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Minister Hargey outlines plan to improve protections in private rented sector

Northern Ireland Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has outlined her plans to ensure people and families living in the private rented sector have a safe and secure home.

The Minister was speaking as she published the Departmental response to a consultation on proposals to reform the sector.

The move builds on Minister Ní Chuilín’s statement to Assembly in November 2020 on housing. Minister Hargey said:

“I want to improve the private rented sector and will do this by ensuring that people and families who live in this sector have a safe and secure home.”

The Minister now intends to ask the Executive to bring legislation to the Assembly to implement some of the proposals published today in the response to the consultation.

The Minister continued:

“My officials are working on drafting a Bill to deliver much need improvements. This will include a longer notice to quit period. For me, four weeks is too short a time for anyone to be asked to leave their home, find a suitable new house they can afford, maybe find a new school and childcare for their children, and pack up their belongings. It’s not enough.

“Rented homes should have safe electrics, and tenants should be safe from the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Homes should be warm and energy efficient. I’ve also already started work that would see councils being provided with additional powers to strengthen and provide local enforcement.”

Delivering an ambitious reform of the private rented sector in this mandate, accompanied by primary legislation is challenging.

The Minister continued:

“It is clear reform is urgently needed to improve protections in the private rented sector particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities. The initial Bill is only the start. In the longer term I will also address issues such as Letting Agent Regulation, the introduction of Grounds for Eviction and Fitness Standards. These improvements have been a long time coming and will enhance conditions for tenants living in the sector.”

The Departmental response to the Consultation on the Role and Regulation of the Private Rented Sector is available at:

The private rented sector is now similar in size to the social housing sector. It houses an increasingly diverse range of households, including a growing number of households with children. There are twice as many families with children in private rentals than in social housing.

Nearly half of those in the private rented sector are in receipt of some element of housing support, either through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. In 2019/20, over £270 million pounds was paid out in housing benefit and UC costs to the private rented sector.

It is intended that the legislation proposals will include:

• Extend the notice to quit period, restrict deposits;

• Ensure all private tenants are issued with a written agreement of tenancy terms;

• Restrict rent increases to once in a 12 month period;

• Make it a mandatory requirement for private landlords to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and to carry out periodic electrical checks; and

• Introducing an enabling power in primary legislation which will make provision for the introduction and enforcement of minimum standards of energy efficiency in the Private Rented Sector.

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