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 must be submitted within 28 days of the tenancy commencing. If you think any of your properties require a certificate of fitness, please download the Application Form to Conduct an Inspection of Fitness (Landlord), complete it and return to MEA.firstname.lastname@example.org
The fee of £50 can be paid via cheque or by contacting the Cashdesk on T: 0300 124 5000.
Please be advised failure to apply for a certificate of fitness where required, will result in legal proceedings. If you’re in doubt regarding your legal obligations then contact the team without delay.
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.
The fee for an initial inspection is £50 which is non-refundable.
The fee for a re-inspection is £100.
Will Tacit Consent Apply?
Yes. Following receipt of an application and appropriate payment, and after the expiry of 28 days from notice of the application has been forwarded to the tenant, the Council will inspect the property and issue a Certificate of Fitness or Notice of Refusal, which will be issued within 70 working days of receiving the application.
Failed Application Redress/Applicant Redress
If the property is found to be unfit you will be given a Notice of Refusal which will outline the type of work needed to make the property fit to live in. When the repairs are completed, you can re-apply for another inspection.
If you are aggrieved by the Council’s decision to issue a Notice of Unfitness you can appeal, under Article 22 of the Order, to the County Court within 21 days.
Include Section for – ‘Harassment and Illegal Eviction’
Under the Rent Order (Northern Ireland) Act 1978, a private tenant can only be forced to leave their home if a Court of Law has issued a Court Order. Harassment and unlawful eviction are criminal offences under the Rent Order (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 as amended by The Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
Harrassment and Illegal Eviction
What is Harassment?
Harassment covers any action taken by a Landlord, or someone acting on their behalf, to make a tenant leave their home e.g. interfering with services such as gas, water or electricity supplies; entering the property without consent; refusing to carry out repairs.
Tenants should record the details of any harassment including the date, time and short description of the incident.
What is Unlawful Eviction?
Unlawful eviction occurs when a Landlord, or any person acting for the, forces or attempts to force a tenant from their home without following the proper legal procedures e.g. changing the locks to a property when a tenant is not at home; physically throwing a tenant out; stopping a tenant from getting into part or all of their home.
If a Landlord wants a tenant to leave, they must provide a ‘Notice to Quit’, even if there is no tenancy agreement. The following timescales for Notices to Quit apply regardless of what the Tenancy Agreement states:
- 4 weeks' notice if they've rented the property for less than 1 year
- 8 weeks' notice if they've rented the property for between 1 and 10 years
- 12 weeks' notice if they've rented the property for more than 10 years
The Notice to Quit should be in writing and both the Landlord and tenant should keep a copy.
If the tenant does not leave after the Notice has expired, the Landlord can apply for a Court Order from a Magistrate’s Court. It is an offence to evict a tenant without a Court Order, even if the Notice to Quit has expired.
What is the law for evicting Licensees?
Landlords doe not need a Court Order to evict Licensees, who share part or all of a property (usually with the Landlord). Licensees are only entitled to ‘reasonable’ notice before they must leave the property.
How do I make a Complaint?
Contact the Environmental Health Department on T: 0300 124 5000
You can download a Notice to Quit template and also an Application Form to Conduct an Inspection of Fitness for Landlords at the bottom of this page.
- Notice to Quit (pdf 186 KB)
- Application Form to Conduct an Inspection of Fitness (Landlord) (pdf 293 KB)