‘Unintended consequences’ of proposed Tenancies Bill could see landlords flee the market

A number of buy-to-let landlords will flee the market if the proposals in the Northern Ireland Private Tenancies Bill go-ahead in their existing form. That is the stark warning issued to the Northern Ireland Executive.

Daryl McIntosh has described the proposals in the Northern Ireland Private Tenancies Bill, stating “some are very welcome, some don’t go far enough and some need to go forward with caution”.

McIntosh gave evidence last Thursday to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Communities to address proposals in the Private Tenancies Bill.

The Private Tenancies Bill aims to elevate safety standards and improve security for tenants in Northern Ireland.

The Bill includes provisions for restrictions on the frequency of rent increases, changes to Notice to Quit periods, caps on deposits, and powers to introduce regulations on minimum energy efficiency standards and electrical safety.

Discussing the impact of proposed changes McIntosh highlighted the need for fairness.

He said: “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 6-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.”

He raised concerns over the unintended consequences of making numerous changes in a short space of time which are likely to represent a significant shift in practice, increasing restrictions or costs for landlords.

“The unintended consequence would be landlords leaving the sector due to costs, bad experience or not having fair access to justice,” he added.

DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley shared his sentiment and praised the private rented sector.

Bradley said: “We want to make sure we get a balanced bill. We want to make sure our tenants are protected but we also want to ensure we have longevity within the private rented sector because we rely so heavily on it here.

“The vast majority of our landlords are very good, excellent landlords and we can’t lose sight of that.”

Also in the session McIntosh stated the requirement for a written tenancy agreement was sensible and whilst receipts for cash payments were welcome, he said they will not go far enough to protect client money.

He drew on his experience of other laws within the PRS throughout the UK and suggested a mandatory Client Money Protection Scheme as in England, Scotland, and Wales.

A subsequent consultation on Notice to Quit periods is anticipated later this year.

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