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1 Aug 2023

Landlords and tenants – are you aware of the recent changes?

The Private Tenancies Act came into effect on April 1 this year and vastly alters the landscape between tenants and landlords renting privately.

The new provisions make it particularly crucial for landlords to be aware of their expanded responsibilities, whilst it is also recommended that tenants familiarise themselves with the new protections that the Act offers them.

A key aspect of the new legislation is that landlords are now required to provide tenants with a a ‘Tenancy Information Notice’ free of any charge. This notice provides tenants with information such as landlord contact details, rent and rate information as well as any other details of their tenancy and must be given within 28 days of the tenancy’s start date.

Crucially this must also be provided to existing tenants whose tenancies began between June 30 2011 and March 30 2023 if not done so already.

Landlords are also obliged to supply tenants with a notice of variation when changes are made to their tenancies and this should be furnished within 28 days of any alterations.

If a landlord fails to supply any of the required notices they shall have committed an offence and could be fined by the council up to £500 or up to £2,500 by a court.

Further changes include that landlords must provide written receipts to tenants who pay in cash and new restrictions are in place prohibiting landlords from requesting more than one month’s rent as a deposit after 1st April.

Landlords will now require explicit permission from existing tenants to continue to charge a deposit greater than one month’s rent, and if the tenant does not agree to this it is a criminal offence to continue to charge the previous amount. Landlords must now provide reasons for why all or a portion of the tenant’s deposit may be retained after the tenant vacates the property.

The time limit to protect a tenancy deposit with an approved organisation has also increased from 14 to 28 days and landlords now have 35 days to provide information about their deposit protection to tenants.

Landlords are at risk of prosecution and a fine if their deposits are not protected and under the new legislation failure to protect a deposit is now a continuing offence. This is a development that means landlords will indefinitely continue to have offended if they fail to protect their tenancies. This is past the previous limitation period of six months.

Further regulations of the Private Tenancies Act are expected to be implemented from April 2024 with the Department for Communities consulting on rent regulation, fire, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, electrical safety standards and energy regulations to mention just some areas of potential reform.

For landlords or tenants unsure of their obligations under the new legislation or for any more general property management queries, seeking legal advice from an experienced and prudent solicitor can be a worthwhile step to optimise business and avoid any potential legal ramifications.

In navigating the evolving legal landscape, understanding the Private Tenancies Act and the rest of private tenancy law in Northern Ireland is crucial for both landlords and tenants to ensure both parties maintain a harmonious and compliant rental relationship.

LEGAL MATTERS: Landlords and tenants – are you aware of the recent changes? – The Irish News

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