When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland


On rare occasions, something may happen to your property that renders it uninhabitable. If you have sitting tenants in the property it can be very difficult to know what to do.

Uninhabitable property

It is not unusual in Northern Ireland for periods of extreme weather to cause significant damage to houses. Bad weather can lead to burst pipes, flooding and damage to the structure of a building. If your building has been damaged and rendered uninhabitable you should take action to protect your tenants.

If you or the tenant is concerned that the building poses a risk to public health, you should arrange for the council to inspect the property. There may be a fee for this service. If the council agrees that the building is dangerous, you will usually be issued with a statutory notice specifying what work must be carried out to the property to bring it up to standard.

When you receive a statutory notice, it will usually contain a schedule of works and a date by which you must carry out the work. Depending on the level of work required, it may be easier for you to carry out repairs in a vacant property. This can cause difficulties, particularly if the tenants wish to remain in the property.

Similarly, if a property is in a serious state of disrepair, your tenants may no longer wish to live there. You do not have to release tenants from a tenancy agreement due to disrepair but you must show that you have started to carry out the necessary repair work. Be reasonable and consider what level of disruption the work is having on the tenant's right to peaceful occupation of the property.

Your tenants are entitled to serve Notice to Quit if you are in breach of the tenancy agreement and you're failing to carry out the repairs that you're responsible for.

Negotiating with tenants

While your tenants are bound by a fixed term contract, they have a right to stay in the property. If you wish them to vacate the property while work is carried out you will have to negotiate with them to agree acceptable terms.

If your tenants agree to move out of the property, whether on a short term or permanent basis, you should make sure that both you and your tenants have the agreement in writing. The agreement should make reference to

  • the date on which the tenants agree to leave the property
  • any arrangements regarding the tenants' personal belongings in the property
  • whether the tenants agree to move back into the property when the repairs have finished.

If your tenants leave the property early at your request and do not intend to return you should settle any issues around outstanding rents and deposits within 28 days of their leaving.