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Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

Findings from the Housing Executive Private Tenants Survey 2016

The Housing Executive recently published their findings from the 2016 Private Tenants Survey. A total of 144 privately renting tenants across Northern Ireland gave their views and experiences of renting across a range of topics including rights as a tenant, affordability, satisfaction, and future regulation. This survey has previously been carried out in 2006 and 2012.

Tenants Rights

  • As of 2006, all new private tenants must be provided with a rent book, however 72% of those surveyed stated they had not received a rent book.
  • Since 2007 if a tenancy is for more than 12 months a written tenancy agreement must be provided to the tenant. Just over three quarters (77%) of respondents stated they had a written tenancy agreement, this is an increase from 68% in the 2012 survey.
  • From 2008 landlords and letting agents have had a legal obligation to provide tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when the tenant moves into a property. Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents said they were not provided with an EPC, this is a significant decrease from 90% in the 2012 survey.
  • Two thirds (67%) of respondents had not heard of the Landlord Registration Scheme.
  • Three in five (60%) tenants do not know what the Tenancy Deposit Scheme is.
  • Almost two thirds (63%) of people knew where they could go for information about their rights as a tenant, this is an increase from 51% in the 2012 survey.

It should be noted that almost a third (31%) of those surveyed have been in their current accommodation for longer than 5 years and therefore some of the above regulations may not be applicable, however 69% of respondents have been in their current accommodation for less than 5 years and should be in receipt of a rent book, written tenancy agreement (if the tenancy is for more than 12 months) and an EPC. The findings from the survey suggest some tenants and landlords may not be aware of, or be compliant with, their legal rights and responsibilities.

Affordability

Upfront costs (including a deposit and/or rent in advance) and rent prices can be a barrier in the public rented sector.

  • The majority (77%) of those surveyed paid upfront costs (a deposit and/or rent in advance).
  • The mean amount paid upfront was £794.
  • Almost half (47%) of respondents said they found these upfront costs difficult to afford and approximately a third (32%) said they received help to pay these costs.
  • The mean weekly rent was found to be £106, however 43% of tenants pay more than £110 per week.
  • One third (34%) of respondents found it difficult to afford the rent or the shortfall between Housing Benefits and rent. This is a decrease from 50% in 2012.
  • The majority (81%) of people receiving Housing Benefit stated the payments did not cover the entire rent. Of these, approximately a third (34%) reported difficulty in paying this shortfall.
  • Approximately half (52%) of those receiving Housing Benefit reported that they were unaware of how much Housing Benefit they would receive before they moved into their current accommodation.

The above suggests there are mixed views in relation to the affordability of private renting. These findings are generally comparable to those reported in the Housing Rights Research Briefing “Affordability in the Private Rented Sector”.

Satisfaction

  • Tenants were asked how satisfied they were with their current accommodation.
  • The majority (83%) said they were satisfied with their current accommodation, however this is a significant drop from 92% in the 2012 survey.
  • Reasons given for dissatisfaction included maintenance issues, difficulty with heating/damp in the house, and with carrying out repairs.

Future regulation

  • Tenants were asked about potential future regulation of the private rented sector.
  • The majority of tenants felt there should be an accreditation scheme for landlords and letting agencies (79% and 76% respectively).
  • Similarly, the majority of respondents felt an accredited landlord/letting agent would influence their decision to rent a property (76% and 75% respectively).
  • Further, the majority (78%) of tenants were in favour of a scheme for tenants, which would provide accreditation for responsible tenants.
  • The majority (88%) of respondents felt there should be an arbitration service to deal with the landlord/tenant disputes.
  • A small minority (5%) of reported having a serious dispute with their current landlord/letting agent.

These findings suggest that tenants would like to see more regulation and the creation of an arbitration service to deal with disputes in the future. In November 2017 Housing Rights published findings from a research study exploring the potential application of alternative dispute resolution in the private rented sector.

The future of the private rented sector in Northern Ireland

The Private Rented Sector has been the second largest housing tenure in Northern Ireland since 2009, approximately one in five households now rent privately. This sector is likely to continue to grow, two thirds (64%) of tenants surveyed plan to remain in the private rented sector for the next five years. In January 2017 the Department for Communities launched a consultation of proposed changes to the private rented sector, Housing Rights responded with suggestions for further refinement in some areas to strengthen the impact of these proposals.

Get advice

Housing rights provides information and advice to both private tenants and landlords.

Private tenants can call Housing Rights housing helpline on 028 90245640 (select option 3) to speak with an advisers. There is also a lots of information on our advice website HousingAdviceNI.org.

Landords can call Landlord Advice (operated by Housing Rights) on 028 90245640 (select option 5) to speak with a landlord adviser. 

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Research, Private Tenancies, Affordability, Landlord