What are my rights as a tenant?

What Are My Rights As A Tenant?

Renting a home from a private landlord or through an agent could be a good option for you if you need to find somewhere quickly or if the Housing Executive isn’t required to offer you permanent housing. However problems can crop up when you’re renting from a landlord. Read our blog post for more information on your rights as a tenant.

Understanding your rights

If you’re under the age of 18 and you’re talking about private renting, first speak to a consulting firm like Housing Rights to check if this is the right housing option for you. Regardless of your age, the landlord has some obligations towards you because you are a legitimate tenant of a property and you have obligations for your landlord. At times, landlords can not perform their legal obligations, particularly if they think you’re young and you don’t understand your legal rights.

Landlord’s responsibilities

  • The safety of gas and electrical appliances
  • The fire safety of furniture and furnishings provided under the tenancy
  • Repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating and hot water systems, basins, sinks, baths and other sanitaryware
  • Ensuring that the property is fit for habitation
  • Repairing and keeping in working order the room and water heating equipment
  • The common areas in multi-occupancy dwellings

Tenant’s responsibilities

  • Bills for gas, electricity and telephone if this was agreed with the landlord
  • Paying the rent 
  • Keeping the property in a reasonable state of cleanliness and decoration
  • Making sure that you, members of your household or your visitors do not harass, cause nuisance or annoyance to the occupiers of any neighbouring or adjoining premises

Problems with your landlord

Your landlord can not come and go, as he or she pleases, onto your house. The landlord can only access the property if it has been authorised by you or another tenant. 

Your landlord can’t cut off your access to power, water , heat or other basic utilities and can’t change the property’s locks or mess with your products. When any of these occur, contact Housing Advice NI immediately as your landlord may be guilty of a criminal offence.

When your landlord is intimidating you, let the local council ‘s Environmental Health official know. You will contact police if you have been attacked. An advocacy organisation such as Housing Rights can help clarify what your landlord is and is not permitted to do, and can help if your landlord harasses or threatens you.

Eviction worries

You can not be physically excluded from a property where you are a tenant unless the person attempting to evict you as a representative of the Office of Judgements Compliance is there. Your landlord is unable to turn up to kick you out of the property or enter the property to cut the property off. 

If you have fallen behind on your rent or broken the terms of your lease your landlord can decide to terminate the tenancy contract. The landlord will have to give you a notice to exit in writing at least 28 days to justify why you have to leave. When you have no tenancy agreement or your tenancy agreement has expired, the landlord will give you a notice of cancellation of 28 days at any time.

When you remain in the property after expiry of the notice to leave, the owner will have to appeal to a court to have you removed. Staying on after the notice expires is not a good idea unless you have a lease agreement and disagree with the reasons the landlord gave on the notice to leave. Your landlord has to go to court and get you evicted, even because you have not followed the agreemen’s terms and conditions – say, you’ve caused damage to the property or you’ve stopped paying rent – the judge will probably allow the landlord to go ahead with the eviction. If this happens, you might end up paying all your landlord’s legal costs.

Getting your deposit back

Usually you’ll be asked to pay a security deposit when you move into a rental house. This is to shield the landlord because of the rent from any income he or she can lose out on. Your landlord must protect your deposit within 14 days of receiving it and must give you a list of information, including details on where your deposit is, within 28 days of you giving him or her the money. 

The landlord can keep some or all of your deposit if you leave the property:

  • without giving proper notice
  • owing rent to the landlord or
  • having caused damage.

Your landlord shouldn’t make a profit from your deposit though. Only to cover fair costs which are your responsibility should it be used. Your deposit on furniture can not be used to cover regular wear and tear but can be used to repair damaged or broken pieces.If you’re worried about paying your rent, speak to an adviser to see what your options are.