Main image upload

November 2015

Question

I have been renting a house now for some time. I have a lease and about eight months ago I started sub-letting one of the rooms in the house with the landlord’s permission. Last week one of my licensees moved out without providing me with any notice and is now requesting the return of her deposit. Given that she didn’t provide me with any notice, and given the fact we had a verbal agreement prior to her moving into the house that she would give me a month’s notice, am I within my rights to keep this deposit? It should also be mentioned that she has not paid a number of utility bills. She is now threatening to go down the legal route to get her deposit back. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Is the law on my side? 

Answer

Sub-leasing occurs when a tenant permits another party to lease the rental property that the tenant has leased from the landlord. The tenant then assumes the position of landlord (known as the head tenant) in relation to his or her subtenant. Under the current legislation, Residential Tenancies Act 2004, a landlord is entitled to 28 days’ notice that a tenant is intending to vacate a property even if a fixed-term lease is not in place, once the term of the tenancy has been less than six months. In this case the term was eight months albeit a verbal agreement and consequently a notice of 35 days ought to have been given to the head tenant. The fact that a number of utility bills are also outstanding and not paid by the subtenant would also validate a reason to retain the deposit. You do not mention if any rent is outstanding at the time the subtenant vacated and this of course would also validate a reason to retain the deposit.

Karol Jackson O’Shea is a chartered residential agency surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.