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March 2015

Question

I have been renting a house for the last two years and I was recently informed by my landlord that he is selling the house due to pressure from the banks. What are my rights in this situation?

 

Answer

I’m not sure if you have a concern that the landlord might also be seeking vacant possession of the property, but whether or not he is, your rights as a tenant are not affected by his decision to sell. It is now quite common to see residential properties being sold by banks, receivers or owners with tenants in situ, but your rights as a tenant are also not affected when the new landlord takes ownership – he or she must adhere to the existing provisions of the tenancy agreement up until the term expires. The new owner very simply steps into your current landlord’s shoes.

The relevant legislation is the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which sets out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.

The issue surrounding vacant possession depends very much on the type of lease you have, and whether or not there is a provision to break that lease. Most landlords enter into a standard one-year fixed-term agreement at the commencement of the letting, with fewer renewing that lease at the end of the first year and the arrangement continuing on to a monthly tenancy, called a Part 4 tenancy, as dictated by the 2004 Act.

If you both had renewed to a new lease at the expiry of the first year, you can simply check the terms of the lease to see if there is a break clause. I very much doubt it. In this instance the landlord cannot break the lease once you adhere to your terms, and he cannot rely on the provisions of section 34 of the Act. It does not prevent the property being sold, however.

In the second instance, where the lease was not renewed, the landlord is entitled to seek vacant possession if he intends to sell the property within the next 30 days, and the steps to do this are clearly set out in the 2004 Act with relevant templates available on the Private Residential Tenancies Board website. You must be provided with 42 days’ notice, once you are in occupation for between one and two years.

Great care must be exercised by the landlord in serving these notices, and if any step is incorrectly followed it invalidates the previous steps and he must commence the process again.

My own approach would be to talk to the landlord, in parallel with the formal process being followed. Early communication will probably lead to as amicable a solution as possible between you both.

If he is entitled to seek possession, you should acknowledge that fact and let him know you are seeking alternative accommodation. In addition, it may well be the fact that investors have an interest in the property and it might well be the case that they would prefer to purchase a property with a good-quality tenant in situ.

Edward Carey is a residential agency surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s residential agency professional group