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(File) The act banned landlords from requesting upfront rent payments from their tenants. Alamy Stock Photo

Housing charity questions effectiveness of law brought in to prevent upfront rent requests

The charity argues that the wording of the law allows for “an illusion of choice”.

HOUSING CHARITY THRESHOLD has claimed that a law which banned up-front rent payments, is “challenging” and “opens the door for potential coercion of tenants by landlords for advance payments”.

The charity argues that the wording of the Residential Tenancies (No.2) Act, along the with the lack of available accommodation within the private market, allows for “an illusion of choice” when it comes to paying more than one month’s rent upfront.

The act, brought into effect in 2021, banned landlords from requesting upfront rent payments from their tenants. However, according to the charity, tenants can still choose to do so, if their landlord agrees.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “Given the pressures faced by tenants who have very little options of alternative accommodation in the private rental sector, allowing a tenant to pay more than one month of rent upfront may be seen as an illusion of choice.”

Although the practice is banned, the spokesperson told The Journal that Threshold is seeing “an increasing number of renters who are desperate to find a home agreeing to circumstances which infringe on their rights as tenants”.

This comes as five students in Limerick were required to pay a year’s worth of rent, a bill of over €40,000, within the first two months of their tenancy. While the law does ban upfront payments, it makes an exception for “student-specific” accommodation.

However, the landlord added a note at the bottom of the terms and conditions of the tenancy, seen by The Journal, stating: “This is not student specific accommodation as this type of lease is suitable for workers and families.”

In reply to this, the spokesperson for Threshold said that the particular arrangement was “challenging” and reminded tenants, who is asked to pay more than one month’s rent and does not wish to do so, can report the landlord to the RTB’s Investigations and Sanctions Unit.

“Tenants can report a landlord who requests an upfront payment of more than one month to the RTB’s Investigations and Sanctions Unit. This differs from taking standard dispute cases against a landlord and can be done without a tenancy being in place,” they added.

Asked about the circumstances of this case, Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris said this week that the practice of asking for more than two months’ rent in advance was made illegal and encouraged landlords to “obey the laws”.

“It’s a challenging enough time to be a student, or a parent of a student, trying to find accommodation,” Harris told The Journal.

“The government has taken a number of measures to reduce the amount of money someone has to pay [...] but at least you’re not having to find a very large, up-front sum of money – and we did that intentionally,” the Minister added.

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