The legislative landscape of lettings has once again seen Government imposed changes this month surrounding the Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022. As always, it is important for Co.Armagh landlords to understand any legislative changes in order to stay on the correct side of the law and in this article, we will outline these changes and how you and your properties can remain compliant.
The Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 was passed and received Royal Assent on 27 April 2022. This piece of legislation builds on the Housing Strategy Action Plan 2012-2017 and makes several changes to the Private Tenancies Order (Northern Ireland) 2006 which is the main primary legislation governing the private rented sector in Northern Ireland. The legislation was initially proposed to be rolled out in December 2022, but was delayed into April 2023. The Act affects both landlords and tenants within the private rented sector, but the onus is firmly on landlords to adhere to the legislation.
What do I need to be aware of as a Co. Armagh landlord?
The changes to the Act include information that you must provide to your tenants, alterations to rules surrounding a tenant’s deposit and new regulations affecting the standards of the property you let.
The first six provision sections of the Act came into place this month, and as a summary, include the following:
Sections 1 and 2: Essential Information That Must Be Provided To The Tenant
As a landlord, you are now required to provide tenants with a Tenancy Information Notice within 28 days, starting on the day on which a tenancy is granted. If there are any changes to the information in the original notice, you must provide your tenants with a Notice of Variation that details any changes.
Section 3: Tenant To Be Provided With A Rent Receipt For Payment Made In Cash
Should your tenant pay in physical cash for any payment relating to the tenancy, you will need to give them a receipt of payment. This must be provided at no additional cost and given to your tenant as soon as reasonably possible, if not at the time of payment.
Section 4: Limit On Tenancy Deposit Amount
Perhaps one of the most important alterations to affect you as a landlord is that you are now unable to request deposits larger than one month’s rent. In many circumstances where tenants have been unable to pass referencing due to credit, it has been considered acceptable to accept larger deposits. Under this new legislation, this is no longer possible.
Section 5: Increase In Time Limits To Protect A Tenancy Deposit
Protecting your tenant’s deposit has always been an important factor to protect yourself as a landlord. New changes have been imposed affecting this, providing you more time to do so. The time limit to protect a deposit has now increased from 14 days to 28 days, and you also have extra time to notify a tenant of where their deposit is protected. This has increased from 28 days to 35 days.
Section 6: Changes To Enforcement Rules For Failing To Protect Deposits
Previously as a landlord, you could not be prosecuted for failing to protect a tenancy deposit within an approved deposit scheme or providing the required information within a timeframe of six months. However, changes to the Act now ensure that landlords will continue to commit an offence throughout any period in which this failure continues, even after six months. It is imperative as a landlord that you protect your tenant’s deposit for legal peace of mind.
Are there any changes I need to be aware of in the future?
Further regulations imposed by changes to the Private Tenancies Act are to come into effect from 27 April 2024. These include:
Section 7: Regulation Of Rent
This section is still yet to be regulated, however, the Department for Communities has a duty to research, consult and report on a rent freeze or cut for up to four years. It also has the power to limit rent increases to once every 12 months, should it think it necessary. Thankfully, their latest report recommended against rent freezes, which still allows you room to change your rents (within market rate reasoning).
Section 8: Fire, Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarms
This section is also still yet to be regulated but is important nonetheless for your tenant’s safety. Any changes to this legislation will likely involve the location, quantity and standard of alarms fitted in your investment properties.
Section 9: Energy Efficiency Regulations
Energy Efficiency has long been a discussion point when it comes to property lettings, and further changes next year could change the legal requirement for letting a property. This section is yet to be consulted on.
Section 10: Electrical Safety Standard Regulations
Currently, the Department for Communities is consulting on regulations that will set electrical safety standards for rented homes. These regulations will consider a recognised certification process, as well as the definition of who can be considered qualified to certify properties. For you as a landlord, this would mean further standards to comply with, and also having to select specific individuals to carry out checks and certifications on your property.
Section 11: Further Changes To Notice To Quit Periods And Exemptions
Whilst still to be legislated, the Department will establish certain exceptions to notice to quit periods, such as tenants amassing rent arrears. These changes will be developed from the back of a research paper and must be laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly before 27 April 2024.
Section 12: Additional Payment Methods For Tenants
The final proposed change in legislation relates to the available methods of rental payments for tenants, as well as any other payments during a tenancy. A report is being outlined to explore possible options and is expected to be published by October this year.
What do these changes mean I have to do as a Co. Armagh landlord?
As with any legislative changes, it is beneficial to keep ahead of the curve and protect yourself. Failure to adhere to enforced legislation can lead to a number of issues, such as not being able to claim back any money legally from a tenancy in any unwanted circumstances or further legal complications such as court summons.
It is crucial for any self-managed landlords to ensure they remain informed of legislative changes in the sector to keep themselves on the correct side of the law and be able to enact any changes in a timely manner. You also have a duty of care to ensure your tenants remain informed about any relevant changes, particularly when it comes to their documentation or the tenancy itself.
As we take pride in ensuring all the heavy lifting is taken care of for our landlords, legislation changes such as the ones outlined here are in hand to give you the best peace of mind. We can advise you where possible on any changes needing to be made to your property (such as proposed legislation relating to alarms), liaise with your tenants (such as on the essential information they must be given) and protecting deposits well within the required time frame.
Are you unsure of how any legislative changes could impact you or your property or want to ensure you are fully covered by the current changes and any proposed future changes? We are more than happy to have a chat and discuss your properties and circumstances over a free Compliance Call to give you the peace of mind you deserve. Click here to get in touch!