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Department for Communities release proposals on Private Rented Sector

The Department for Communities has released its proposals on the Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland.

The proposals

The Department have made proposals relating to supply; affordability; security of tenure; tenancy management; property standards; dispute resolution; and tenancy deposits in the Private Rented Sector (PRS).

Supply

  • Commission work to gauge the appetite of institutional investors to invest in the private rented sector in Northern Ireland.
  • Explore opportunities to use Fresh Start funding for shared housing, to incentivise the development of more mixed-tenure housing areas, including PRS housing.
  • Scope the opportunities with housing associations for greater involvement in the PRS.

Affordability

  • Introduce legislation to stipulate that rents can only be increased once in any 12-month period.

Security of tenure

  • Seek to bring forward legislation, ensuring all private tenants are issues with a written agreement containing mandatory terms, regardless of the type or length of the tenancy.
  • Lengthen the Notice To Quit period, for tenancies lasting longer than 12 months, from 4 weeks to 2 months.
  • Seek to introduce legislation for a Fast Track Eviction Scheme, which may include mandatory grounds for possession, and provide appropriate safeguards to ensure fairness.

Tenancy management

  • Review the impact of the CIH ‘Learning to Let’ course, and explore funding options for an extension to the course.
  • Fund a dedicated landlord advice line, providing advice and information from professionally qualified advisers and helping to professionalise the sector.
  • Develop a tenant information pack which landlords must provide to tenants at the start of a tenancy.
  • Amend the Landlord Registration Scheme to incorporate a “fitness declaration” by the landlord when registering; Councils could then carry out random checks on registered properties.
  • Introduce a regulatory framework for all letting agents, including legislation to ban letting fees.

Property standards

  • Introduce legislation, as soon as possible, to make it mandatory for private landlords to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and to carry out periodic electrical checks.
  • Introduce legislation around EPC ratings, similar to that in England, whereby properties must meet a certain minimum EPC rating in order to be privately let.
  • Amend legislation so that all unfit properties built before 1956 – not 1945 – are subject to rent control.

Dispute Resolution

  • Examine the financial case for establishing an independent housing panel for Northern Ireland.

Tenancy deposits

Resolving Disputes outside the Courts Seminar 

Housing Rights is holding a seminar on 15 February to explore the key issues relevant to establishing an Independent Housing Panel for Northern Ireland, as recommended in the Department for Communities proposals.

Housing Rights Housing Advice Practitioners’ Forum

The Department will be attending the Housing Rights’ Practitioners’ Forum on 7th February, to brief attendees on their proposals and take questions. This forum is free and open to members of Housing Rights; you can register to attend by e-mailing our Policy & Practitioner Support Officer, Sharon.

Further reading

Read the Department’s proposals in full.

Read Housing Rights response to the Department’s initial Discussion Paper, containing our policy positions on many of these areas.

We have previously published several Briefings, on topics relevant to this Review:

Housing Rights press release 10 January 2017- Proposals for increased rights for renters welcomed

Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Policy

Author

Stephen Orme