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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Paying rent for a private tenancy

Many landlords will expect that you pay rent by standing order or direct debit, while others will allow you to make payments in cash.  Whichever way you pay your rent, it’s essential that you keep records of all payments and have your rent book completed.

Rent in advance

When you rent privately, you will usually be expected to pay your rent in advance.  This means that you will pay each month’s rent at the beginning of that month.  This can cause problems for tenants who get help from housing benefit to pay their rent. Housing benefit can't be paid in advance.  

When you first move into a property you will usually have to pay your first month’s rent and a deposit upfront. If you are on benefits or will be using housing benefit to pay your rent, you could try to negotiate with your landlord to change the date on which rent is due.  The landlord may not necessarily agree with this, as he or she may have bills and expenses which need to be paid for at the beginning of the month.

If the landlord does not agree to change the rent payment date and insists on getting the rent in advance you could apply to the Discretionary Financial Support Fund to cover your rent in advance.  It is not always easy to get a loan as there is a limited amount of money and a large number of applicants. The finance support fund cannot give you a loan for a deposit.

Friends or family members may be able to assist you in gathering up enough money to cover your rent in advance.  If this doesn’t work, try negotiating with your landlord to see if you can pay off the deposit in installments.

If you’ve paid your first month’s rent in advance and then start to receive housing benefit, don’t forget about this when you move out of the tenancy or your landlord may end up getting paid twice for your final month! It's really important to keep a regular log of all payments you've made to your landlord so you don't get confused and end up paying more or less than you were supposed to. 

Completing your rent book

A lot of private tenants pay rent directly into their landlord’s bank account.  If this is the case, you should make a print out each time a rent payment is made and keep this with your rent book.  Ask your landlord to initial the rent book at regular periods to prove the rent has been paid.

If you pay your rent by cash, it is vital that you get receipts for every payment you make.  You should bring your rent book with you each time you make a payment and have your landlord or agent sign the book to show that payment has been received.

Receipts and statements

Try to keep all the paperwork relating to your tenancy in one place.  If you lose the receipt your landlord gave you when you paid the deposit, you may not be able to prove that the payment was ever made at a later date.

If a dispute arises and you end up having to go to court, you must be able to prove that you have paid your rent and deposit.  You should also keep copies of any letters or emails you have received from your landlord and those you have sent.