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Tenancy terms & agreements - your legal requirements

Updated: 22 Nov 2014
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Under the Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006, the landlord of a tenancy that started on or after the 1st April 2007 must give the tenant a written statement of  tenancy terms within 28 days of the start of the tenancy.
This must be provided to the tenant, free of charge. If you fail to provide your tenant with the statement you will be guilty of an offence and liable to prosecution by the local district council.
The Tenancy Terms Regulations (NI) 2007 set out what must be included in the statement of tenancy terms. The regulations can be accessed at http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/index/hsdiv-housing/private_rented_sector.htm

Tenancy agreements

The tenancy agreement is a contract between a landlord and tenant that sets out the terms and conditions for the tenant living in your property.
Tenancy agreements can be verbal or in writing. However, it is strongly recommended that a written tenancy agreement is provided. It is important to ensure the tenancy agreement is clear, contains all the relevant detail and does not contain any unfair terms. A copy should be given to the tenant free of charge. The agreement should include:
  • the name of the landlord and the address of the property being let
  • the length of the tenancy
  • the rent, and when and how it is to be paid and how any rent increases are to be calculated
  • any condition or restriction on the use of the property
Whatever terms are agreed, the landlord will have repair obligations, to maintain:
  • the structure and exterior (including drains, gutters and external pipes) of the property and exterior paint work
  • the interior of the dwelling
  • installations for supply and use of water, gas, electricity and sanitary installations
  • installations for space heating or heating water
  • appliances provided for making use of the supply of water, gas, or electricity
  • any fixtures, fittings and furnishings provided by landlord
Remember that unfair terms in an agreement are unenforceable in law and tenants have basic rights which cannot be taken away by the tenancy agreement.

Inventory of furnishings

Under the Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006 tenancies that start on or after the 1st April 2007 an inventory of furnishings must be provided in the statement of tenancy terms. This should be checked, agreed and signed by the landlord and the tenant and a copy given to the tenant free of charge. Any existing damage should be clearly noted. You may wish to take photographs of valuable items. A proper inventory can help avoid disputes, particularly those involving the return of deposits at the end of the tenancy.

No tenancy agreement?

Where no tenancy agreement exists, or if the agreement is inadequate in that it fails to set out the terms of the tenancy in sufficient detail, the law does permit certain terms to be implied.
Tenants will still have basic rights in law. For tenancies that started on or after 1st April 2007 and for which there is no tenancy agreement, the law states that the tenancy will run for a period of six months initially. At the end of this period the tenancy will become a periodic tenancy.
Under the Private Tenancies Order 2006 is a tenancy started on or after the 1st April 2007 the landlord must provide the tenant with a statement of tenancy terms.

Rent books

Under the Private Tenancies Order 2006 the landlord must give the tenant a rent book, free of charge, within 28 days of the tenancy start date. The rent book must contain the following information:
  • the address of the premises
  • the name of the tenant.
  • the name, address and telephone number of the landlord
  • the name, address and telephone number of the landlord’s agent (if any)
  • the rent payable and the period covered by each payment
  • the capital value of the dwelling.
  • the rates payable by the tenant, in addition to rent, and the period covered by each payment.
  • the amount and description of any other payment which the tenant is required to make in addition to rent and rates (for example in respect of heating).
  • the tenancy commencement date.
If you don't have a rent book you can download a sample one.

Enforcement

The Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006 gives district councils the power to enforce the Rent Book Regulations. A district council can take legal action, which may lead to the prosecution of a landlord who fails to provide the tenant with a rent book. On conviction, the courts can impose a fine.