The Private Tenancies Act received royal assent in April 2022. It created new notice to quit rules for landlords and tenants. The act contains other changes to the private rented sector, however, regulations are needed to make these changes into law. Some of these regulations have now been put in place and will be effective from 1 April 2023.
Most of these changes are contained in The Private Tenancies (2022 Act) (Commencement No.1) Order (Northern Ireland)).
Giving tenants information about a tenancy
From 1 April 2023, landlords are legally required to give tenants certain notices about their tenancy. Landlords cannot charge tenants a fee for any of these notices.
Tenancy information notice
Landlords will need to give tenants a tenancy information notice. This notice gives tenants important information about their tenancy like:
- landlord contact details
- rent and rates
- the length of the tenancy
This notice must be given to tenants within 28 days of the tenancy starting. The Department of Communities (DfC) has provided a template notice that landlords can use. DfC has also provided guidance on how to fill this template out.
If a landlord fails to provide this notice within 28 days, they are guilty of an offence. If the landlord is convicted of this offence, they could be fined up to £500 by the local council. If convicted by a court, they could be fined up to £2,500.
Notice of variation
If anything about the tenancy changes, landlords must give their tenants a notice of variation. The landlord must give this to their tenants within 28 days of the change. Landlords will still need to give notice in advance of changes like rent increases.
If a landlord fails to provide this information within 28 days of the change, they are guilty of an offence. If the landlord is convicted of this offence, they could be fined up to £500 by the local council. If convicted by a court, they could be fined up to £2,500.
Notice regarding past matters
In 2011, Article 4 of the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 was accidently removed. This meant that, between June 2011 and 1 April 2023, landlords did not legally have to provide tenants with important information about their tenancy.
From 1 April, landlords must provide a tenancy information notice to tenants whose tenancy started after 30 June 2011.
Some landlords continued to provide this important information even though there was no legal requirement to do so. These landlords will not have to provide this notice, if the information given to their tenants is substantially the same as the new requirements.
If a landlord fails to provide this information within 28 days of 1 April 2023, they are guilty of an offence. If the landlord is convicted of this offence, they could be fined up to £500 by the local council. If convicted by a court, they could be fined up to £2,500.
Landlords will have to provide a receipt to any tenant who pays rent in cash, or any other cash payments to their landlord.
The receipt must confirm:
- the date of payment
- the amount paid
- any amount the tenant still owes
- if the charge has been paid in full
- how the payment has been split if it covers more than one charge
Landlords must provide the receipt when the payment is made or as soon as possible afterwards. Landlords are not allowed to charge for these receipts, and they must be in writing. Both the landlord and the tenant should keep a copy.
This requirement also covers payments made when a tenancy is not yet in place, for example:
- a deposit paid in cash before the tenancy begins.
- payments made after the tenancy has ended to cover arrears or damage to the property
Failure to provide a receipt should be reported to environmental health in local councils. They can work with the landlord and tenant to get the missing receipts.
However, a landlord or their agent could be found guilty of an offence if they fail to meet this requirement. They could be fined up to £500 by the local council. If the landlord is convicted of this offence, they could be fined up to £2,500.
If they still haven’t provided the receipts within 14 days, the landlord is guilty of another offence and could face a summary conviction in criminal court.
Limits on tenancy deposit amounts
From 1 April 2023 landlords can no longer ask for a tenancy deposit of more than one month’s rent. If rent is not paid monthly, the figure used is one day’s rent, multiplied by 30.
Renewing a tenancy
If a tenancy started before 1 April 2023 and the deposit was more than one month’s rent, the landlord will need to have the tenant’s permission to keep the extra amount if they want to sign a new tenancy agreement when the current one ends. This applies whether the new tenancy is for the same property or a different one owned by the same landlord.
If the tenant does not agree, it becomes an offence for the landlord to hold on to any deposit that is more than one month’s rent.
Tenancies that have not yet started
If the tenant and landlord signed a contract before 1 April 2023, but the tenancy does not actually begin until after that date, it is not an offence for the landlord to retain a deposit that is more than one month’s rent. They entered a contract before these changes came into place and the tenant is obliged to make the payment they agreed.
Any agreement to pay a deposit after 1 April 2023 is covered by these changes. Landlords and tenants cannot make any agreements to pay a deposit that is more than one month’s rent.
Any failure to comply with these rules is an offence. Landlords could receive a fixed penalty notice of £500 or a fine of up to £2,500.
Changes to deposit protection time frames
The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2023 have changed how long landlords have to protect deposits and provide information about this to their tenants.
After a tenant pays a deposit, landlords now have up to:
- 28 days to protect a tenancy deposit (an increase from 14 days), and
- 35 days to provide information about this protection (an increase from 28 days)
If a landlord does not protect a deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme, they could be prosecuted. They could be fined up to three times the amount of the unprotected deposit.
Not protecting a deposit becomes an ongoing offence
Under previous legislation, it was only an offence not to protect a deposit for a maximum of six months. This meant that if, at the end of a 12-month tenancy, a tenant discovered that a landlord had failed to protect a deposit, they could not be prosecuted.
The Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 makes the failure to protect a tenancy deposit a continuing offence. This means that there will be no time barrier on prosecuting a landlord who does not meet these requirements.
Future of the Private Tenancies Act (NI) 2022
There are still several regulations that need to be created to bring the rest of the act into effect.
DfC is carrying out research and consultations on some of these changes to make sure they are right for people renting privately in Northern Ireland.
Some of these changes may be delayed until we have an NI Assembly in place.
Learn more about these changes
Housing Rights is running training sessions about these changes to the private rented sector on:
- Wednesday 5 April, 2:00pm to 3:30pm (for landlords)
- Thursday 13 April from 10:30am to 12:00pm
- Wednesday 19 April from 10:30 to 12:00pm
For advice on these changes, contact our helpline:
- by phone on 028 9024 5640, or
- chat online to one of our advisers