Protection against eviction
If you live in rented accommodation, the law protects you against harassment and illegal eviction. It is a criminal offence for a landlord to harass their tenant. A tenant could claim damages through court action.
COVID-19 Guidance for Private Rented Sector Landlords and Tenants is available to explain protection to private renters during the coronavirus crisis, including new laws which have been introduced to give more protection. Landlords must give tenants at least 12 weeks’ notice to quit before applying for a court order to secure any eviction.
It is an offence for a landlord to:
- interfere with the peace or comfort of a tenant or anyone living with them
- withdraw or withhold services for which the tenant has a reasonable need to live in the premises as a home
For anyone convicted of one the above offences, the punishment could be prison for up to two years, a fine, or both.
The offences are explained in:
Getting advice about a tenant's rights
If your landlord is trying to evict you from your home, speak to Environmental health in your local council. You can get advice from an independent advice centre such as Advice NI or Housing Rights. You can also ask a solicitor.
Local councils can take court action against a landlord for harassment and illegal eviction.
If there is evidence, the council can carry out an investigation and prosecute a landlord for an offence.
If physical violence is involved, you should contact the police.
Your rights as a private tenant
All tenants have five basic rights:
- a rent book - this should include the name and address of the landlord, the rent (and rates if applicable) payable and when it is due, and details of any other payments you should make (the landlord must provide this within 28 days of the tenancy beginning)
- the right to claim Housing Benefit - landlords must tell tenants about this right in the rent book
- freedom from harassment and illegal eviction - this could include things such as changing the locks, cutting off your water or electricity supply, interfering with your belongings or threatening verbal or physical behaviour - the law offers protection to tenants in these circumstances, always seek advice immediately - the Environmental health department in your local council can investigate
- notice to quit - all tenants have the right to 28 days' written notice to quit before any court action to evict can start
- due process of law - if a landlord ends a tenancy, but the tenant refuses to move out, the landlord can only recover possession through court proceedings
If your tenancy started on or after 1 April 2007 you may have additional rights:
- your landlord must provide you with a Statement of Tenancy Terms within 28 days of the tenancy beginning
- if there is no tenancy agreement or where any agreement does not identify which party is responsible for repairs you have the right to have certain repairs carried out (the law sets out which repairs the landlord and tenant are responsible for)
- if you do not have a tenancy agreement or the tenancy agreement does not state when the tenancy will end, under the law you have a right to a tenancy that will run for six months to begin with and after this period it will become a periodic tenancy
Contact your local Housing Executive office or the Housing Rights for more advice.