Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and brought up in the North East of England; I have lived and worked in Northern Ireland for 42 years to date. After being a joint home owner for 25 years, I moved into the private rented sector 20 years ago, and have lived in South Belfast throughout that period- it’s convenient for work, social life, and leisure activities.
Why did you decide to join the forum?
I joined the forum as one of the founder members after having great advice and support from Housing Rights Service on a specific problem with my former landlord. He had failed to pass on to the rating authorities the monthly rates I had paid to him in my monthly rental payments. Under NI legislation, the tenant is responsible even if the terms of the lease and the tenant’s payments to the landlord indicate otherwise; so eventually I was summonsed to the High Court for £5,500.
What do you think are the benefits of the forum?
The Forum has given me the opportunity and an arena in which to challenge the current rates’ legislation and to advocate for policy and legal changes to protect tenants against defaulting landlords. Membership, with the training programme, has allowed me to learn more of the other, multiple, problems in the private rented sector; and to work with other members, supported by HRS, towards influencing government policy and legislation. Very much about knowledge is power, and strength in numbers!
What do you think is the main thing Government should do to improve conditions for tenants in rented accommodation?
- Do much more to ensure that those living in private accommodation do so by choice and not by necessity because they are unable to get/fail to qualify/are waiting long-term for social housing.
- Provide a standard lease which all landlords/estate and letting agents / private tenants can use with confidence that the lease is valid in civil law, not just a contract which can be set aside by current NI legislation.