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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Private tenants call for improvements

Private tenants have, for the first time, published proposals for improving rented accommodation in Northern Ireland. The Private Tenants’ Forum has produced an ‘Agenda for Action’ which sets out 8 practical ways to improve rented accommodation in Northern Ireland.

The Private Tenants Forum launched its agenda for change at the Bigger & Better conference, held by Housing Rights Service in Belfast on 6 November 2014.  The group wants to encourage debate on how to make renting privately a more attractive option for people in Northern Ireland.

Building a new and better private rented sector

The tenants want politicians to engage with them to help build a new private rented sector that works for landlords and tenants alike. Historically, private tenants have been relatively unorganised compared to social tenants, and this will be the first occasion that private tenants and landlord representatives have shared a platform to talk about ways of positively developing rented accommodation. 

Key proposals

The Agenda for Action proposes:

  • Better information & education for tenants and people seeking rented accommodation
  • The removal of financial barriers that limit people’s access to the sector such as high upfront fees
  • The compulsory licensing of private landlords and letting agents
  • The development of a model tenancy agreement for use by landlords and letting agents
  • Greater security of tenure for tenants who wish to put down roots in their local community
  • Better health and safety standards in rented accommodation
  • Repairs to be carried out within specified timescales
  • The creation of an independent complaints service to help tenants and landlords resolve disputes

Brigitte Anton a member of the forum said: 

“We believe if our proposals are implemented then many thousands of renters will benefit from having decent homes to live in. We are keen to work with landlords, government and other renters to make this Agenda for Action a reality and so improve the lot for everyone involved in the private rental sector.”

History of the Private Tenants' Forum

Members of the Private Tenants’ Forum are drawn from people who have encountered problems in rented accommodation and wish to see an improvement in standards. Many have used the advice line of Housing Rights Service in an attempt to resolve difficulties they have faced in the sector. The forum does not claim to represent the views of all private tenants: rather it is a group of volunteers using their personal experience to advocate for change.

 According to forum member, Tracey McKeating:

“As a group of private renters we believe our housing rights need to be properly protected just like owner occupiers and social tenants.  We believe our homes should be safe and professionally managed with existing rights fully enforced. We need a place we can call home – something that most people take for granted. “

Set up in October 2012, the aim of the forum is to encourage tenant participation in shaping relevant legislation, policy and practice in the private rented sector. The Agenda for Action has been developed by the tenants in order to promote decent, secure and affordable homes in the sector. In advance of elections next year, the forum hopes that local politicians will support the campaign and involve private tenants in developing a new strategy for this often overlooked sector.

As part of the Department for Social Development’s forthcoming review of regulation in the private rented sector the forum hopes that the views of private tenants can be represented in a stakeholder consultation group. With long waiting lists for social housing, more families and individuals are turning to private landlords for accommodation. The sector has grown rapidly in recent years and now makes up 20% of all households, approximately 130,000 homes in Northern Ireland. 

Tagged In

Private Tenants Forum, Private Tenancies, Policy

This article was written on 5 November 2014. 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.