On this page
- Types of tenancies
- Finding a private rental
- Certificates and paperwork
- Deposits and fees
- Shared housing and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
- Ending a private tenancy
This information is for people renting privately in Northern Ireland.
Your landlord is legally required to give you the following certificates and paperwork:
- a tenancy information notice
- an energy performance certificate
- deposit protection information
- a gas safety record (if applicable)
- a fitness certificate (if applicable)
Your landlord should also give you:
- a tenancy agreement
- a signed inventory
If your landlord refuses to give you any legally required documents, contact your local council for help getting the information.
Tenancy information notice
From 1 April 2023, your landlord must give you a tenancy information notice. This document has essential information about your tenancy including:
- your landlord’s contact details
- the amount of rent you must pay
- your rights and responsibilities as a tenant
- the type of tenancy you have – fixed term or periodic
Your landlord must give you a tenancy information notice within 28 days of granting the tenancy. Granting means the date you agree to the tenancy or sign a tenancy agreement. They cannot charge you for it.
Even if your landlord gives you a tenancy agreement, they must also give you a tenancy information notice. If your landlord does not give you a tenancy information notice, you can report this to your local council. It’s an offence not to give a tenant this notice and your landlord could get a fine.
If any information on the tenancy information notice changes, your landlord must give you a ‘notice of variation’ within 28 days. For example, if your landlord’s phone number changes.
Energy performance certificate
Your landlord must give you a valid energy performance certificate (EPC). It has information about how the property uses energy and how it could be more energy efficient.
If the property has a low rating, it costs more to heat. For example, homes without double glazing or insulation cost more to heat. Check the certificate to get an idea of how much you’ll need to pay for energy.
An inventory is a written record of the condition of the property before you move in. Your landlord should give you the inventory before you move in.
The inventory can protect you if the landlord tries to blame you for damage that was there before you moved in.
Before you sign the inventory, you should:
- check it carefully and make sure it describes the property correctly
- check the property and take photographs of any damage you see
- ask the landlord to add anything you found to the inventory
- sign and date the inventory when it is updated and correct
When you move out, you’ll use the same inventory to check the property again. If you damaged the property, the landlord could keep some, or all, of your deposit.
Deposit protection information
Your landlord must:
- protect your deposit with a deposit protection scheme
- give you information about the deposit protection scheme they used
It’s important to get the details of where your landlord protected your deposit. You should use the scheme’s dispute resolution mechanism if you disagree with your landlord on how much of your deposit you should get back.
Your landlord must protect your deposit with one of the following companies:
Your tenancy agreement and tenancy information notice include what scheme your landlord is using. They should also explain what to do if you disagree with your landlord’s decision to keep some, or all, of your deposit.
To dispute your landlord’s decision, make sure you have the deposit account number. You can find these on your deposit protection certificate.
Your landlord does not have to protect your deposit if you paid it before April 2013.
Deposit protection in joint tenancies
If you have a joint tenancy, you need to decide who will be the ‘lead tenant’ for the deposit. The deposit is protected as one lump sum. You or the landlord should choose who is the point of contact for the deposit.
Your landlord can decide to give back different amounts to each tenant at the end of the tenancy. For example, if one tenant damaged their room, but the rest of the property is in good condition, your landlord can withhold some of their deposit.
Gas safety record
Your landlord must give you a valid gas safety record within 28 days of your tenancy starting. Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland can prosecute landlords who do not meet gas safety standards.
Certificate of fitness
Some older rental properties must have a certificate of fitness to prove they meet basic fitness and safety standards.
A rental property usually needs a fitness certificate if it:
- was built before 1945, and
- is not a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
If the property you’re renting needs a fitness certificate and you’re not sure whether it has one, talk to your landlord or contact the environment health department in your local council.
Before you move into a private rental, you should sign a tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement has all the rules (known as ‘terms’) you need to follow while living in the property.
It’s not legally required, but it’s a good idea. It helps you and your landlord understand your rights and responsibilities.
Read your tenancy agreement carefully and make sure you understand it before you sign. Once you sign, it’s a legally binding contract. Our advisers can help you if you’re not sure about terms in an agreement.
A tenancy agreement usually includes:
- how long you can live in the property – also called the ‘term’ of the tenancy
- how much notice you must give before you leave
- who to contact for repairs
- what your deposit can be used for and when you’ll get it back
- your rent, what it includes (for example, rates) and how to pay
- your responsibilities for repairs, cleaning and upkeep
- restrictions on your tenancy – for example, if you can you sublet
- your responsibility for other people in your property – called ‘joint and several’ liability
- if you can end the tenancy early – called a
You can refer to the tenancy agreement if you think your landlord treated you unfairly. If your landlord thinks that you broke the agreement, they can take you to court or evict you.
Signed tenancy agreement
When you sign a tenancy agreement you must stick to the agreement for the entire length of the contract. Your landlord cannot ask you to leave until the term is finished unless you break the contract.
No tenancy agreement
Not all tenants have a written contract. You still have some basic rights even if you do not have a written tenancy agreement.
If you do not have a tenancy agreement:
- your tenancy is for six months
- you and the landlord have certain responsibilities, called ‘default obligations’
- your tenancy lasts for the period you pay rent (usually one month)
- your landlord can increase the rent
You still have a right to:
- deposit protection
- a tenancy information notice
- not be harassed by your landlord
- enough written notice to quit, depending on how long you lived there
Speak to our advisers if you do not have a tenancy agreement and you have a problem with your landlord.
Check for unfair terms in your tenancy agreement
Your tenancy agreement must:
- use language you can read and understand
- not hide information in small print
A term in the agreement is unfair if:
- it takes away your rights
- gives your landlord an advantage
Examples of unfair terms are if your landlord can:
- charge very high fees if you do not pay rent
- charge you for things that are their responsibility
- end the agreement early, but you cannot
You can negotiate the terms of your agreement before signing. Do not sign until you understand every term. Get help if you think some of the terms in your contract are unfair.
Landlord registration information
Your landlord must register with the Landlord Registration Scheme. You can check if your landlord is registered by searching the register using their name or the rental property address.
Landlord withholds certificates and paperwork
If your landlord does not give you legally required certificates and paperwork, contact your local council. Their environmental health department is responsible for enforcing the laws that cover private rentals.
Environmental health can ask your landlord to give you the information by a certain date and take them to court or fine them if they do not.