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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Before you sign a tenancy agreement

Once you sign a tenancy agreement, you will usually be expected to abide by the terms of the agreement until it expires. It's important that you check a few things out before you sign and don't let yourself be rushed into anything.

There are a few things you should bear in mind before deciding to take on a new tenancy.

All landlords in Northern Ireland must be registered. When you view a property ask for the landlord's registration number or check the online register to make sure that there is a registered landlord for this property.

It's easy to be won over by a nicely decorated property, but you need to be sensible when deciding where to live. Consider your household's needs carefully and assess whether the location, size and style of the property suit these. You should also check the property thoroughly for signs of disrepair which may cause issues once you're living in the property.

You need to know whether you are going to be a tenant who will be protected in law or a licensee who has very few rights in law. It's important that you understand your legal status in your new home.

Be sure that you can afford your monthly rent, rates and any other associated costs. If you will be applying for housing benefit to help you meet the costs of your rent, make sure that you find out how much housing benefit you are likely to be entitled to under the Local Housing Allowance rules. Housing benefit will not usually cover your full monthly rent.

Landlords are entitled to ask tenants to provide a guarantor.  If you are asked to be someone's guarantor, it's really important that you fully understand what this means and what you are responsible for. 

The items which you saw when you viewed the property may not necessarily all be included with the letting. Find out if the property is furnished or unfurnished. There is no legal definition of what "furnished" means, so check with the landlord or agent what exactly is included in the property. If you have your own furnishings that you wish to use, you may have to check that the landlord is happy to move existing items out of the property while you're living there.

Most tenancy agreements specify a term of 12 months. However, if no specific term is mentioned, a default term of 6 months will apply. If you've applied for social housing and are waiting for an offer from the Housing Executive you should try to negotiate a term of 6 months or less, if possible, as you could still be held liable for rent in your privately rented property once you move into a social tenancy.

Find out as early as possible who will be responsible for managing the property. You will usually be expected to report repairs and problems to the property manager, who can be the landlord or an appointed agent. Even though the property has been marketed by an agent, the landlord may not have contracted the agent to manage the property.

There are a few important pieces of paperwork that you'll need to keep safe once you become a tenant. You will usually be asked to sign a tenancy agreement, but this is not always the case. If you do sign a tenancy agreement, make sure you get a signed copy.