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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Private tenant

Sharing a rented home can work out really well. It makes things a lot cheaper, but can also bring its own problems.

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

Buying your own home is a huge financial commitment. It's important that you do your research and fully understand your options before you commit to anything. If you can't afford to pay the full purchase cost of a property you might be able to part buy and part rent the property with the help of Co-ownership Housing Association.

Most landlords will ask for a security deposit from each tenant in a property. This money is used as insurance against any damage you may cause or rent you may owe at the end of the tenancy. Any deposit paid on or after 1 April 2013 has to be placed in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

Almost everyone who lives in a property in Northern Ireland has to pay rates. Rates pay for services throughout Northern Ireland; like schools, hospitals and roads; and for services in your local area; like bin collection, parks and leisure centres. The amount you pay depends on the value of your property and which council area it is in. You can get help to pay your rates if you're on a low income or receiving certain benefits.

Once you've found somewhere you'd like to live and have agreed the terms with your landlord or agent you can start making plans to move in.

Estate agents and letting agents will often have their own complaints process. Many agents belong to a professional redress scheme which may be able to sort out problems if you're unhappy with the service you've been given by your agent.

All private tenants have some basic legal rights. Your other rights can depend on when your tenancy started and what your tenancy agreement says.

You may be entitled to compensation if you have to leave your home because the area its based in is scheduled to be redeveloped. Homeowners will be paid the current market value for their home and you might also be entitled to compensation for the disturbance. The Housing Executive should rehouse you if you can no longer live in your home because it is in a redevelopment area.

If your current housing situation doesn't suit your needs it's natural to think you might have to move. But, with the right help and support, you may be able to continue living in your current home. While housing waiting lists are so long and renting privately can be expensive it's worth checking if you can do something practical to allow you to continue living where you are.

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