Renting a room in your house / apartment
In Ireland it's possible to rent a room in your home without paying income tax (up to a certain amount - which I'll discuss more in a bit) - that's brilliant, especially for new home owners! And it's also better than renting through Airbnb, as you must pay tax on the income you earn or face penalties.
Renting through the rent-a-room scheme helps you pay back the mortgage / loan you took to buy the house more quickly, and it also gives you a monthly cash inflow for new renovation works - which is certainly a plus if you're still deciding whether to buy or to keep renting.
To clarify a bit more this scheme, you can rent out a room (or rooms) in your home to private tenants, and the rental income you earn will be exempt from income tax provided that the total (gross) rent that you get (which includes sums that the tenant pays for food, utilities, laundry or similar goods and services), doesn't exceed €12,000 in the tax year (1 January to 31 December).
Now let's break this down:
What are your duties as a landlord / lady?
My personal experience is of renting rooms that are not self-contained - meaning that they are part of the house itself and not self-contained units, such as a converted garage attached to your home or a basement flat.
This type of renting follows a different legislation than renting an entire house / apartment or self-contained unit: private tenants living in your home are living under a licensee agreement, not a tenancy agreement.
If you're planning on renting a house / apartment (or a self-contained unit) this falls under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, and this blog post might not be too useful for you.
For more on this, check out the article Renting out a room in your home - Citizens Information.
So if you're going to share accommodations with your tenant, these are your rights / obligations as a landlord / lady:
- You are not obliged to provide your tenant with a rent book or a statement of rent paid
- There is no legal requirement for the accommodation to meet minimum physical standards
- The termination of the tenancy is at your discretion (although you are obliged to give the tenant reasonable notice)
- You are not obliged to register the tenancy with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)
- You are not obliged to follow the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015, which prohibit discrimination on grounds of gender, civil status, family status, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, membership of the Traveller community, and on the ‘housing assistance’ ground.
However, while you are certainly not obliged to provide a statement of rent paid or meet the minimum physical standards, you'll want your tenants to be happy to live in your house - which leads me to my next point:
How to make your house desirable
Making sure that your house is safe, warm and clean, and that your tenant receives a clear written agreement and that the charges are transparent and pre-agreed, fosters goodwill and a positive living environment.
Not to mention that it ensures the stability of your rent income: if a person is happy to live with you and they are satisfied with the living accommodations, they'll stay longer and you'll have less problems looking for new tenants!
The article 'Minimum standards for rented housing' from Citizens Information is a good place to start to use as a checklist.
If your house needs renovation, you don't necessarily have to wait for all the works to be completed before renting: as long as your renter's room is safe, warm and comfy and they have access to a likewise safe, clean and functional kitchen and bathroom, you can find someone who is willing to compromise for a cheaper price.
To clarify, we started renting a room when the bathroom was still in need of renovation (half was tiled and half stripped of tiles), the living room was empty and most of the walls needed to be plastered (they were only covered by 5cm insulated plasterboards).
While not all of the house was aesthetically pleasing, our renter knew it was a short term situation! :)
TIP: In regards to how you present your house (especially in the ad), the words you choose are very important. I'm not suggesting that you lie, I'm simply advising that you highlight the positive aspects of the house, avoiding unnecessary negative or apologetic language (i.e. unfortunately, I'm afraid, not yet, but, etc.).
For example, instead of saying 'Unfortunately we haven't finished all the renovation jobs yet', focus on how good the jobs you did are:
'Partially renovated house, with a completely refurbished bedroom. All the walls and ceilings are insulated and the kitchen is brand new and modern...'
Or you can focus on all the other positive aspects:
'Until all the renovation jobs are completed (which will be in the short term), we offer a great discount on the price...'
'3 min on foot from bus stop to the city centre and it's located in a very quite area...'
TIP 2: Be sure to have your house tour ready when you decide to rent! You want to have everything neat and tidy so that renters are impressed (you want renters who appreciate tidiness, as they are most likely to be tidy themselves).
How to write the licensee agreement
There are so many articles out there on how to choose a tenant and which questions to ask.. and it's a highly personal choice .. so I'll skip that step and only say that I personally advise against living with your best friend and / or a close co-worker, and that you should keep in mind what's best for your house and not just your personal preference (a very quiet but super tidy tenant, is better than a friendly but messy one, who might not take care of their room /your house).
So let's go directly to how to put together the licensee agreement. You'll want to cover these topics:
- The full name of the renter and the owners
- When the tenancy starts and how long it lasts
- How much is the rent, the frequency of the payments (weekly, monthly) and what is the form of payment (cash, standing order, etc.)
- How much is the deposit and how it will be paid back
- How much is the leaving notice
- When will the rent be reviewed and how much is the notice before the review
- How are the utility bills divided
- What are the house rules in regards to upkeep, noise levels, visitors, pets, etc.
- What is included in the renters room
You can download an empty, editable copy of a licensee agreement here.
TIP: To establish the price of your rooms, check out the neighbouring ads - this will allow you to have a baseline for the price (based on the same type of bedroom / quality of accommodations) and check how the descriptions are written.
TIP 2: To keep track of every payment that you receive or that is due from your tenants, I advise creating a spreadsheet:
- In one tab take note of all the payments (so that you may sum them at the end of the year, to ensure that you have not exceeded the €12,000 limit.
- In a different tab, keep track of the individual utility bills that needs to be paid each month, and how they are divided with your tenant(s).
Where to advertise
There are many sites where you can advertise your room(s), depending on which type of tenant you are looking for (e.g. students, professionals). As a starting point, here are three I suggest:
HOMESTAY - The structure of the site is very similar to Airbnb, where you have a description of the host and reviews from people who've rented rooms.
HOSTING POWER - Ideal if you're looking to rent to students.
DAFT - Since this is one of the most popular sites, you're sure to get visibility here. You can also proactively search the tenancy database to contact new tenants.
TIP: Don't put all your eggs in one basket and advertise on different sites - this way more people will see your ad.
TIP 2: Create an email account specifically for the ad: you avoid spam emails and disclosing your private info, and you can organize your emails in folders ('prospective tenants', 'to contact in the future', etc.).