The standards of a rented home are governed by the tenant’s rights under the contract and laws enforced by the local council. Belfast City Council is responsible for checking standards of rented properties in Belfast. The majority of student housing in the private sector will come under the House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) regulations. These outline the expectations of standards for the house and the landlord’s responsibilities in maintaining the property
A HMO is a property which is:
- living accommodation
- the main residence of three or more people from three or more separate households
- rented by at least one of the people living in the accommodation
All HMO landlords must make sure the accommodation they provide is safe, of good quality and has suitable facilities for the number of occupants, by making sure that:
- all safety and maintenance certificates are valid and kept up to date
- electrics and electrical appliances are safe, maintained and in proper working order at all times
- stairways and escape routes are maintained free from obstructions
- a carbon monoxide alarm is installed
- chimneys and flues are cleaned annually
- inspection records and tests maintained
- furniture is kept in a safe condition and proper working order
- security arrangements are in place
- heating is provided throughout the living accommodation
If you want to check if your house is licensed as an HMO then you can check online by visiting belfastcity.gov.uk/buildingcontrol-environment/housing/NIHMO. If you have concerns about the standards of the property and feel that the landlord is not taking reasonable steps to maintain it, you can contact Belfast City Council to outline your concerns. In cases where you have concerns around health and safety risks, we would recommend getting in touch with SU Advice and/or contacting the council as soon as possible.
Your tenancy agreement will outline which types of repairs your landlord is responsible for. In general, landlords are responsible for the structure and exterior or the property, including drains, gutters, external pipes and external paintwork; the interior – aside from damage caused by you or your guests; installations for the supply and use of water, gas, electricity and sanitation; heating appliances; appliances used for the supply of water, gas and electricity which the landlord has provided; and any fixture or fitting provided under the terms of the tenancy.
As the tenant, you are responsible for taking due care of the premises; making good any damage caused by yourself or your guests and obtaining the landlord’s permission before making any alterations to the property.
If there is something that needs attention or repair, you should contact the landlord or letting agent as soon as possible and make them aware of this. Always put it in writing so that you have proof of the communication and politely request the issue be addressed within a reasonable timeframe. Things such as broken or faulty boilers should be dealt with almost immediately given the impact this would have on heating and hot water, however minor issues are likely to be dealt with less urgently.
If you find you are experiencing delays in work being carried out, there is no harm in contacting the landlord or letting agent again (whoever is responsible for managing the property) to remind them of their obligations under both the tenancy agreement and legal regulations. If your requests are not being actioned and the issue is having an impact on your ability to live in the property, you may wish to contact your local council to discuss the issue. The council may authorise an inspection of the property and can request that the landlord carry out the works as soon as possible, though this is dependent on the circumstances.
If you are unsure about how to draft a letter to the council or the landlord, you can contact SU Advice and an Adviser will be happy to help.
There is nothing more exciting than moving into a new house at the start of the year and picking your new room! Putting your own stamp on the room and making it more homely is a part of the new academic year ritual. If you want to redecorate or make any changes to the property, you should always seek permission first in writing. It can be tempting to put things on the walls such as posters and other notes; however if you do this using adhesives such as Blu Tack and leave marks on the walls, you may be charged the cost of repainting. It is often stated in tenancy agreements that you are not allowed to do this, so check your contract carefully.