After the first cycle (4 or 6 years) of your Part 4 tenancy has ended, a new tenancy begins. You now have a further Part 4 tenancy. Your landlord used to be able to end this tenancy at any time in the first 6 months without having to give a reason. However, the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 removed this provision with effect from 17 January 2017.

When you have acquired a Part 4 tenancy or further Part 4 tenancy, your landlord can only terminate your tenancy 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 – see ‘Ending your tenancy’ below.

Preventing a further Part 4 tenancy

If your landlord wants to stop a further Part 4 tenancy from coming into existence, they can 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 want 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 your fixed–term tenancy or lease agreement expires. 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 section outlines the requirements for a tenant who wants to end a tenancy. (As noted above, landlords must comply with different rules if they want to end a tenancy.) The RTB also has information on their website about how a tenant can end a tenancy.

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 about the validity of the notice can 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 give your landlord the following amount of notice when ending a tenancy. There are different notice periods when a landlord ends a tenancy, for more information on this see our document If your landlord wants you to leave.

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. 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 as detailed above. However, there are some exceptions, for example:

  • 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 end the tenancy sooner
  • If the landlord has breached their obligations under the lease, and has not rectified the issue 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

Further information

The RTB has information on their website about how a tenant can end a tenancy. Its One Stop Shop has further useful resources and a webchat facility.

Threshold has general information on ending a tenancy, which links to several useful resources, including its leaflet Ending a tenancy (pdf).

Where to apply

Threshold

21 Stoneybatter
Dublin 7
Ireland

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9.30 am - 5 pm
Tel: 1800 454 454
Fax: (01) 677 2407

Threshold

22 South Mall
Cork
Ireland

Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 9 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm
Tel: (021) 427 8848
Fax: (021) 480 5111

Threshold

5 Prospect Hill
Galway
Ireland
H91 HC1H

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9.30 am - 5 pm
Tel: (091) 563 080
Fax: (091) 569 273

Residential Tenancies Board

PO Box 47
Clonakilty
Co. Cork
Ireland

Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 6.30 pm
Tel: 0818 303 037 or 00353 766 887 350
Fax: 0818 303 039
Page edited: 3 September 2019