When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Key terms in a tenancy agreement

Your tenancy agreement should include certain key terms.

Property and contact details

Make sure that your tenancy agreement includes

  • the address of the property
  • your name and the name of any other tenants
  • the landlord’s name, address and contact details
  • the name, address and contact details of any agent that the landlord is using
  • an inventory, which shows the current condition and cleanliness of the property and any furniture.

Tenancy details

The tenancy agreement should explain

  • the length of the tenancy term, including whether the tenancy will roll on a month by month basis when the initial term ends
  • whether the agreement is set up with joint and several liability; this means that joint tenants are individually responsible for their own rent and collectively responsible for each other's rent
  • how much notice must be given in order to end the tenancy.

Although tenancy agreements will often explain that tenants must give at least 28 days’ notice, the landlord can ask for a longer notice period.  If you’ve agreed to provide 2 months’ notice before moving out, both you and the landlord should abide by this.

The fact that your contract includes a term explaining how much notice you must give doesn’t mean you can leave and stop paying rent.  The contract is binding for the full duration of its term and your landlord may take you to court to recover any money you owe for the rest of the contract term.

Rent and rates

Your contract should tell you

  • how much the rent is and how frequently it is due
  • the date you must pay your rent on and how it should be paid
  • if you are responsible for paying rates on the property
  • whether your rent includes an amount for rates or rates must be paid separately
  • any other payments aside from rent and rates for which you are responsible.

Deposit information

It’s really important that your tenancy agreement includes reference to your deposit.  The information should explain

Repairs information

Your tenancy agreement should include information about repairs. Normally, a tenancy agreement will explain

  • which repairs are the landlord’s responsibility
  • which repairs are the tenant’s responsibility
  • that the tenant must report any problems as soon as they notice them
  • how the tenant should report any problems, including an emergency number
  • that the tenant will be financially responsible for the cost of any repairs required as a result of the tenant’s neglect of the property or any damage caused to the property by the tenant or any visitors

If your tenancy agreement doesn’t include information to say who is responsible for repairs, the default repairing obligations set out in the Private Tenancies Order (NI) 2006 will apply to your tenancy.

Use of the property

The tenancy agreement should explain how you can use the property and any restrictions that apply.  It might include terms that

  • prevent you from smoking without the landlord’s permission
  • prevent you from keeping pets without the landlord’s permission
  • explain that you have to be respectful of neighbours and refrain from any nuisance or antisocial behaviour
  • explain your rights to sublet the property or have other people, not named on the agreement, live with you
  • say you can’t decorate or alter the property in any way without first getting the landlord’s permission.

Any terms that restrict your use of the property must be fair and shouldn’t be blanket restrictions.  If you’ve asked for the landlord’s permission to do something that’s otherwise forbidden by your contract, make sure that you get this permission in writing and that you keep the email, text or letter.

Access to the property

Some tenancy agreements will include clauses which explain the landlord’s rights to enter the property.  This may include

  • the process the landlord must follow in order to carry out inspections or repairs
  • a clause requiring the tenants to facilitate viewings of the property if it is put back on the market for sale or letting.

Your landlord should always give you advance notice before entering the property.  Although there’s no specific rule to say how much notice should be given, anything less than 24 hours’ advance notice is insufficient. 

If your tenancy agreement doesn’t say anything about letting the landlord in, Article 12 of the Private Tenancies Order (NI) 2006 will apply.  This says that you must allow your landlord access to the property to carry out an inspection or repairs as long as reasonable notice was given and the visit happens at a reasonable time of day.