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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights sees two and a half times increase in the number of private tenants contacting them for advice about their landlord selling up

In the past year, a local charity has seen a 2.5 fold increase in the number of people seeking help because their landlord is selling their home.

Housing Rights advice manager Brenda Parker stressed the importance of private renters understanding their rights, and not feeling pressured to move early just because the property is for sale.

Back in April the Assembly agreed emergency legislation to make sure that tenants would have a minimum of 12 weeks’ notice before they’d have to leave their home. That applies equally to tenants whose homes have been put up for sale.

We’d encourage anyone in this position to contact Housing Rights for advice to find out whether they can stay put and discuss what their options are if they do have to leave their current home.

A tenant who has been given a contract until some point in the future has a right to stay in their home until that contract ends. That also applies if the property is for sale. A property can be sold with a sitting tenant, and when that happens the new owner will take over the former landlord’s responsibilities, such as collecting rent and dealing with repairs.

Ms Parker continued;

Just because your landlord wants to sell, doesn’t mean you have to move out there and then. Even if you don’t have a contract, your landlord still must give you your 12 weeks’ notice to quit. If you and your landlord can’t see eye to eye on this matter, or you need more time, our mediation service may be able to help you come to an agreement .

 

Landlord Advice, a helpline for landlords run by Housing Rights, has also seen twice as many landlords contacting them for advice because of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The charity is urging any landlords facing financial difficulties who are considering selling their properties to get advice.

Spokespersons available. Contact Taryn@housingrights.org.uk or call 028 90245640.

Notes:

  1. Housing Rights is the leading specialist provider of independent housing advice in Northern Ireland. Established in 1964, the charity works to improve lives by tackling homelessness and housing problems. Housing Rights also operates a Landlord Advice service, and a Housing Mediation service.
  2. In 2019/20 Housing Rights helpline provided advice to 8,435 clients and caseworkers dealt with 1,037 complex housing and homelessness cases. Housing Rights advisers prevented homelessness for 1,183 clients, with estimated savings to the public purse of more than £18m.
  3. Many tenants are not aware that a property can be sold with them as sitting tenants. A tenant with a fixed term agreement can remain in the property while it is sold. The new owner must honour the agreement until it expires. The fact that a landlord wants to sell does not, ordinarily, constitute grounds to terminate a tenancy prematurely.
  4. Despite longer notice periods, tenants are still struggling to find suitable alternative rented housing due to increased demand. In its Housing Market Trends Quarter 3 publication, Property Pal stated that there were 15% fewer rental properties added to the market in this period than in the same period in 2019.
  5. Housing Rights recently launched research “The Perfect Storm: The impact of Covid-19 on Renters in Northern Ireland. The research shows how those living in the private rented sector have been disproportionately affected, caught in the ‘perfect storm’ of low incomes (often as a result of job losses, furlough or reduced hours), job insecurity and tenure insecurity.

CASE STUDIES:

Kathy, along with her 2 children and husband rented their home from a private landlord in Belfast.  When their landlord was affected financially by COVID-19, he decided to put the house Kathy and her family lived in up for sale.   

Kathy was given 12 weeks' notice to quit in August. She struggled to find anything suitable for her family’s needs during that period due to a slowdown in people moving in the private rented sector since the beginning of the pandemic. Competition for the properties that were suitable was very high as there was so little coming on the market.

Housing Rights mediation service helped Kathy reach a short-term solution with her landlord allowing her to keep living in the house while it was marketed for sale, giving Kathy extra time to find a suitable home for her family.

Gerri, a single mother to a 3-year-old, is living in private rented accommodation. Last weekend her landlord had arranged a viewing at her home without her knowledge. When Gerri questioned her landlord, he admitted he was putting her home up for sale as he could no longer afford the mortgage payments on it. The landlord was confident he would have the house sold in the new year and she would need to vacate by then, putting untold pressure on Gerri in the run up to an already stressful Christmas period for her.

When Gerri contacted Housing Rights, she told us that she had a signed contract stating her tenancy ended in May 2021. We were able to advise Gerri that her landlord was unable to issue her with notice to quit with a date that came before then, as she had not violated the terms of the contract in any way.