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Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Tenancy agreements in Northern Ireland

This page only contains basic information and is the English version of our translated content.  For more detailed advice and information on housing in Northern Ireland in the English language, use the menu options on the homepage. 

A tenancy agreement is a legal contract which you should read carefully before signing. Get advice if you are worried about signing a tenancy agreement and remember that a verbal agreement can count as a tenancy agreement in the eyes of the law. Don't sign the tenancy agreement until you are happy with all the terms.

What is a tenancy agreement?

A tenancy agreement is a legal contract. Read the agreement carefully before signing. The agreement should outline details of your rights and responsibilities and include sections on:

  • rent – how much rent you have to pay and when,
  • amount of notice – time your landlord must give you before evicting you,
  • length of tenancy – determining whether the tenancy is “fixed”, i.e. will end on a particular date, or “periodic”, i.e. renewed every week or month,
  • responsibility for repairs – yours, and the landlord’s,
  • deposit – what it covers and conditions of return,
  • landlord’s access to the property – usually only allowed with tenant’s permission to carry out repairs.

Get advice if you are worried about signing a tenancy agreement. Remember that a verbal agreement can count as a tenancy agreement in the eyes of the law. Don't sign the tenancy agreement until you are happy with all the terms.

Does my agreement give me special rights?

Your tenancy agreement can give you additional rights, such as a right to end the tenancy early, a right to sublet, to take in a lodger or keep a pet, but it cannot reduce your basic legal rights.

Read your tenancy agreement carefuly and seek help from an adviser if you don't fully understand your rights and responsibilities from it.

I don't have a tenancy agreement

If you don't have a tenancy agreement, you have basic tenant's rights. By law, you are entitled to a tenancy statement from your landlord if your tenancy started on or after 1 April 2007 Your landlord will usually be able to end your tenancy by giving you 4 weeks' notice.

The Housing Executive has a legal duty to give housing advice and information on preventing homelessness to anyone who asks in Northern Ireland.

What if my tenancy runs out?

If your tenancy term runs out, your landlord might give you a new tenancy agreement to sign for a further fixed term.

If your landlord doesn't give you another agreement and doesn't ask you to move out, your tenancy automatically continues on the same basis as before. You are a periodic tenant, with the length of your tenancy determined by how often you pay rent (i.e. weekly or monthly). This will give you less rights then a fixed term tenancy.

I have a joint tenancy agreement

If you sign a tenancy jointly with another person or group of people, you are likely to be joint tenants. This means that you have exactly the same rights and obligations as each other. For example, if one of you does not pay their share of the rent, the other(s) will have to pay it.

Can I complain about my tenancy agreement?

You may be able to complain if the terms of your tenancy agreement are unfair. Examples of contract terms that may be unfair or illegal include:

  • a clause forbidding you to sublet the property,
  • a clause allowing the landlord to break the agreement if you are not given a similar right,
  • a clause making you pay all the landlord's legal costs,
  • a clause stating that the landlord can evict you with less than 28 days' notice.

Contact an advice agency if you feel that your tenancy agreement is unfair. The Housing Executive has a legal duty to give housing advice and information on preventing homelessness to anyone who asks in Northern Ireland.