Legislation to give Northern Ireland tenants as much protection as the rest of the UK has moved a step closer after the second reading of the Private Tenancies Bill.
Introduced in July, the bill proposes limiting tenancy deposit amounts to one month, extending the notice to quit period, and restricting rent increases so that rent can’t be raised in the 12 months after a tenancy starts or within 12 months of a previous increase.
It would also force landlords to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and to carry out periodic electrical checks.
Northern Ireland Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey (pictured) has promised to address issues such as letting agent regulation, grounds for eviction and fitness standards in the near future.
She told the Assembly: “As the sector is increasing in size, and houses a wide variety of people, it is important to make improvements and future proof it to ensure greater protection for private renters. This bill will make the private rented sector a safer and more secure housing option for people living in it by improving the standards and conditions.”
Due to the political impasse of recent years, many important issues have been stalled. During the debate, DUP MLA Paula Bradley – on behalf of the committee for communities – admitted that Covid and other pressing legislation also meant that it hadn’t been able to do as much work in this area as it would have liked.
She said the bill’s journey could be traced back to 2016 when the Department for Social Development’s housing strategy action plan committed it to conducting a review of the PRS.
She added: “Given that, members are now very keen to take the opportunity that the bill’s committee stage presents to focus on the role and regulation of the private rented sector.”