With the publication of the fourth edition of Wylie on Irish Landlord and Tenant LawGrainne McMahon asks its author Professor J.C.W. Wylie all about his new book, the writing process and the areas in Irish property law badly in need of reform.

Professor Wylie, congratulations on the new edition of your book. Did you enjoy writing it?

Yes, I would not be the author of several textbooks if I did not enjoy writing such works. However, I must confess that the level of enjoyment differs according to whether I am writing a new, first edition or a further edition of an existing book. I get more enjoyment out of writing a new book because, although it necessarily presents a greater challenge (which in itself, I enjoy), you have much more freedom to shape and develop the work as the research suggests and reflection takes you. A further edition of an existing book necessarily involves a much more restricted and confining approach as you are usually governed by the structure and content of the original text. You are essentially updating what is already there. Sometimes, of course, a new edition involves much more because there has been some radical development in the law or practice which necessitates much restructuring or rewriting of the content. Good examples of this were the changes needed to Irish Land Law as a consequence of the enactment of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, and to Irish Conveyancing Law by the Law Society’s introduction of a pre-contract deduction and investigation title system in 2019. It is a matter of great regret that the government has never progressed the substantial changes to the law enshrined in the Landlord and Tenant Law Reform Bill 2011, which was based in Law Reform Commission recommendations made as long ago as 2007.

Regarding the contents of this edition, it deals, for example, with legislation such as the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 and later Acts for the first time. Can you explain the significance of their inclusion in the book?

The legislation governing residential tenancies clearly relates to a vital sector of property law which affects many citizens in terms of their day-to-day living. It has become an increasingly complicated legislative regime as a consequence of the numerous Acts amending the original 2004 Act. It is extremely difficult to understand in places and has, on occasion, come in for heavy criticisms by the courts. If ever there was a candidate for consolidation it is this, though the legislation governing ground rents and business tenancies runs a close second! It is important to emphasise, however, that my book covers the whole area of landlord and tenant law and specific legislation such as this can only be summarised in particular chapters. Much more detailed commentary can be found in texts which confine themselves to the specific legislative regimes, such as Farrell’s Residential Tenancies.

How useful do you think this legislation will be for practitioners?

I doubt that ‘useful’ is the expression many practitioners would use as they grapple with the complexities of the legislation. I have no doubt that the residential tenancies regime has benefitted many citizens but I suspect that those who administer it must often wonder whether it needs to be as complicated as it seems to be.

Of course, the book also deals with analysis of significant cases in the area of landlord and tenant law. If you were to choose three cases that practitioners should be aware of, what would those be?

I don’t think I can answer in that way. What struck me in preparing this new edition was the number of important rulings there had been since the previous edition on such a wide range of landlord and tenant topics. The significance or importance obviously varies from topic to topic and I doubt that it is sensible to try to identify particular rulings.

Your monthly Irish Property Law updates are hugely popular and contain such depth for practitioners and you never seem to miss any significant development in the area. How do you keep on top of these developments?

Simply by checking the relevant websites operated by the Courts Service and the Oireachtas. I well remember the frustrations when I was a young lawyer in the 1960s and 1970s of obtaining information about and copies of judgments and legislation, including statutory instruments. The advances brought about by the internet have been remarkable and younger lawyers today do not appreciate the difficulties we ‘oldies’ used to face.

Since the last edition, major legislative developments have been enacted such as the 2019 Ground Rents Act to deal with the confusion and uncertainties created by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shirley case and chronicled in the previous edition. What is the significance of this?

There is no doubt that the unfortunate rulings in the Shirley case created much uncertainty and risked a substantial diminution in the scope of the ground rents legislation. I was not surprised by the rigorous campaign to clarify matters and pleasantly surprised by how quickly the Oireachtas acted. I was happy to provide assistance to the Government in drafting amending legislation.

It is eight years since the publication of the last edition of this book and there have been many key developments in that time. Regarding, the Landlord and Tenant Reform Bill 2011 I note you had hoped there would be developments on that to include in this edition but sadly not. If that were to be resolved, I note you have highlighted the provisions in the bill and the effect they would have. For those who have not bought the book (yet), could you outline some of these?

The 2011 Bill, based, as I said earlier, on Law Reform Commission recommendations made by an expert Working Group which I led, is extremely wide-ranging in its scope, affecting most areas of landlord and tenant law. So it is difficult to highlight specific topics. Instead I would emphasise one particular matter. It is ridiculous that well into the 21st century our basic landlord and tenant law remains enshrined in an Act (usually known as Deasy’s Act) passed by the Westminster Parliament in 1860! What impression does that project of the Irish State after 100 years as an independent nation? One of the things that the 2011 Bill would do, if enacted, would be to replace Deasy’s Act with modern legislation much more suited to this century. It would do for landlord and tenant law what the Land and Conveyancing Law and Reform Act 2009 did for other areas of property law. The failure to progress the 2011 Bill is such a missed opportunity, but I will not give up hope.


The first edition of Irish Land Law was published in 1975. The Irish legal publishing landscape was very different then. You were quite a pioneer! Can you tell us how the publication of that book – your first – came about?

Ah, that is a long story! To cut it short, I was a young lecturer in the Faculty of Law in Queen’s University in Belfast in the late 1960s when the Law Society here in Dublin invited me to write a new edition of an old book published in the 1920s, Strachan and Baxters on Property Law. With the arrogance of youth, I told them to forget it and offered instead to write an entirely new book. Much to my surprise, they accepted my offer and this led to the publication of Irish Land Law in 1975. I must pay tribute to the courage of the Law Society in committing to this and to the late Mr Justice John Kenny (then the Chancery Judge in the High Court) for agreeing to act as a consultant editor. He was Chairman of the Cox Foundation which had agreed to sponsor the work. This was the start of a happy association which was repeated with the writing of Irish Conveyancing Law which was published in 1978. I have to confess to no little surprise that Irish Land Law has now reached its 6th edition and Irish Conveyancing Law its 4th edition over 40 years later. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is that I am still involved in writing these editions.

Since then, you have published five further editions of Irish Land Law, four editions of Irish Landlord and Tenant Law and four editions of Irish Conveyancing Law, among other books! Do you enjoy writing as much as you did almost 50 years ago?

Without a doubt! Do you really think as I enter my 80th year that I would still be doing it if I did not enjoy it?


Professor JCW Wylie's titles Wylie on Irish Landlord and Tenant LawWylie on Irish Land Law and Irish Conveyancing are available in hardback and eBook formats, as well as available as part of our Irish Land Law online service on Bloomsbury Professional Ireland Online.

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