Renting privately is more flexible than other forms of housing. You can move into a place quickly, accommodation is often furnished to a good standard and you're not tied to a property for a long period of time. On the other hand, renting privately can be expensive, you don't usually have any long term rights to stay in the property and the availability and type of accommodation can vary widely throughout Northern Ireland.
Tenancies in Northern Ireland
A small number of tenants in Northern Ireland are known as protected tenants. These tenants have different rights to other private tenants but often live in quite poor housing . Protected tenants cannot be evicted as easily as other tenants and also usually have a lower rent than other types of tenancies in the private rented sector. It can be difficult to work out if you're a protected tenant or not, but you definitely won't be one if you moved into your privately rented home after 1 April 2007.
Most tenancies are not protected. The rules and rights of these tenants are set out in a few pieces of legislation and in the tenancy agreement that the tenant has agreed with the landlord or agent.
The two main laws that give tenants in Northern Ireland their rights are
There are other laws that affect tenants, but most of a tenant's basic rights and responsibilities are set out in these two pieces of legislation.
Rights of private tenants
You have basic rights no matter what type of tenancy you have. All tenants have:
- the right to a rent book containing the landlord's name and amount of rent due
- the right to freedom from harassment and illegal eviction
- the right to at least 28 days' notice to quit and due process of law - this means that your landlord must get a court order to evict you if you refuse to leave your home.
If your tenancy began after 1 April 2007 there are also some additional rights:
- your tenancy term will be for at least six months, unless you have agreed a shorter term with your landlord
- you and the landlord each agree to certain default repairing obligations unless your tenancy agreement says something different.
This chart explains the rights that apply to different types of tenancy.
You don't have a legal right to a tenancy agreement, but we recommend that you ask for one and that you read this carefully before you sign it. It is a legal contract, and it is very difficult to end this contract once you've signed it.
You should look out for:
- the amount of rent to be paid and when the rate is due
- how much the rates are and who is responsible for the rates
- the length of the tenancy
- who is responsible for repairs
- the amount of the deposit and what the deposit can be used for at the end of the tenancy
- any restrictions on your tenancy (pets or taking in lodgers)
- any fees or charges that you might be asked to pay during the tenancy
- any term that would allow you and the landlord to end early.
If your tenancy began after 1 April 2007 and you do not have a tenancy agreement or if that agreement doesn't have sufficient detail, certain repairing obligations may apply. A default tenancy term of 6 months may also apply in these circumstances
Deposits and rent in advance
Most landlords will ask for the equivalent of a month's rent as a security deposit and a month's rent in advance before you move into the property. You may be able to get help with the rent in advance by applying to the Discretionary Finance Support Fund.
Your landlord is entitled to ask for a deposit but you should make sure you know what the deposit is for. Make sure your landlord tells you when your deposit will be returned to you and what costs can be deducted from your deposit. Any deposit paid after 1 April 2013 must be protected in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme.
Paying for your accommodation
Private tenants have the right to apply for benefits. The amount of benefits paid to help private tenants with their rent doesn't usually cover the full amount of rent they have to pay to the landlord. You will have to make up the rest of your rent from your other income, but you can sometimes get a bit of extra help with this.
You can be evicted if you don't pay your rent. But, your landlord must give you at least 28 days' notice of th. Your landlord will usually have to get a court order before you have to leave your accommodation.
Living in shared accommodation
There are extra rules about safety in housing that is shared by a certain number of people who aren't family members. If you are renting a room in a shared house, or are sharing with a group of friends your landlord may have to put more safety measures in place.
Ending a tenancy
Some tenants will leave their rented home when their tenancy expires, while others may want to leave before then. Tenants can usually only leave their tenancy before the end of the agreement if they get the landlord's consent. If you walk out on a tenancy you may have to pay rent even though you are no longer living there.
Landlords have to follow specific legal procedures if they want a tenant to leave and the tenant refuses to go.