Christopher Sciberras v Private Residential Tenancies Board and Others

 
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[2015] IEHC 372

THE HIGH COURT

[No. 155 MCA/2014]
Sciberras v Private Residential Tenancies Board & Dunne
No Redaction Needed

BETWEEN

CHRISTOPHER SCIBERRAS
APPELLANT

AND

THE PRIVATE RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES BOARD
RESPONDENT

AND

BY ORDER OF THE HIGH COURT CHARLES DUNNE AND PETER DUNNE
NOTICE PARTIES

2014/155MCA - McDermott - High - 21/5/2015 - 2015 IEHC 372

Landlord & Tenant – S. 123 (3) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 – Appeal against the decision of the Private Residential Tenancies Board – Increase in rent

Mr. Justice McDermott
1

On 25th June, 2013, the appellant submitted an application to the Private Residential Tenancies Board, Dispute Resolution Service in respect of his tenancy of a room at 31 Reuben Avenue, Dublin 8, which commenced on 28th May, 2011. The case was taken against the landlords, Charles Dunne and Peter Dunne.

2

In the application the applicant states that he was paying a rent of €250 per month, plus €15 for utilities and that the landlords sought a new rent of €285 plus €15 utilities. He claimed that the landlord was seeking gas payments which were contrary to the terms of the letting agreement and a rental increase without justification. Furthermore, he complained that the landlord had refused to accept the rent and had issued a termination notice stating he would not accept rent unless the increased amount was proffered. He also complained that the landlord had a duty of care to maintain the premises in a healthy condition.

3

On 15th June, 2013, a document purporting to be a Notice to Quit was given to the appellant by Mr. Charles Dunne, requiring the appellant to remove himself from the premises by 31st July, 2103. He was also informed in the notice that any objection as to its validity and the right of the landlord to serve it must be made to the Private Residential Tenancies Board under Part 6 of the Private Residential Tenancies Act 2004, within 20 days of its receipt. The terms and conditions of the lease indicated that it was a monthly tenancy and that utility bills (including refuse charges) were to be shared with all other persons in the house. The landlord sought payment of the monies due in respect of the gas supply to the house on 9th March, 2013.

4

An adjudicator, Ms. Suzy Quirke, appointed under s. 93(3) of the Residential Tenancies Act2004, heard the appellant's application on 18th September, 2013.

5

The adjudicator made a finding that in accordance with the tenancy agreement of 28th May, 2011, the appellant paid a rent of €250 per month and a deposit of €250. This rent was supplemented by €15 per month as part cover of gas bills and an increase in rent had been requested to €285 per month. A notice of termination was served by the landlord on 15th June, 2013. The property was a three bed-roomed house which had been let out to four tenants, one occupying what was a living room of the house and each of the other tenants having their own room, but sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities.

6

The adjudicator found that it was not reasonable for the landlord to expect tenants who previously assumed the gas bill to be covered by the rent to be subject to a further demand of a balancing charge. She also found that the landlord was entitled to demand a reasonable increase in the rent and since this could not be agreed, suggested that the best option might be for the relationship to terminate. It was noted that the appellant's claim concerning the standard of maintenance was mainly grounded upon the behaviour of the other three occupants of the house, but primarily their smoking in the common and private areas. It was noted that though the landlord could not prevent other tenants from smoking in their own private space, he was obliged to ensure that there were smoke free areas elsewhere. The adjudicator found that the notice of termination was invalid. The claim that the rent sought was more than the market rate, was not upheld nor was the submission that the landlord was in breach of his general obligations.

7

The appellant appealed the adjudicator's determination on the grounds that the notice of termination of tenancy was invalid, the rent increase sought was unreasonable and more than the market rate, the landlord was in breach of a fixed term lease, and that the landlord was in breach of his general obligations.

8

A hearing of the appeal before the Tribunal was heard on 12th March, 2014. The entire Private Residential Tenancies Board file was submitted to the Tribunal. In addition, the appellant and the landlord submitted printouts of rents for comparable residential dwellings from various companies' websites. A determination was made by the Tribunal and notified...

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