When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Are you a tenant or a licensee

This page only contains basic information and is the English version of our translated content.  For more detailed advice and information on housing in Northern Ireland in the English language, use the menu options on the homepage. 

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.


Licensees have fewer rights than tenants. For example, your landlord doesn't need to get a court order before evicting you. It can be difficult to work out if you are a licensee or a tenant.

You may be a licensee if:

  • you don't pay rent,
  • you are staying with friends or family,
  • you are staying in a hostel,
  • you are staying in student halls of residence,
  • you are a lodger,
  • your accommodation is tied to your job.

The laws about different types of tenancy are complicated. Contact an advice agency if you are unsure about what type of tenancy you have.

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.

If you signed an agreement when you moved in, your landlord can't increase your rent until the end of this agreement. If you didn't sign an agreement your landlord can increase the rent at any time. 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 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.

Protection from eviction if you're a licensee

Your landlord doesn't need to give you 28 days' notice to quit or get a court order to evict you. 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.