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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Private rented conference Report – Working Together For Positive Change Report

Housing Rights, with support from TDS NI, held their fourth annual conference on the private rented sector on 15th November 2017 at the Skainos Centre, in Belfast.

With an unprecedented percentage of NI households now living in private rented accommodation, the landscape of the sector has changed, becoming home to a much wider demographic. With the recent Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations launched by the Department for Communities (DfC) proposing to allow NIHE to discharge their statutory homeless duty by securing private rented accommodation, the volume of the people occupying the sector looks set to soar further.

It was with this developing landscape, coupled with the continuing impacts of Welfare Reform, that this conference considered how we can all work together to achieve positive change; namely, how to overcome the challenges to creating a sustainable sector which works for all parties.

The Conference, chaired by Prof Paddy Gray, was opened by Housing Rights’ Director, Janet Hunter, who stressed the pressing need for political leadership at this time in order to manage the current and future challenges to sustainability of private tenancies.  An address from Leo O’Reilly, Permanent Secretary at DfC followed; providing an update on the ongoing Review of the Private Rented Sector.

Delivering change for the sector

The conference’s first session focused on how the sector has, and continues, to change. The keynote address was given by Brian Robson from Joseph Rowntree Foundation, highlighting poverty in the private rented sector. Joe Frey from Ulster University discussed the need for collaborative approach to providing evidence. Challenges and Opportunities in the sector for Social Landlords was presented by Jon Anderson from Choice Housing. The role of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the private rented sector was considered by Brian Speers LLB, who is the Managing Partner at CCD Solicitors, Belfast. Finally, Natasha Miller from Shelter Scotland provided an insight into how her pilot project “Letting Agent Plus” helps improve access to and sustainability of private tenancies in Scotland.

Lizzie Scott from Housing Rights, Alison McDougall from TDS NI and John-Mark McCafferty from Threshold Ireland each discussed delivering change for the sector within the context of their own discipline and then joined the morning speakers to participate in a Q&A session which covered issues around mediation, supply and investment in the private rented sector, and poverty.

Promoting Good Practice and Compliance

The second session of the day discussed promoting good practice and compliance as a way to sustaining tenancies which are of an adequate standard, secure and affordable. It considered the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord.

This session opened after lunch with a presentation from Sarah Corrigan from Housing Rights and Brigitte Anton from the Private Tenants Forum on how the provision of a “Tenancy Information Pack” can help sustain tenancies. This session included participation from the attendees of the conference and invaluable feedback was given on both what this pack should look like and what it should contain; how this pack should be distributed was also considered.

Bethan Jones from Rent Smart Wales provided a Welsh perspective by discussing the Wales’ Landlord Licensing Scheme. Finally, Severina Kelly from Housing Rights presented on the Landlord Advice line operated by Housing Rights and provided feedback on how it has supported landlords.

The session finished with presentations from Stephen Leonard from Belfast City Council, Jim Frazer from Trading Standards and John Crabbe from the Landlord’s Association of Northern Ireland on the importance for promoting good practice and compliance. These contributors then joined the afternoon speakers to participate in a Q&A session which covered issues around Regulation and reform within the sector.

Missed out on the conference?

See our #PRS17 storify for an overview of tweets to find out more about what happened on the day and download the speakers' presentations below.

(Please do not use the information contained in the presentations below without prior consent of the speaker) 

Brian Robson, JRF - Poverty and the Private Rented Sector

Joe Frey, Ulster University - The need for a collaborative approach to providing the evidence

Jon Anderson, Choice Housing - Challenges and Opportunities

Brian Speers, CCD Solicitors - A role for alternative dispute resolution in the private rented sector

Natasha Miller, Shelter Scotland - Letting Agent Plus: Improving access to, and sustainability of, tenancies within the PRS in Scotland

John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords - Private letting - a scottish perspective

Bethan Jones, Rent Smart Wales - A Welsh Perspective: Rent Smart Wales

Severina Kelley, Landlord Advice - Supporting Landlords to Improve the Sector


Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Policy, Landlord


Sarah Corrigan

This article was written on 23 November 2017. 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.