Legislation was introduced in 2007 which provides a new structure for the private rented sector in NI. The new system will reward the efforts of landlords who provide good quality housing for their tenants and removes restrictions which would hamper the development of good quality privately rented housing. Protected tenants will retain their security of tenure.
Under the Private Tenancies Order, properties built before 1st January 1945 whose tenancies commence after 1st April 2007 must have a fitness inspection carried out unless they already have a certificate of fitness in place or the property is exempt i.e.
- a renovation grant was paid by Northern Ireland Housing Executive within the last 10 years
- an HMO grant was paid by the NIHE within the last 10 years
- the dwelling is currently registered as an HMO with the NIHE
- a regulated rent certificate was issued by district council within the last 10 years.
Properties will be inspected against the fitness standard in the Housing (NI) Order 1981i.e. the property must:
- be structurally stable
- be free from serious disrepair
- be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants (if any)
- have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation
- have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water
- have satisfactory facilities for the preparation and cooking of food, including a sink with a supply of hot and cold water
- have a suitably located fixed bath or shower and wash hand basin with satisfactory supply of hot and cold water; and
- have an effective system for drainage of foul, waste and surface water.
Application forms which can be downloaded below must be submitted within 28 days of the tenancy commencing and be accompanied by a fee of £50.
Landlords of unfit premises will be issued with a notice of refusal and will be subject to rent control until the property is made fit.
Other features of the new legislation are:
- District Councils have been given new powers to ensure that unfitness and serious disrepair are addressed (regardless of the age of the property)
- Restricted and regulated tenancies will retain their protection
- There will be no new protected tenancies. On vacancy all currently protected tenancies will be decontrolled. If the property is rented out subsequently, the rent will not be subject to control provided the property is fit.
- As well as having rent books, all new tenants will have to be supplied with a written statement of the terms of their tenancy. Where a tenancy statement fails to clarify repairing obligations, the law provides default terms.
Impact of the Private Tenancies Order on Existing Regulated and Restricted Tenancies
The current registered rent for these tenancies will not increase unless the landlord applies to the Rent Officer for NI to determine a new rent.
If the tenancy is currently registered as Regulated and
- the property was built after 1945, or
- the Regulated Rent Certificate was issued within the past 10 years, or
- a renovation grant has been paid by the NIHE within the past 10 years, or
- an HMO grant has been paid within the past 10 years
A fitness inspection is not required and the landlord can apply directly to the Rent Officer to set a new rent.
If the tenancy does not fall within one of the above categories, in order to maximise the rent that can be charged, the landlord will need to apply to the district council for a fitness inspection using the application form below.