Protection for Prospective Tenants
Sections 1-6 of The Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 came into effect on 1st April 2023. The legislation amends the provisions of the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, affording greater protection to residential tenants in Northern Ireland.
Among the key amendments are the following:
- Tenancy deposits are to be capped at a sum equivalent to one month’s rent
- Landlords must provide their tenants with a tenancy information notice with 28 days of commencement of the tenancy. This notice will be provided free of charge and will contain contact details for the landlord, tenant and agent. It will also include a standardised summary of the tenant’s rights, as well as a summary of the key terms of the tenancy. This will include (but is not limited to):
- The rent and any other sums payable;
- The commencement and end dates of the tenancy;
- Confirmation as to the notice periods required to terminate the tenancy;
- Confirmation as to who is responsible for repairs;
- Details of the tenancy deposit scheme in which the tenant’s deposit is held.
- Landlords must also provide a written notice of any change to the information included in the initial information notice. Again, this is to be provided to the tenant within 28 days of the relevant change.
- Written receipts must be provided to tenants in respect of any payment made in cash which relates to the tenancy.
Landlords will be guilty of an offence if:
- They receive a tenancy deposit exceeding the sum of one month’s rent;
- They fail to provide the tenancy information notice, or written notice of any change thereto, within the 28-day period specified by the Act; or
- They do not provide receipts for cash payments;
and will receive a fixed penalty notice of up to £500 from the local council or a fine of up to £2,500 if the matter proceeds to court.
There is some comfort for landlords, as the time limit for protecting a tenancy deposit in an approved scheme has been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date on which it is received. However, failure to protect the tenancy within 28 days will now be treated as a continuing offence, with the 6-month time limit for prosecution being removed. A landlord found guilty of failing to protect the tenancy is liable for a fine of up to three times the deposit amount.
*If you are buying, selling or letting residential or commercial property and would like further information, please contact Andrew McWilliams within our Real Estate team.
*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.