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.
If you haven’t been a Housing Executive (NIHE) or housing association tenant for the last year, you’ll probably be an introductory tenant. After 12 months you’ll become a secure tenant and it will be more difficult to evict you.
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.
Housing Executive tenants have rights which are set out in law. You are an introductory tenant for the first year of your tenancy. After 12 months you’ll become a secure tenant. Secure tenants have stronger rights than introductory tenants.
It's important to be aware of your responsibilities to your landlord. While many of these responsibilities will be explained in your tenancy agreement, there are also certain responsibilities which are outlined in law.
Protected tenancies are a type of rent-controlled tenancy. You could be a protected tenant and not be aware of this fact. If you are a protected tenant, the amount of rent that your landlord can legally charge you is restricted.