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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Private Tenancies

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The Department for Communities is developing a new private tenancies bill for Northern Ireland. The bill aims to improve standards and enhance conditions for tenants living in the private rented sector.  

Last week department officials briefed the Committee for Communities on the progression of this new bill.  

Changes to deposit rules, notice periods and rent increases 

The bill proposes a number of changes. Of most significance are:re 

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Private Tenancies, Policy

Leading housing advice charity, Housing Rights, has welcomed the extension of emergency measures which will ensure private renters continue to have enhanced protection against eviction during the period of COVID-19.

A fixed-term tenancy offers private tenants extra protection. Usually, if a tenant has a fixed-term contract: 

  • the landlord can't increase the rent until the contract ends, and 
  • the landlord can only evict the tenant if they've breached the contract.  

Our adviser helped 2 tenants show that their fixed-term contracts were valid, despite the landlord not signing these.  

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Private Tenancies, Adviser
Picture of woman with serious expression sitting at a table and reading a letter. Text over image reads "we have decided that you are not entitled to help with your housing costs"

Universal Credit may refuse a claim for help to pay a person’s housing costs if  

  • they think that a tenancy is not a genuine commercial relationship between a landlord and a tenant or  
  • they believe the tenancy was created to take advantage of the benefit system.  

It’s important to get advice quickly if this happens to you or to your clients. Submitting a well-argued mandatory reconsideration request can help to prevent homelessness.  

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Benefits, Private Tenancies, Welfare Reform

Effective advice for private renters should incorporate early intervention, self-help tools, partnership working and online services.

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Research, Private Tenancies

Regulations have been laid which extend emergency measures to increase the amount of notice which must be given to private tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 come into operation on 30 March 2021. They extend the emergency period during which extended notice is required to 30 September 2021. 

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Coronavirus, Private Tenancies

In January 2021, the Department of Finance published their draft budget. The document sets out the Northern Ireland Executive’s proposed spending plans for the one year period from 1 April 2021 to March 2022. 

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Private Tenancies, Policy, Homelessness, NI Assembly

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chancellor decided to realign Local Housing Allowance rates so that they accurately reflected the 30th percentile of local rents. This announcement was widely welcomed, although many organisations argued that LHA rates should never have been allowed to drift so far from real market rents and that a more supportive emergency measure would be to increase the rates to the 50th percentile of local rents. 

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Legislation, Private Tenancies, Affordability
Photograph of properties to let in Belfast

In 2017, Housing Rights, with the assistance of PILS NI,  supported local student Paul Loughran in a legal case against two estate agents. Mr Loughran sought to recover fees he had paid to both agents when he applied for a private tenancy.  

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Private Tenancies

Letting fees in Northern Ireland: Briefing Paper

Letting fees are payments charged by estate agents. They include application fees and administration fees for carrying out credit and employment checks. Despite a significant court ruling in 2017, agents in Northern Ireland continue to charge fees to tenants. Housing Rights believes that the continued practice of charging unlawful letting fees illustrates that case law and Ministerial direction have not been sufficient to curb this practice. It is imperative, in our view, that legislation is brought forward to remove any ambiguity and to ensure that this unlawful practice is brought to an end. This briefing paper sets out the current legislative position in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in regards to letting fees, and highlights the omissions and ambiguities in the current legislation prohibiting such fees in Northern Ireland. 

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Private Tenancies

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