Private rent and tenancies
A tenancy agreement is a legal agreement in writing that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant.
Tenants and basic rights
The law gives you certain basic rights depending on what sort of tenancy you have. Your tenancy agreement may give you more rights than the basic legal rights. All tenants have basic rights, including:
- the right to a rent book
- freedom from harassment and illegal eviction
- required notice to quit - this period depends on the length of the tenancy - see table below
- due process of law
- the right to claim housing benefit
From 1 April 2007, some tenants gained additional basic rights, including:
- the right to a tenancy statement
- the right to a tenancy term
- basic repairing obligations
From 1 April 2013, any deposit taken in connection with a private tenancy must be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme:
- within 14 days of the landlord receiving the deposit
- within 28 days of receipt of the deposit, the landlord must supply details to the tenant of the scheme in which the deposit is protected
There have been a number of recent changes affecting landlords and tenants in the private sector. You can find out more in the following link:
Notice to quit period
The duration of individual tenancies may be agreed and reflected in the tenancy agreement. Where there is either no tenancy agreement or the duration is not agreed, it will be deemed to last for a default period of six months.
A landlord must always provide the tenant with a written notice to quit. The following table shows the minimum period of notice which the landlord must give the tenant, depending on the length of the tenancy:
|Length of Tenancy||Notice to Quit|
|Five years or less||No less than four weeks written notice|
|More than five years and up to and including ten years||No less than eight weeks written notice|
|More than ten years||No less than twelve weeks written notice|
You may be able to leave a tenancy before the end of the agreed duration of the tenancy; however, you must be aware of the risks of doing so. This is because if you leave early without the agreement of your landlord, even with giving the required notice, you could still be liable for the rent until the end of the tenancy agreement. Your landlord can withhold the deposit (if there is one) for non-payment of rent – this will often be stated in the tenancy agreement – and they could pursue you in the Small Claims Court for the remaining rent. You should seek advice on the matter before giving written notice to quit.
Protected or statutory tenancy
If you moved into the property before 1 April 2007, you may have a protected or statutory tenancy. This type of tenancy offers the most security against eviction and rent increases. The type of tenancy you have depends on when the tenancy started.
Further information is available on the Department for Social Development (DSD) website using the link below :
Further information is also available on the Rent Officer website using the link below:
Private landlords will normally rent their property out at the market rate and their right to increase the rent depends on the type of tenancy and the tenancy agreement.
Tenancies which began before 1 April 2007 do not have to have a written agreement unless the tenancy is for a fixed term of over one year and a day.
The landlord of a tenancy which began after 1 April 2007 must provide the tenant with written confirmation of the terms of the tenancy.
A new qualification has been developed for private landlords who let residential properties. This Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Level 2 Certificate aims to promote good standards in privately rented accommodation and provide skills and knowledge to help landlords in their role.
For more information, please contact Jennie Donald at the CIH at the telephone number or email address below.
- phone: 028 9077 8222
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Protection of a tenants deposit
Before you move into your home it is likely that you will have to provide the landlord or agent with a deposit:
- this is requested to cover any unpaid rent or damage to the property
- sometimes, when a tenant decides to move on, there may be disputes concerning the returnable amount
- when you sign your tenancy agreement always check the details to see what your deposit will cover and how it will be returned
- you should also ask for an inventory of the property’s contents when you move in
- ensure that you agree with the terms and conditions of the tenancy before you hand over any money
From the 1 April 2013, any deposit taken on or after that date must be protected in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. For more information on the two types of approved schemes and the four appointed scheme administrators, please use the link below:
Help with your rent
If you have a low income you may be able to get Housing Benefit to help pay your rent. Your savings as well as your income will be used to work out how much benefit you may be entitled to. For more information please check the link below
More useful links
- Help with paying your rates
- Safety at home (leisure, home and community section)
- Your rights and responsibilities (government, citizens and rights section)
- Making the most of the private rented sector (PDF 10.25MB) - DSD website
- Tenant experience (PDF 1.3MB) - DSD website
- Private Rented Sector in NI Newsletter - Issue 2 - 2012 (PDF 130KB) - DSD website
- Private Rented Sector in NI Newsletter - Issue 1 - 2011 (PDF 881KB) DSD website
- Help with PDF files