Tenants living in a HMO have the same right as any other tenant. The landlord is required to follow the correct legal process in order to evict you. This applies even if the landlord has been told by the council that the property is not properly licensed as a HMO.
Your rights to stay in the property will depend on
- whether you are a tenant or a licensee and
- whether you have a tenancy agreement in place
Tenant or licensee?
Tenants are entitled to written notice if the landlord wants them out of the property. This notice can be posted or sent digitally, but you must receive it at least 28 days before the date you are supposed to leave. You may have a right to longer notice if your contract says so or if you've lived in the property for more than 5 years.
Licensee are only entitled to "reasonable packing up time" unless they have a contract which says that the landlord has to give a set amount of notice. Get advice if you aren't sure whether you are a licensee or a tenant.
Asked to leave with no tenancy agreement
Tenants who don't have a tenancy agreement or who haven't renewed an expired agreement can't really object if the landlord decides to evict them. The landlord still has to give you written notice and must go to court to get permission to evict you if you don't leave voluntarily when the notice period ends. However, going to court can end up being expensive so get advice if you end up in this position.
The landlord must give tenants at least 28 days notice, even if the council has said that the property isn't licensed as a HMO or isn't suitable for use as a HMO. The fact that the landlord has broken HMO laws doesn't give the landlord a right to evict you without notice. The only time that you have to leave a property immediately is if the NI Fire and Rescue Service say that the property has to immediately be vacated due to an urgent fire risk.
Asked to leave during your tenancy period
Your tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. To evict you before this contract ends, the landlord will have to go to court to evict you and will have to show the court that you have broken the agreement in some way.
This applies even if the council has told you or the landlord that the property you are living in is an unlicensed or illegal HMO.
Do you have to leave if the council is taking action against your landlord?
It's not your fault if the council decides that your landlord has failed to license the HMO or failed to keep it to the relevant standards. The council will fine the landlord and will tell him that the only way to avoid prosecution is to stop the property from being a HMO. This means reducing the number of people living there. The easiest way for the landlord to do this is to ask you or the people you live with to move.
However, you don't have to go anywhere. You have a legal contract guaranteeing you a right to stay in the property and will only have to leave if this contract allows the landlord to end the tenancy during the contract term. If there is a term like this in your agreement, you could challenge it as unfair unless it equally allows the tenants to leave early.
What can you do if you've been asked to leave your HMO?
Always get advice if you've been asked to leave your home. Your landlord will be keen for you to move as the council can issue the landlord with a big fine and can prosecute the landlord. You could try negotiating with the landlord if you are willing to move. You should make sure that the terms suit you and that you don't lose out because of the landlord's failure to stick to the laws about renting out property. You could ask your landlord to cover any reasonable extra costs you will have to pay because of the move and you may need to be compensated for any utilities you have prepaid and now won't be able to use.
There may even be an argument that you are due a refund on some of the rent you have paid, if the landlord has engaged in misleading selling practices, such as advertising the property as a fully licensed HMO when it is not.
The best way to solve this kind of problem may be to use a mediation service.