The law gives you certain basic rights depending on what sort of tenancy you have. Your tenancy agreement may give you more rights than these basic legal rights. Protected tenants may have more rights than other tenants. Your local council can take certain enforcement action if your landlord is failing to respect your rights.
All tenants have the following basic rights. A tenancy agreement can't take away these rights. If your landlord tries to take away these rights it will be illegal.
Right to a rent book
You are entitled to a rent book. The rent book should tell you:
- the landlord's address and name
- the amount of rent
- if you have to pay rates and how much rates you pay
- when you have to pay rent.
Freedom from harassment and illegal eviction
Harassment includes any action designed to stop you carrying out one of your rights as a tenant. Harassment can include your landlord or someone acting on the landlord’s behalf
- stopping the electricity supply
- entering the premises without your permission (apart from in an emergency)
- carrying out acts of violence.
Illegal eviction includes any attempt to make you leave your home when the correct legal procedure has not been carried out. Harassment and illegal eviction are both criminal offences. Anyone found guilty of harassment or illegal eviction can be imprisoned or fined.
Notice to quit
Your landlord should give you at least 28 days' notice if he wants you to leave the accommodation. The landlord has to give you this notice in written form. The amount of notice needed to end a tenancy depends on how long you've lived in the property.
- Up to 5 years = 4 weeks' notice
- 5-10 years = 8 weeks' notice
- More than 10 years = 12 weeks' notice
If you are planning to leave the accommodation you must give the landlord the correct amount of notice that you are going to leave in writing. Speak to our advisers if your landlord has given you less notice than is legally required. Your landlord may be carrying out an illegal eviction.
Due process of law
Your landlord must follow the correct legal procedure before evicting you. Your landlord cannot force you to leave the property unless they:
- get a court order
- get the Enforcement of Judgements Office to enforce the order.
Your landlord can't change the locks or remove your possessions without giving you 28 days' notice and getting a court order. A court may make an order for costs against you if you refuse to move after the notice to quit term has ended.
Additional rights for tenancies that started after 1 April 2007
Since 1 April 2007, some tenants will have some extra basic rights as well as those above.
- If your tenancy began on or after 1 April 2007 and you have no tenancy agreement or if there is no end date specified in your agreement, you are entitled to have a basic tenancy term of six months.
- If your tenancy began on or after 1 April 2007 and you have no tenancy agreement or repairing obligations are not clearly specified in your tenancy agreement, your landlord has certain default repairing obligations
Rights from a tenancy agreement
Your tenancy agreement may give you extra rights about:
- the length of time the tenancy runs
- leaving before the end of the tenancy
- taking in lodgers
- keeping pets
- passing on the tenancy.
Check the terms of the tenancy agreement carefully before you sign it.
I don't have a tenancy agreement
If you don't have a tenancy agreement you'll have the basic rights mentioned above. Your landlord will usually be able to end your tenancy by giving you the correct amount of notice.
If your tenancy begins on or after 1 April 2007 and you do not have a tenancy agreement your tenancy will last for six months. After these six months and if there is no subsequent agreement the tenancy will be known as a periodic tenancy in that it runs from month to month. Your landlord will be expected to look after any repairs that fall under the default repairing obligations.
Deposits and landlord registration
If you paid a deposit for a tenancy on or after 1 April 2013 your landlord must make sure that this deposit is protected with an approved tenancy deposit scheme within 14 days of you handing it over. Your landlord is also required to register his or her details with the NI Landlord Registrar.
Repairs and safety issues
Your tenancy agreement should explain which repairs your landlord is responsible for and which are your responsibility. If it doesn't the default repairing obligations will apply.
Your landlord must ensure that your accommodation meets the minimum standards for fitness when you move in. Landlords should make sure the property is safe and must have a valid gas safety record check from a registered gas engineer for each appliance in your accommodation. Furniture provided by your landlord should be fire resistant.
Tenants who share a property with 2 or more people who aren't related to them live in a House of Multiple Occupation or HMO. Landlords of HMOs have to comply with much stricter safety and property management standards.
Energy Performance Certificate
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) provides information to a tenant about energy efficiency in a property.
If your tenancy in a private rented house or flat began after 30 December 2008, it is a legal requirement for a landlord or agent to show you this certificate when you view a property and to give you a copy to keep when you become the tenant.
The landlord needs to appoint an accredited energy assessor who assesses energy efficiency and issues the certificate
This certificate demonstrates energy efficiency in your accommodation and gives A-G rates. An A rating shows high energy efficiency and a G rating shows poor energy efficiency. You can expect high fuel costs in a property with a G rating for energy efficiency. Your certificate should include a recommendation report. This report will explain how energy efficiency could be improved in the property and how a higher energy efficiency rating might be achieved. Your landlord is not obliged to carry out these improvements.
If your landlord does not supply an EPC, contact a building control officer in Belfast City Council. Building Control in Belfast City Council is responsible for investigating an initial complaint about Energy Performance Certificates. An Energy Performance Certificate is valid for ten years.