Letting agents in Northern Ireland may have dodged many of the regulations currently faced by their colleagues in the UK, but not for much longer.
Stormont ministers are to introduce a new bill that will usher in many of the private rental sector reforms seen elsewhere, but delayed in Northern Ireland by its political impasse.
The Private Tenancies Bill, if approved as it currently stands, will usher in changes to fire and electrical safety regulations, deposits and rent increases within its private rented sector.
The Bill would make it mandatory for landlords to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and to carry out periodic electrical checks, limit tenancy deposit to one month’s rent and extend the ‘notice to quit’ period.
It would also limit rent increases so that rent can’t be raised during the 12 months after a tenancy starts or within 12 months of a previous increase.
“Private renters should have access to good-quality, affordable homes with peace of mind over the length and conditions of their rental contract,” says Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey (pictured), who says the needs of tenants are at the heart of her approach.
“I want to see restrictions in rent increases, and I want to extend the notice to quit, meaning we protect tenants when it comes to evictions.”
Propertymark believes it will be important to get the detail right to make sure the safety measures are effective.
It adds that some aspects of the Bill could demotivate existing landlords and discourage new landlords from entering the market.
“It is important to recognise that landlords make an essential contribution to local housing systems providing homes for those who need them. Propertymark will be scrutinising the Bill as it progresses,” says strategic development director Scotland and Northern Ireland, Daryl McIntosh.