Do I have to sign a lease?

What you need to know before you sign a lease

There is no legal requirement for a landlord to provide you with a lease (otherwise known as a contract or fixed term agreement) neither is there an obligation on you to sign a lease if you do not wish to do so. It is important to note that you will have legal rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015.

If you sign a lease it cannot take away from your rights under the Equal Status Acts 2004-2015 and the terms of the tenancy cannot be changed during the lease period unless both you and your landlord agree to this at the time.

If you are offered a lease you should read it carefully and get a second opinion before signing.  A lease is legally binding and usually for a fixed period of time often one year. Once you sign a lease there is no 'cooling off period' and it is important to know that normally notice cannot be given during the lease by either the landlord or you unless:

  • There is a break clause
  • The other party is in breach
  • Both you and the landlord agree at the time to end the lease.

You can make a request to assign or sublet the tenancy to another person. If your landlord agrees you will have to agree with the landlord the arrangements for replacing yourself. If your landlord refuses, the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 and 2015 has a provision that allows you to give written notice of termination even if you have a lease.

Should you break the lease with no grounds or do not give proper notice, it does not give your landlord automatic entitlement to keep your deposit or make deductions from it. They may however seek to cover costs incurred such as re advertising, re-letting costs or lost rent. You should seek evidence of this. A landlord has a responsibility to mitigate their losses for example re-letting the property as soon as possible.

If you are coming to the end of the lease and wish to remain, under the Part 4 rights you have acquired, you should notify your landlord in writing  between three months and one month before the end of the lease of your intention to remain.

If you wish to leave following the expiry of your lease, then you should give the appropriate period of notice in writing in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 and 2015.

Once the lease expires there is no obligation to sign a new lease and you cannot be asked to leave just because you do not sign a new lease. If your tenancy is over six months duration it can only be ended on one of the grounds set out in the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 and 2015.


What to do

  • Read the lease carefully before signing
  • Get advice from Threshold especially if you believe that some of the terms and conditions may be unfair and in breach of an EU Directive on unfair contractual terms.
  • Do not sign a lease if you cannot fulfil its terms and conditions. For example, if you are a student, do not sign a twelve-month lease if you only intend to stay in the property for nine months.
  • If you are coming to the end of a lease and wish to stay write to your landlord notifying them that you intend to stay. You should write to the landlord at least one month before (and at most three months from) the end of the lease. Use the template letter in the Useful Downloads section on this page.
  • If you are coming to the end of a lease and wish to leave, whilst there is no legal obligation to do so as the end date is known from the start, Threshold advises that you give the appropriate notice of termination in writing.