Protected tenancies and certain unfit tenancies are subject to rent control. The Rent Officer for Northern Ireland sets the rent for rent controlled tenancies. Only the Rent Officer can increase the rent on a protected tenancy. Landlords can increase the rent for other rent controlled tenancies if they get a Certificate of Fitness for the property.
Protected tenancies are the least common type of tenancy in Northern Ireland. The Rent Officer for Northern Ireland is responsible for determining a fair rent for each protected tenancy. You may be the landlord of a protected tenancy if the tenancy has been in existence since before 1 April 2007 and
- the property was built or converted for letting before 1956 and
- the property was originally let before the 1 October 1978 and
- there was a tenancy in place involving the property on 1 October 1978.
It can be quite difficult to determine if your property is a protected tenancy. The Rent Officer maintains a database of all known protected tenancies but there may be a number of protected tenancies in Northern Ireland that still are unknown to the Rent Officer.If you think that you may be the landlord of a protected tenancy you need to be aware of the additional legal obligations which you are under and the greater legal protection which your tenants have.
Rent controlled tenancies
Your property will be a rent controlled tenancy if it requires a Certificate of Fitness and either
- the council refused to issue a Certificate of Fitness for the property or
- you have been served with a Notice of Unfitness by the council which has ended your Certificate of Fitness
The Rent Officer will usually be alerted to the existence of a rent-controlled tenancy by the council. Where a property requires a Certificate of Fitness, but fails the fitness inspection the council will serve a Notice of Refusal on the landlord, the tenant, the Housing Executive and the Rent Officer.
The Rent Officer will then begin investigations to establish how much rent the tenant should be obliged to pay while the property remains in its current condition. The property details, including how much rent can lawfully be charged, will be entered onto the Rent Register.
Once your property has been brought up to the fitness standard and a Certificate of Fitness is issued, you are free to charge a market rent for the property again.
Determining the rent for a protected or rent controlled tenancy
The Rent Officer will determine the rent for a rent controlled or protected tenancy. The rent determination is based on
- the general condition of the property, including its compliance with the fitness standard
- the rent which the Housing Executive would charge for a similar type of property
- the Local Reference Rent which the Housing Executive uses for setting rents in the locality
- the terms of the tenancy agreement and what repairs the tenant is required to carry out.
When making a rent determination the Rent Officer will disregard any improvements to the property that the tenant has carried out or has paid for.
Unless the Rent Officer has determined a new rent for the property since 1 April 2007, the maximum rent that you can charge for a protected tenancy is either:
- the amount of rent that was registered with the Housing Executive before 1 April 2007 or
- £1 per week, if the tenancy was not registered prior to 1 April 2007.
You can request that the Rent Officer carry out a rent determination if you feel that the rent you are currently receiving is too low.
Rent Assessment Committee
The Rent Officer will notify you and your tenant once a decision on how much rent can be charged is made. At this stage, both you and the tenant have the right to request a review of this decision if you disagree with it. You must write to the Rent Office to request an appeal within 14 days of being notified of the rent officer’s decision.
The Rent Assessment Committee is a statutory body appointed by the Department for Communities. The Committee will invite both you and the tenant to present your case either in writing or at a hearing. If neither you nor the tenant wishes to hold a hearing the committee will assess the appropriate rent after inspecting the property. The Rent Assessment Committee assesses the rent using the same criteria available to the rent officer.
There is no automatic increase applied to registered rents. However, the Rent Officer can conduct a review of the rents from time to time to determine whether they should be increased.