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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Tenant Rights

Once you're into the second month of your tenancy, do a quick tenancy health check to see if your landlord has given you the legal documents you're entitled to. Checking this information at the start of your tenancy should make sure the tenancy runs more smoothly and will protect you when it comes to the time you want to move out.

You'll usually have to pay out quite a bit of money when you first move in. Most landlords will expect a month's rent as a security deposit and insist on rent being paid in advance. If you're on a low income, you may be entitled to housing benefit to help you meet the cost of your rent, but this is always paid in arrears. Make sure you get receipts for any money you pay out and keep these safe.

Not everyone who pays rent for a room or a property is a tenant. Some only have a license to remain in that property and are “licensees”. Licensees don't have as many rights as tenants and it's much easier to evict them.

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 should report any damage or disrepair to your landlord immediately. It's always a good idea to follow up any reports you make over the phone or in person with a letter so both you and your landlord have a record of any work that needs to be done.

If you live in a caravan or a mobile home that is situated on a residential site you have certain rights which are protected by law. These rights will only apply if you live in the caravan as your main home and you’ve been living on the site for at least 12 months. This law won’t protect you if your caravan is only for holidays or you live on a site that’s mainly meant for holiday usage.

Your responsibilities are set out in your tenancy agreement and tenant handbook. There are certain things you must do. If you don’t, your housing association could take steps to end your tenancy.

There are certain fundamental rights which all private tenants enjoy. Your tenancy agreement may give you additional rights and responsibilities but it cannot take away your basic legal rights.

Landlords in Northern Ireland are not obliged to give tenants a tenancy agreement. However, it’s a good idea to ask for a written tenancy agreement so both you and your landlord fully understand your obligations and your rights. A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. Once you have signed this document, you have committed to pay the rent for the full term of the contract.

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