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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights respond to consultation on rates liability

Housing Rights has responded to the Department of Finance’s recent consultation on rates liability in the domestic rental sector.

Current liability for payments of rates

Liability for payments of rates in rented properties in Northern Ireland is extremely complex, and depends on factors including whether or not the property is a HMO; whether the capital value of the property in question is over £150,000; and whether the landlord has a “voluntary agreement” to pay rates to Land & Property Services.

There are also significant inconsistencies between rating liability law, and contracts between landlords and tenants. Housing Rights has experience of representing tenants who obey their tenancy agreement and pay their rates as part of their rent, only to be pursued for these same rates when their landlord has failed to pass on the money to Land & Property Services. These tenants are effectively “double-charged” for their rates, and can only pursue the landlord through Small Claims Court.

How Housing Rights want rates liability reformed

  • Any reform to rates liability should be focussed on ensuring affordability (by closing the current “double-charging” loophole) and transparency for tenants.
  • In order to ensure this transparency, any change to rates liability law should be accompanied by appropriate and accessible information and guidance, for tenants and landlords. The Private Tenants’ Forum has previously called for improved provision of information in this regard.
  • Current rates liability arrangements have also resulted in unsatisfactory rates recovery processes. The Department should take this opportunity to ensure that future rates recovery processes are affordable and transparent for tenants and occupiers.
  • On the basis of the information provided in the consultation paper, Option 4 (remove £150,000 threshold from Article 20) outlined in the paper appears to be the option most capable of delivering affordability and transparency for tenants. Option 4 would, in practice, result in landlords being entitled to collect rates from the tenant(s), and obliged to pass these on to Land & Property Services.

​Read Housing Rights full response to rates liability in the domestic rental sector.

Tagged In

Regulation, Policy

Author

Stephen Orme