Rates have to be paid on all domestic properties in Northern Ireland. When you’re renting a property it’s important that you know from the outset who is responsible for paying the rates on your home.
Legal responsibility for rates
There are laws which state who is responsible for rates in a rented property. Responsibility for paying rates may be either the landlord's or the tenant's depending on the capital value of the property.
The tenant will be responsible for rates if the capital value of the property is more than £150,000. You can find out the capital value of your rented property on the Land & Property (LPS) Services website. The landlord is always responsible for rates in a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).
If you are legally responsible for rates, you should ideally pay these directly to Land & Property Services (LPS), the agency responsible for collecting rates. Talk to your landlord to see if s/he is happy for you to do this. There is no risk to a landlord where a tenant who is legally responsible for paying rates falls into arrears.
If you receive a rates bill or your landlord claims that you owe rates, you should speak to one of our advisers at Housing Rights. If you are liable for rates and don’t pay them you could end up in court.
Tenancy agreement and rates
A tenancy agreement creates a legal contract between the tenant and the landlord. Although the law clearly states who is responsible for rates, depending on the value of the property, your tenancy agreement might make paying this money someone else's responsibility.
The tenancy agreement should clearly state who is responsible for paying rates. If it says that the tenant is responsible the contract should explain whether an amount towards rates is included in the monthly rate or if the tenant is responsible for paying the rates directly to LPS .
If you are paying rates to the landlord and the landlord doesn't pass this money on, LPS will take legal action against you to recover any money owed if the law says the occupier is legally responsible for rates. You would normally have to pay this money and take legal action against your landlord in Small Claims Court if the landlord refused to return the money to you.
This is quite a complicated issue, so if you have any questions about rates in private tenancies or you've been issued with a rates bill that you don't think you should have to pay, get in touch with Housing Rights.
Help paying rates
If you are liable for rates, you may be able to get help through housing benefit or from rates relief. If you already receive Universal Credit, you can apply for help with your rates through the rate relief system.
If the rates on a property haven’t been paid, LPS may take legal action against whoever is responsible for paying the rates. If this happens to you make sure you get advice immediately. Failure to pay rates can result in fines, imprisonment and losing your home.