When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Tenant or licensee

You need to know whether you are going to be a tenant who will be protected in law or a licensee who has very few rights in law. It's important that you understand your legal status in your new home.


    You will usually be a tenant if:

    • you live in a flat or house, and
    • you pay rent to your landlord, and
    • you don't share your home with your landlord, and
    • your landlord isn't a family member.

    You are probably a tenant if you have a room in a house that you share with people, other than your landlord.  If you are paying your rent to another tenant, that tenant is seen as your landlord and you are probably a subtenant. It can be difficult to work out the rights of a subtenant, so speak to our advisers if you've ended up with this sort of arrangement. 


    Licensees usually have fewer rights than tenants. Your landlord doesn't need to get a court order before evicting you and just has to give you enough notice for you to pack your belongings. It can be difficult to work out if you are a licensee or a tenant. You may be a licensee if:

    The laws about different types of tenancy are very complicated. Contact an advice agency if you are still unsure about what type of tenancy you have, or have been offered. You may have more rights than you think.

    Rent issues for licensees

    You pay the rent you agreed with your landlord when you moved in. If you don't pay the rent your landlord can evict you. Licensees can get help to pay their housing costs by applying for Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. 

    If you signed an agreement when you moved in, your landlord can't normally increase your rent until the end of this agreement, unless there's a clause in the agreement allowing him to. If your tenancy agreement includes a clause saying your landlord can increase your rent more than once in a year, or increase it by an unreasonable amount this is an unfair term and unenforceable.  If you don't have a tenancy agreement your landlord can increase the rent at any point. You don't have the right to a rent book.

    Repairs issues for licensees

    The law says your landlord must keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair. This includes:

    • the roof,
    • guttering,
    • external walls,
    • windows and doors.

    Your landlord must keep the equipment for the supply of gas, electricity, heating, water and sanitation in good repair. Your landlord may have extra responsibilities to repair depending on what you agreed when you moved in. You are responsible for minor repairs to the internal decorations. This might include unblocking a sink, changing the lightbulbs or changing a fuse when necessary. You may also have other responsibilities depending on what you agreed when you moved in.

    Your landlord must have valid gas safety record checks for all gas appliances in the property. Only a gas engineer on the Gas Safe Register can issue a gas safety record. Any furniture provided should be fire resistant.

    If your accommodation needs repairs tell your landlord immediately. If the repairs are your landlord's responsibility, there may be ways you can force your landlord to carry out the work, but you should be aware that as a licensee you have very few rights to remain in a property if the landlord wants you out.

    Limited protection from eviction if you're a licensee

    Licensees have very little protection from eviction. Your landlord doesn't need to give you 28 days' notice to quit or get a court order to evict you if you are a licensee. Your landlord usually only has to give you reasonable time to leave the property. This can be as little as a couple of hours or as long as a few weeks depending on your circumstances.

    Check your agreement with your landlord if you have one. Your landlord will have to give you the amount of notice stated in this agreement. If there is no time limit mentioned then you are only entitled to a reasonable time to leave the property. 

    Get advice from Housing Rights or another advice agency if your landlord is trying to evict you immediately. If you are a tenant, not a licensee, your landlord is carrying out an illegal eviction. This is a criminal offence.