When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Finding out if a tenancy is protected

Advice for landlords in Northern Ireland

This page is for landlords operating in Northern Ireland.  You can find advice for tenants elsewhere on our website. Private landlords in Northern Ireland can call Landlord Advice on 028 9024 5640 and choose option 5. 

The quickest way to find out if a property has a protected tenancy is to check the rent register. 

This register contains the details of all known protected tenancies. 

But, it is possible for a protected tenancy to exist without being on this register. 

The landlord will have to prove a tenancy is not protected if 

  • it is not already on the register, but
  • the indicators suggest that it might be a protected tenancy.

What are the indicators of a protected tenancy?

Your property may have a protected tenancy if

  • the current tenancy began before 1 April 2007
  • the property was built or converted for letting before 1956,
  • the property was first rented out before 1978
  • a tenant was living in the property in October 1978.

The tenancy will not be protected if:

  • the net annual value, (NAV), of the property is over £140 and you have obtained vacant possession since October 1978
  • the property was owned by the Crown, Government or the Housing Executive in October 1978
  • the tenancy was let as a condition of someone's job in October 1978, for example a resident caretaker
  • the property was let with a large amount of land before 1978.

The burden of proof is on the landlord. This means you need to provide evidence to show that the tenancy is not protected. 

Buying a property with a sitting tenant

Be careful if you decide to buy a property with a sitting tenant. You need to check if the tenancy is protected. If you buy a protected tenancy, you  

  • cannot charge more rent than the amount set by the rent officer for the property
  • may only be able to receive £1 per week in housing benefit towards the rent
  • may find it difficult to evict the tenant.

Your solicitor carries out searches when you are buying a property. These searches should include checking if the sitting tenant is a protected tenant.