Rent increases (Northern Ireland)

What are your rights as a tenant? Can you challenge a rent rise?

Rents in Northern Ireland have been rising sharply, going up even faster than in other parts of the UK. In this guide, we take you through when your rent can and can't be put up, how to challenge an increase and where to get one-on-one help.

Rent increase rights around the UK...

This guide covers Northern Ireland only. The rules are different elsewhere in the UK – see our other guides if you live in:

This is the first incarnation of this guide – please feedback if it's helpful or if anything's missing. While every effort's been made to ensure accuracy, it doesn't constitute legal advice tailored to your circumstances.

Thanks to the team at housing charity Housing Rights and to Philip Armstrong of Armstrong Solicitors for their help.

1. The type of property and your rental contract dictate the rules

When it comes to rent increases, your rights depend on the type of accommodation you're in and the type of tenancy agreement (rental contract) you have.

Live in Housing Executive social housing? Rents are set once a year

The Housing Executive is the largest provider of social housing in Northern Ireland and reviews rents once a year – but it can only increase rents with the permission of the Department for Communities, which had led to series of rent freezes in recent years.

However, in February 2023, an increase of 7% was confirmed for April 2023 to April 2024 – equating to an average rise of £4.86 a week for tenants.

If you're struggling with your rent payments, it's best to contact the Housing Executive directly for help. You can do this through your online account or by calling 03448 920 900.

Live in other social housing? Your housing association can set its own rents

Different housing associations have slightly different policies, though most tend to put rents up once a year around April. You should get at least four weeks' notice of any increase.

If you've been notified of a rise in your rent and you think it's too high, or you're worried about falling behind on payments, contact your housing association as soon as possible. You can find a list of contact details for each association on NIdirect.

Private renter? Check what type of tenancy you have

Try to find the paperwork relating to your tenancy, as it'll be useful for this.

Standard tenancies

If you rent from a private landlord who doesn't live with you, and you moved in to your property after 1 April 2007, you probably have either:

When you might not have a standard tenancy

If you rent a room in the same property that your landlord lives in, you might be a 'licensee' rather than a tenant – depending on the circumstances, this could mean less notice is needed to evict you if you refuse a rent increase.

On the other hand, if you moved in before 1 April 2007, there's a chance you may have a 'protected' tenancy – this means your rent is controlled and you have stronger rights against eviction. But protected tenancies are rare, and it can be tricky to work out if you're in one.

The exact rules are complex, so if you think you might be a licensee or protected tenant, it's best to get one-on-one help.

2. Rent increases during a fixed-term tenancy – your rights

During the fixed term of your tenancy, your rent can ONLY be raised if:

  • Your existing agreement (contract) has a fair term allowing for a rent increase. This is often called a "rent review" clause. It's not very common – more often, your rent will be reviewed at the end of your fixed term (see rent increases outside a fixed term). 

    For a rent review term to be considered fair, the clause should give you "reasonable" notice of the increase and let you end the agreement if you can't afford the new rent, according to housing charity Housing Rights. It should also set out the grounds on which your rent can be raised (for example, in line with a specific measure of inflation).

    If you think your rent review clause might be unfair, see how to challenge a rent increase.

    OR

  • You agree to the increase. There is no legal limit on how often or by how much your rent can go up if you agree to it – but, crucially, you DON'T have to do so, and you shouldn't be made to feel pressured into it. See what to try if you've been told your rent is rising.

You should be given a written 'notice of variation' confirming the details of the increase within the first 28 days after it takes place – otherwise, your landlord could be fined. 

Last year, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed new laws which will restrict rent increases to a maximum of once every 12 months, and require three months' notice to be given before a rise. However, these laws are not yet in force and it's not clear when they will be, so we've focused on the current rules for now.

3. Rent increases during a periodic tenancy – your rights

If you're in a periodic tenancy (otherwise known as a 'rolling' tenancy), your rent can be raised without your agreement, and there is no set limit on how much it can go up or how often this can happen.

You should get at least 28 days' notice of a rise, and the new rent should be in line with the rent for similar properties in the same area – but these are not legal requirements. See what to try if your rent is being put up.

After the increase takes place, you should also be given a written 'notice of variation' confirming the details of your new rent – otherwise, your landlord could be fined. 

Last year, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed new laws which will restrict rent increases to a maximum of once every 12 months, and require three months' notice to be given before a rent increase. However, these laws are not yet in force and it's not clear when they will be, so we've focused on the current rules for now.

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4. What to do if your rent is being put up

Here are the steps to try if you're facing a rent increase as a private renter:

  1. Know your rights. Reading this guide is a start – hopefully, it's given you an indication of whether the increase is allowed in the first place.

    If you're worried about eviction in a privately rented property, need help with repairs or want to ensure your deposit's protected, you can check charity Housing Rights' online advice for more info about your renting rights.

  2. Is your home unsafe or unfit to live in? Contact your local council. All private rented properties in Northern Ireland must meet some basic criteria – including, for example, being structurally stable, free from hazardous damp and having a working toilet and washing facilities. This is known as the "minimum fitness standard" – you can see the full list of criteria on NIdirect.

    If you think your home fails to meet one or more of the criteria, you can ask your local council's environmental health department to inspect it. If the property is then found to be unfit to live in, the amount of rent you can be charged may be restricted, and it becomes much more difficult for it to be put up.

  3. Check rents in the surrounding area. See if the new rent your landlord is proposing is in line with rents for similar properties in a similar condition to yours. If not, you have a stronger case to...

  4. Negotiate. Try to talk to your landlord and see if you can reach an agreement for a lower (or no) increase. After all, evicting you and getting a new tenant in would be a hassle and could cost your landlord fees if they use an agent. If you've been a good tenant (paying the rent on time and taking good care of the property), emphasise that point in the discussion.

    If you can't get the increase waived or lowered, you could instead try asking for some of the extra money to be put towards improvements to the property – new carpets or curtains, say.

    If you're struggling to reach an agreement, check if your landlord would be willing to attend mediation via the free housing mediation service (you can't force them to do this). While the outcome is not legally binding, it could still help you to resolve your dispute.

  5. Get one-on-one help. This is especially important if you're worried about being able to afford your rent or if you're feeling pressured into paying more. See where to get help.

Should you agree to a rent increase?

Sometimes, agreeing to a modest, reasonable rent increase could be the best option – or the only realistic one (once you've followed the steps above).

Why? To put it bluntly: if you don't agree to an increase, you could be evicted. That's the problem facing many private renters today in a nutshell.

Under the current rules, if you refuse a rent increase, your landlord can take steps to end your tenancy and evict you – for example, by giving you a "notice to quit".

You are protected from this if you're in a fixed term tenancy (unless your agreement has a "break clause" allowing for the tenancy to be ended early) – but if you're on a periodic tenancy, the risk is unavoidable. 

If you do get a "notice to quit", this should be at least four weeks long (longer if you've lived in the property for over a year), and you can't be forced out at the end of that period – instead, your landlord would need to start court proceedings. See below for where to get help if you're facing eviction.

5. Where to get one-on-one help

If you're unsure about your rights, or need more support, here's where you can go for free advice (Housing Rights is listed first as it has the most relevant expertise):

Housing Rights

The charity Housing Rights can advise you on your rights and options if you're dealing with a rent increase or rent arrears.
 

Advice NI

If you’ve fallen behind on your rent, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible – the Advice NI charity can provide vital support and information.
 

  • Phone: 0800 915 4604
  • Email: advice@adviceni.net
  • Opening times: Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm

Try your local council

Your council should be able to help if your home is unsafe, you’re experiencing harassment or you're at risk of an illegal eviction.

Contact your local council to see what help it can offer.

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