Mid Ulster District Council looks set to give its backing to fixed penalties under a new law designed to make the private rented sector safer and more secure for tenants
It will also publicise in a number of languages to ensure everyone is aware of their rights and ask letting agents to ensure landlords that work with them are registered.
At a meeting of the local authority’s development committee, members were asked to give officers the power to enforce some the fixed penalty notices in The Private Tenancies Act (NI) 2022.
The offences relate to notice periods, rent receipts and deposits.
For all of the offences, £500 is the maximum level of fine council officers have recommended council sets.
Welcoming the legislation, Councillor Barry Monteith called on council to ensure tenants are continually made aware of their rights.
“This is a very real issue and tenants are struggling with their rights,” he said.
“I think we need to be more proactive. Council does have powers to enact and enforce better tenant rights and standards.
“We need to do PR round this and be far more proactive in letting people know that they have the ability to contact ourselves in relation to these issues.
“We also need to do that promotion in a number of languages and we need to keep doing it. There is no point doing it once – every couple of months we need to keep pushing to get it out there.”
He also called on council to work with letting agents to ensure landlords are made aware of the legislation and ask them to ensure that every landlord they work with is registered.
“The vast majority of private tenancies now are dealt with through letting agents and we can’t force them to do this but I would suggest it would be good practice that we should produce these new rights and ask that all those are leasing through agents are given a copy of this,” he said.
“I proposed before and I will propose again that we contact all those agents and ask them to give us, they may not, but we should ask them to give us information on anyone they know that they are facilitating private rental property who is not registered.
“I think it would be an excellent act of good faith from agents as we need to find landlords who aren’t registered and ensure that tenants have this information.”
Cllr Monteith then proposed that council promote tenants’ rights, regularly, via a number of different languages and write to estate agents asking that they ensure all landlords are registered.
“If people feel their house is not up to standard we need to support them,” he said.
“Quite often when people complain about their housing that leads to an eviction and we need to be proactive on that.
“I want to see that we make this a living thing, it could make a real difference in people’s lives and is a great opportunity for us to take the lead on housing standards in the area.”
Councillor Cora Corry said she was happy to second this proposal and told the chamber it is “important to ensure that if a landlord is not meeting their obligations that we are pursing that”.