Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA has encouraged landlords and tenants to work together throughout the Covid-19 emergency and beyond.
The Minister expressed her thanks to the vast majority of landlords who have acted responsibly during this time, but following reports on social media of some landlords issuing threatening letters to tenants, the Minister reminded the sector of the guidance and legislation in place.
Minister Hargey said: “At this time of a public health emergency, it is vitally important that those who live in privately rented homes have the security of a roof over their heads.
“I have put in place legislation to ensure private tenants are protected from eviction during this Covid emergency. This important piece of legislation requires landlords to give 12 weeks’ Notice To Quit to their tenants, thus removing the threat of eviction at a time when people are being urged to stay at home as much as possible.”
Support is available for tenants struggling to pay their rent through loss of employment and buy to let landlords can avail of a mortgage holiday.
The Minister added: “Guidance issued by my Department asks landlords to work with their tenants to plan ahead for the next few months. This could include establishing affordable repayment plans, taking into consideration tenants’ individual circumstances, at the end of any mortgage holiday period.
“The Lord Chief Justice has issued guidance stating that when dealing with possession proceedings, judges shall take into account all circumstances, including the guidelines issued by the Department for Communities during this period of public health emergency.”
Minister Hargey continued: “The legislation I have introduced combined with the guidance issued gives a clear message to the sector for the need for co-operation and good communication throughout this crisis.
“I am pleased so many landlords have worked with their tenants during these difficult times for all, but I am aware of a small minority who are ignoring the law and have blatantly stepped outside the guidance. This bullying behaviour is unacceptable and must stop. I would remind tenants and landlords that no one can be removed from their home without a court order. In these cases I would urge tenants to contact Housing Rights for help and advice. My Department funds this excellent service to ensure people have access to expert housing advice.”
Housing Rights can be contacted online at www.housingadviceni.org/coronavirus or by calling 028 90245640.