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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Right to rent doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland. Here’s what landlords need to know…

The “right to rent” is a policy in England that makes it criminal offence to rent a property to someone who doesn’t have permission to live in the UK. 

This doesn’t apply to landlords in Northern Ireland. You can’t get in trouble for renting a property to someone who is here “illegally”.  In fact,  the High Court ruled that the scheme would have to be significantly changed before it could be rolled out in Northern Ireland.  

Can a landlord can be prosecuted for not checking documents if any of his tenants do not have a right to stay in Northern Ireland?

No, it is not a criminal offence for a landlord to rent a property in Northern Ireland to a person who is in the UK without the correct permissions.

Do landlords have to start asking European nationals to prove that they are allowed to be in the UK?

No. In fact, if you ask European nationals to provide evidence of their identity and right to live in the UK and you don't ask the same of all of your other applicants or tenants, you could be found guilty of illegal discrimination. 

What about people who are from outside the EU?

You don't have to satisfy yourself that someone has a right to live in the UK. If your tenants are from outside the EU they could be lawfully here for any number of reasons, including if

  • they are students attending a course of education here
  • they are employed in Northern Ireland
  • they have a VISA allowing them to stay in Northern Ireland for a set amount of time
  • they are the family member of a European national who is in the UK exercising his or her treaty rights
  • they are the family member of a British national and have immigration approval to be in the UK. 

It is not an offence to rent a property to someone who does not have permission to be in the UK.

Could current tenants be forced to leave the UK?

A person could be removed from the UK if they don't have permission to live here. However, European nationals who are already resident in the UK can apply for status which proves their right to reside here. If your tenants are worried about their status, encourage them to get advice from Advice NI or the Stronger Together consortium who can help them apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for this status.

Will a tenant's benefits stop after Brexit?

The rules around benefits won't change much immediately after Brexit. People who are currently receiving benefits will continue to receive these in the same circumstances as currently apply. At the moment, a person can lose entitlement to benefits if their status changes. This happens most commonly if a person is fit to work but has been out of work for a long period of time (six months or longer). Encourage your tenants to get advice from Housing Rights if their benefits have stopped or if they want to apply for benefits but aren't sure how to. 

How can landlords help tenants who are worried about Brexit? 

The government has set up an EU settlement scheme so that anyone can apply to have either pre-settled or settled status for living in the UK. Encourage tenants to contact  Advice NI or the Stronger Together consortium who can help them apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for this status.

Helping to prepare you for the impact of Brexit on your tenancies

Housing Rights will be developing a webinar and information for landlords and letting agents to help make sure you are confident in managing your tenancies in the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Follow Landlord Advice on Twitter to find out when resources are available

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This article was written on 12 November 2019. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.