Landlords in Northern Ireland are not obliged to give tenants a tenancy agreement. However, it’s a good idea to ask for a written tenancy agreement so both you and your landlord fully understand your obligations and your rights. A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. Once you have signed this document, you have committed to pay the rent for the full term of the contract.
Almost everyone who lives in a property in Northern Ireland has to pay rates. Rates pay for services throughout Northern Ireland; like schools, hospitals and roads; and for services in your local area; like bin collection, parks and leisure centres. The amount you pay depends on the value of your property and which council area it is in. You can get help to pay your rates if you're on a low income or receiving certain benefits.
Your landlord may try to force you to move out by harassing you. Your landlord may be doing this so he or she won't have to follow the proper procedure for evicting you. Harassing a tenant is a criminal offence and your landlord could be prosecuted by the local council for trying to force you to leave the property.
Landlords usually ask tenants to pay rent at the start of the month. This means that you may have to pay a month's rent in advance as well as a deposit before you move in to your accommodation. You may be able to get help to cover this rent in advance.
Private tenants can apply for extra housing benefit if the amount they are getting doesn't cover their rent. This is known as a discretionary housing payment. The Housing Executive decides whether you are entitled to extra benefit and how much you should get.
If your current housing situation doesn't suit your needs it's natural to think you might have to move. But, with the right help and support, you may be able to continue living in your current home. While housing waiting lists are so long and renting privately can be expensive it's worth checking if you can do something practical to allow you to continue living where you are.
If you paid your deposit on or after 1 April 2013, your landlord must protect it in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. These schemes work a little differently for joint tenants. Even though you might have paid your portion of the deposit directly to the agent or landlord, the landlord will protect the full deposit for the tenancy as one payment. This normally means that only one tenant, the lead tenant, will have the power to start the dispute process if you disagree with how the landlord has returned the deposit at the end of the tenancy.