Know Your Rights: Terminating a tenancy
Our landlord phoned to ask us to leave the house we have rented for the last three years because he plans to sell the house. Do we have to accept this?
As you have been renting the house for three years, you have what is called a “Part 4 tenancy”, which gives you certain rights. The landlord can only end your tenancy for certain specified reasons. An intention to sell the property within three months counts as a valid reason.
However, a phone call is not a valid form of notice. You must get a written notice of termination, signed and dated, stating the reason for termination and giving you the proper period of notice, which, in your case, as you have rented for three years, is 12 weeks (84 days).
When a landlord plans to sell the property, the notice of termination must include a statement that he intends to sell the property within three months after the tenancy ends. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) publishes sample notices of termination with the detailed information that is required in various situations. In the case of a planned sale, the wording of the required statement is: “The reason for the termination of the tenancy is due to the fact that the landlord intends to sell the dwelling, for full consideration, within three months after the termination of the tenancy”.
Your landlord must also make a statutory declaration that he intends to enter into an enforceable agreement to sell his full interest in the house. (A statutory declaration is a solemn statement, which must be signed in the presence of someone who is authorised to witness statutory declarations – such as a practising solicitor, a Peace Commissioner, a notary public or a Commissioner for Oaths.) The RTB’s sample notice of termination for a landlord planning to sell contains sample wording for this statutory declaration, which you should receive along with the notice of termination.
If your landlord is found to have evicted you illegally, he may be required to pay you substantial damages.
Know Your Rights B: Pregnant at work – health and safety leave
I do night work regularly but I am expecting a baby in six months. Can I stop working at night while I am pregnant?
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, every employer is required to carry out a risk assessment for the workplace. This assessment should identify hazards in the workplace, assess the risks from such hazards and identify the steps to be taken to deal with any risks. Now that you are pregnant, your employer should carry out a separate risk assessment for you. If there are particular risks to you during your pregnancy, these should be either removed or you should be moved away from them.
If neither of these options is possible, you should be given health and safety leave from work, which may continue up the beginning of your maternity leave (under the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004).
If a doctor certifies that night work is unsuitable for you during your pregnancy, you must be given alternative work or health and safety leave.
Time spent on health and safety leave is treated as though you have been in employment, and this time can be used to accumulate annual leave entitlement. You are not entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during health and safety leave. During health and safety leave, your employer must pay you your normal wages for the first 21 days (3 weeks), after which you may qualify for Health and Safety Benefit from the Department of Social Protection.
When you return to work after maternity leave, if there is any risk to you because you have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, that risk should be removed. If this is not possible, you should be moved to alternative work. If it is not possible for you to be assigned alternative work, you should be given health and safety leave. If night work is certified by a doctor as being unsuitable after the birth, alternative work should be provided. If alternative work cannot be provided, you should be given health and safety leave.
Know Your Rights C: Tax Appeals Commission
What is the new Tax Appeals Commission?
The Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015 came into operation on 21 March 2016. This Act gives effect to a revised tax appeals process and established a new independent statutory Tax Appeals Commission (TAC), which replaces the former Office of the Appeal Commissioners.
The TAC adjudicates, hears and determines appeals against Revenue decisions concerning taxes and duties under the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015, the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 as amended and other related legislation. There are currently two Appeal Commissioners, appointed by the Minister for Finance for a period of seven years.
The main change to the tax appeals process is the requirement that all appeals (other than customs duties and Registration Tax “first-stage” appeals) are now made directly to the TAC and not to Revenue in the first instance.
The Appeal Commissioners have sole responsibility for accepting or refusing appeals, although Revenue can raise objections to appeals. If both parties agree, the Appeal Commissioners can make determinations based on written submissions (rather than a full hearing). However, you can insist on a hearing if you wish.
By default, all hearings are held in public. However, you can request that a hearing (or part of a hearing) be held in private. To improve the transparency of the appeals process, the Appeal Commissioners are required to publish anonymised versions of all of their determinations. Another significant change is that appeals can no longer be re-heard before a Circuit Court Judge. You can appeal to the High Court on a point of law, but not in relation to the facts.
Know Your Rights D: Cohabiting and social welfare payments
I have applied for a means-tested Jobseeker’s Allowance but I was told that I’m not eligible because of my live-in partner’s earnings. We live together but we are not married and we split our expenses equally. Why is this?
The Department of Social Protection (DSP) treats married and unmarried couples in the same way when assessing entitlement to a means-tested social welfare payment. It assesses the total income of the household, rather than the circumstances of the individual claimant.
This means that if you are married, or are living with another person in an intimate and committed relationship, the means of your spouse or partner are also taken into account. This is the case even if only one of you is actually claiming a payment. The DSP uses detailed definitions and criteria to assess whether a couple are cohabiting and you can read these online at welfare.ie.
How the means of a couple are assessed differs slightly depending on the payment being applied for. For Blind Pension, State Pension (Non-Contributory) and Carer’s Allowance, the DSP adds all of your means together and then halves them to get the assessable means for each one of you. For Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, and Farm Assist, the DSP adds all your combined means together and then assesses them against the maximum household payment for your circumstances. If your spouse or partner is getting a social welfare payment in their own right, your means are taken to be half of the total means of yourself and your spouse or partner.
Sometimes a certain amount of income, or income from particular sources, is not taken into account. This is called an income disregard. For example, a certain amount of income from employment can be disregarded.
Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.
Co Wicklow Citizens Information Service
Bray Citizens Information Centre Tel: 0761 07 6780
Arklow Citizens Information Centre Tel: 0761 07 6750
Wicklow Town Citizens Information Centre Tel: 0761 07 6840
Baltinglass Citizens Information Centre Tel: 086 048 1880
Blessington Citizens Information Centre Tel: 086 048 1881
Glendalough Citizens Information Centre Tel: 0404 45611
Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000.