Private Tenancies Bill may result in “unintended consequences”

Propertymark Policy Manager, Daryl McIntosh, gave oral evidence on 18 November 2021 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Communities to address proposals in the Private Tenancies Bill.

Propertymark has long called for greater regulation of the private rented sector in Northern Ireland, and in our response to the Assembly’s Call for Evidence, we cautioned against the introduction of too many regulatory changes in one go, which could result in landlords exiting the sector and undermining the ambitions of the Bill.

While the Bill will elevate property standards and letting practices within the private rented sector, there are concerns that the eleven substantive provisions outlined in the Bill may be overwhelming to implement all at once.

Proposed changes include:

  • restrictions on rent increases to once every 12 months
  • extending the notice to quit periods a landlord must give tenants (for tenancies over 12 months)
  • setting a limit on security deposits to one month’s rent
  • making it a mandatory requirement for properties in the PRS to be fitted with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as mandatory electrical checks

In the response to the Assembly’s Call for Evidence, Propertymark outlined how in order to make the rented sector safer and more secure for a wider range of households, investment in the private rented sector must be encouraged and sustained.

Whilst we believe that the Bill’s provisions are likely to improve safety and certainty for tenants, the additional requirements placed on landlords may mean that some choose to exit the sector.

This could result in a lack of supply of private rented property and thus we would urge the Northern Ireland Assembly to consider a phased introduction to enable the sector to adjust appropriately and mitigate the risk of a loss of investment.

Ensuring landlords have adequate time to adjust to new regulations will be crucial to the success of the Bill and the achievement of its ultimate goals.

It’s a lot about balance, everybody wants tenants to have rights, and make sure they are secure in their home, but on the other side is the property owner. Generally, a landlord will have a reason to recover their property and there should be grounds for possession to meet that reason.

Bear in mind that a notice to quit doesn’t automatically give the property back it’s just an intention, serving a six-month notice can then lead to a year if the tenant does not vacate the property, which is a long time if it’s a case of rent arrears.

Daryl McIntosh Policy Manager | Propertymark