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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Tenancy agreement

Once you sign a tenancy agreement, you will usually be expected to keep to the conditions of the agreement until it ends. It's important that you check a few things out before you sign and don't let yourself be rushed into anything.

Make sure to read your tenancy agreement. Only sign it if you understand all the terms and you are happy to agree with these. You can ask to change the terms in the contract if you don't agree with them. Don't sign the contract until you are happy with it.

Most tenancy agreements specify a term of 12 months. However, if no specific term is mentioned, a default term of 6 months will apply. If you've applied for social housing and are waiting for an offer from the Housing Executive you should try to negotiate a term of 6 months or less, if possible, as you could still be held liable for rent in your privately rented property once you move into a social tenancy.

Talk to the landlord about why you want to leave the property. Your landlord might be understanding about your problems and agree to allow you to leave the property before the contract ends.  You might be able to negotiate an early release if you agree to certain conditions.  These could include

There are a few important pieces of paperwork that you'll need to keep safe once you become a tenant. You will usually be asked to sign a tenancy agreement, but this is not always the case. If you do sign a tenancy agreement, make sure you get a signed copy.

Legally, your landlord or the agent must give you a rent book. There is certain information which must be contained in this document, including your basic rights and obligations. If you don't get a rent book, you can complain to your local council.

In very limited circumstances, consumer protection regulations may allow you to "unwind" your tenancy agreement.  This right only applies within the first 90 days of the contract and will only apply if you can show that you only entered into the contract because of misleading information or aggressive practices. 

Moving house is a stressful experience. Being well organised can help to minimise the difficulties you may encounter.

Your tenancy agreement is a legal contract and you are bound by the agreement until it expires.  If you leave before the contract expires, your landlord can sue you for any outstanding rent. However, the landlord is bound by the contract in the same way that you are.  If you feel the landlord has materially breached the agreement, you can use this argument to defend yourself at court.

At some point in your tenancy, something in the property will probably need to be repaired. Your tenancy agreement should explain what type of repairs your landlord is responsible for and what repairs you are expected to carry out yourself.

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