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Housing Rights gives evidence to NI Assembly Committee on new Bill

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Housing Rights this morning gave evidence to the NI Assembly Communities Committee on the new Private Tenancies Bill.

The Bill contains 11 substantive clauses and three schedules which provide for a series of amendments to the Private Tenancies Order (Northern Ireland) 2006. Housing Rights has welcomed the Bill as an important first step in addressing the issues facing many private renters in Northern Ireland.

Our written submission to the Committee’s Call for Evidence in addition to welcoming the clauses, makes a number of specific points and proposals for amendments.

Housing Rights wishes to see a number of the clauses strengthened. These include those relating to the requirement for a rent receipt for payment in cash (Clause 3), the limit on the amount of deposit which can be charged (Clause 4) the proposals regarding rent increases (clause 7) and the provision to strengthen security of tenure by extending the notice to quit period required (clause 11).

A summary of the main points regarding each of the clauses is noted below with the full detail in our written evidence.

CLAUSE 1: Notice regarding certain matters 

  • Tenants, and representatives of tenants, should be involved in determining the form and information in the notice of tenancy terms and variation of terms   

  • The notice of tenancy terms should include key information no longer required in a rent book as well as information regarding rates and the date when the tenancy will end 

CLAUSE 3: Rent receipt for payment in cash 

  • The requirement to provide a receipt for payments in cash should be extended to all cash payments made in connection with a tenancy and should detail the purpose of the payment  
  • A time limit of 28 days should be placed on the provision of the receipt   

CLAUSE 4: Tenancy deposits 

  • It should be explicitly stated that deposits protected under an insurance-based scheme must be renewed as needed, to ensure they remain protected for the duration of the tenancy  
  • The amount of rent in advance which can be charged at the beginning of a tenancy should also be limited to the equivalent of one months’ rent.   

CLAUSE 7: Rent increases 

  • The proposed Art 5C under Clause 7(2) should be replaced with a Clause enabling the Department to introduce regulations to restrict the frequency of rent increases, as well as a mechanism to challenge unfair rent increases
  • Should the notice to quit period be extended to 12 weeks, the same period should be required for the notice of a rent increase.   

CLAUSES 9 & 10: Energy efficiency & electrical safety standards  

  • It may be helpful if tenants and their representatives are involved in the consultation process for the regulations relating to these clauses   

CLAUSE 11: Notice to quit requirements  

  • The impact of the increased notice period required by landlords would be greater if extended to 12 weeks rather than 8 weeks  
  • The notice to quit period required by landlords for tenancies under 12 months should also be extended   
  • Notice to quit periods required by landlords should also apply to fixed term tenancies  
  • The extension of the notice to quit period required by a tenant to 12 weeks would not be proportionate  
  • The extended notice to quit period required by landlords should be reflected within the homelessness legislation  

In addition, to maximise the effectiveness of the bill, it is vital that all actors in the sector are aware of the requirements under the new legislation when these come into force. To that end, a comprehensive programme of information, advice, support and training as appropriate should be put in place. 

Private Tenancies Bill Committee Briefing Paper

Tagged In

Legislation, Regulation, Private Tenancies, Policy, NI Assembly

This article was written on 2 November 2021. 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.