This information is for people renting privately in Northern Ireland.
Choosing to rent privately
A private rental can give you more flexibility to choose where you want to live and for how long.
A private rental might be a good option while you’re:
- living somewhere short-term for work or study
- on the waiting list for a social tenancy
- saving up a deposit to buy a property
Renting privately can also be a longer-term option for people who cannot get a social tenancy or afford to buy a property.
But private rentals can be expensive and do not suit everyone. It does not offer the same stability as a social tenancy or owning your home.
Find a property
Here’s how you can look for a private rental and get ready to move into a new home.
Check prices and search online
Talk to agents in the area
Sometimes properties get rented out quite quickly. You can contact an estate agent or letting agencies in the area. Tell them what you’re looking for. They can let you know when something is available.
Consider shared housing
Shared housing includes houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). This can be a cheaper option than renting an entire property. You can look at websites for shared housing, including Spareroom and Gumtree.
Consider what you need and can afford
As you look for a property, think about:
- what can you afford
- where you want to live
- how long you want to live there
- if you need an accessible property
Keep in mind, benefits usually do not cover all of your rent. You may be able to get help covering the shortfall.
Visit the area
Look around the area you want to live. See if any of the properties that look right for you have a ‘To Let’ sign.
View the property
It’s important to check a property before you rent it, usually called a ‘viewing’. Take your time and do not let agents or landlords rush you.
When you view the property, make sure to:
- carefully check the inside and outside of the property
- ask the landlord for legally required certificates and paperwork
You should make sure the property is in good condition, meets your needs, and that you understand any risks or responsibilities that come with the property. You can use a checklist to keep track of important information.
Check the inside of the property for:
- any damage
- laundry facilities
- smoke alarms and fire escapes
- phone and internet connections
- mould or flaking paint – this can be a sign of damp
- appliances – for example, washing machine, cooker
- washing facilities – not all properties have both a shower and a bath
- the type of heating system
Check the outside of the property to see:
- if the building looks stable and secure
- are the roof and gutters in good condition
- are the windows single or double glazed
- is there outdoor space you’d be responsible for
- what other properties in the area are like
- if it’s in an area with loud noise (for example, near a train or a police station)
Ask questions such as:
- who manages the property – is it the landlord or an estate agent
- does the rent include rates and if not, who is responsible for paying rates
- what items are included, such as furniture or appliances
- how do you pay for utility bills
- where and how is rubbish collected
- can you have pets in the property
- can you redecorate
- are next door properties let out
If the current tenants are there, you may also be able to ask them specific questions about living there. This can help you get a sense of what it would be like to live there and what to expect.
Check before signing
Before you sign a tenancy agreement, you should make sure:
- agreements for repairs or other commitments are in writing
- you know how much you’ll need to pay
- the landlord has the right certificates and paperwork
Only sign a tenancy agreement if the property is a good fit for you and you understand the terms of the agreement.
Find a guarantor
Some landlords ask for a guarantor. This is someone who agrees to pay your rent or for any damage you cause, if you do not.
There are no set rules about who can be a guarantor but usually guarantors must:
- live in Northern Ireland
- own their own home
- earn a certain amount
If you do not have a guarantor, you can offer to:
- pay more rent in advance, or
- undergo a credit check
Being a guarantor
If someone asks you to be a guarantor for them, make sure you understand what you’re responsible for. Read the tenancy and guarantor agreements carefully before you sign.
You may be responsible for:
- paying a lot or going to court if the person you guaranteed does not pay for rent or damage they caused
- guaranteeing other tenants if it’s a ‘joint and several’ agreement
You're the guarantor until:
- the tenancy ends and the tenant moves out, or
- there is a new guarantor agreement