New proposals for Northern Ireland to include ban on fees

Thursday 19 January 2017

The sea change sweeping the private rented sector in the UK has now spread to Northern Ireland with the Department for Communities publishing proposals for significant changes to the sector including introducing Agent Regulation, subjecting all unfit properties built before 1956 to rent control and banning letting agent fees.

This public consultation document is the second stage in the Communities Department’s Review of the Role and Regulation of the Private Rented Sector. The consultation will close on 3 April 2017.

The proposals also include extending Notice Periods, creating a fast track eviction service, creating a landlord advice line, making tenant information packs mandatory, making Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms mandatory and creating Minimum Energy Performance Standards.

According to the Department, “The aim of the review is to consider the current and potential future role of the sector and assess the effectiveness of current regulation, identifying where improvements can be made to help make the private rented sector a more attractive housing option.”

David Cox, ARLA MD said: “These wide ranging proposals from the Department for Communities will bring much needed improvements in safety legislation and agent accreditation in Northern Ireland. However, plans to ban letting agent fees is yet another potential hammer blow for the industry in the UK. We hope that discussions can be had in order to outline the business costs and work that letting agents do in order to ensure that the final legislation protects tenants but also means that agents can reasonably charge for the vital services that they provide.” 

ARLA will be working to understand the objectives and underlying evidence on which the proposals have been formulated. We will be submitting a response, however we also urge members and other letting agents to respond to the consultation directly to make your evidence-based views known to the Department.

We will be using a variety of evidence to inform our response as it’s important that whatever is introduced gets the balance right between the business practices of letting agents, protecting tenants and ensuring good landlords don’t face the burden of unnecessary legislation. To help shape our response please send your views to: timdouglas@arla.co.uk 

To respond to the consultation directly email: policy.housing@communities-ni.gov.uk or by post to: Karen Barr, Department for Communities, Housing Policy, Strategy and Reform, Private Rented Branch, Level 3 Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7EG.

The Department for Communities will also be holding four public events:

Monday 13 February at 7:00pm
The Sandel Centre
6 Knocklynn Road
Coleraine

Wednesday 15 February at 7:00pm
Craigavon Civic Centre
Lakeview Road
Craigavon

Monday 20 February at 7:00pm
Cookstown Enterprise Centre
Derryloran Industrial Estate
Sandholes Road
Cookstown

Wednesday 22 February at 7:00pm
Grosvenor House
5 Glengall Street
Belfast

The events will include a question and answer session. The Department for Communities is asking for attendees to book before Monday 6 February by email to: policy.housing@communities-ni.gov.uk