Housing

HousingIt is the Council’s objective to help improve housing and general living conditions throughout the council area. Our officers deal with complaints and enquiries about a range of housing issues.

We do not deal with the allocation of social housing – this is the role of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Their local Office is located at Dobbin Street, Armagh and they can be contacted on 08448 920 900.

Our responsibilities include:

  • providing advice about rent books and tenancy statements to private tenants
  • inspecting properties to make sure they are suitable to live in
  • issuing certificate of fitness (where applicable)
  • investigating complaints such as smell, littering and general nuisances

Providing advice about:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Damp/condensation
  • Disrepair in rented houses
  • Harassment and Unlawful Eviction
  • Landlord Registration Scheme
  • Property Inspections and Certificate of Fitness
  • Rent Books and Tenancy Statements
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme

We can also take legal action against landlords if the condition of their property creates an unhealthy environment for tenants. This covers privately-rented properties and those owned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or other housing associations.

We can provide advice if you’re having problems with damp in your home.

If you live in a rented property, we can arrange a visit to establish the cause of the dampness. We can also speak to your landlord on your behalf if necessary.

Damp & Condensation

What is damp?

Damp is usually caused by condensation, or excess moisture, in the air.

It often forms on north-facing walls, cold surfaces, near or on windows, in or behind cupboards or wardrobes and in areas or rooms with poor air circulation. It causes black mould with a speckled appearance.

Other causes of damp include:

  • leaking pipes, wastes or overflows
  • rain seeping in through the roof where a tile or slate is missing
  • rain spilling from a blocked gutter or loose window frames
  • water leaking through a cracked pipe
  • rising damp due to a faulty damp course or because there is no damp course

If you’ve recently moved into a newly-built house, the damp may be caused by water still drying out.

Removing damp can take weeks of heating and ventilation. Hiring a dehumidifier, a special machine which removes moisture from the air, can help.


How do I reduce condensation in my home?

There are several ways you can cut down on condensation and reduce the chances of damp forming.

Reduce moisture
Daily activities such as washing and cleaning produce reduces lots of moisture in a short space of time.

You can reduce the amount of moisture you produce by:

  • covering boiling pans
  • not using paraffin and portable bottled gas heaters which do not have a flue
  • drying your washing outdoors or in the bathroom with the door closed and the windows open
  • venting tumble dryers to remove warm moist air

Increase ventilation
Ventilation removes moisture from the air quickly and easily

You can do this by:

  • opening a small window or trickle ventilator in the room you are using
  • opening windows in your kitchen and bathroom when you are cooking and washing
  • using a humidistat (controlled electric fan) which works automatically with humid air
  • closing your kitchen and bathroom doors to prevent moisture reaching other rooms
  • cutting ‘breather’ holes in wardrobe and cupboard doors and backs
  • leaving space between wardrobe backs and walls
  • positioning wardrobes and furniture against internal walls
  • making sure any new window frames are fitted with trickle ventilators

Insulation and draught proofing
Insulation and draught proofing your home will keep it warm, cut your fuel bills and reduce the chances of damp forming.

Some tips for insulation include:

  • insulate your loft but don’t block the opening under the eaves
  • consider installing cavity wall insulation but remember to check if you need building regulation approval
  • think about installing secondary and double glazing to reduce heat loss and draughts through windows
  • keep low-background heating on all day, particularly during winter, even when you are not at home

How do I remove mould caused by damp?

There are some simple steps you can take to remove mould in your home and prevent it from recurring.

These include:

  • wiping down walls and window frames with an anti-fungus wash which carries an approval number from the Health and Safety Executive
  • Do not disturb mould by brushing or vacuum cleaning as this can increase the risk of respiratory problems
  • dry cleaning mildewed clothes
  • shampooing carpets
  • using a good quality anti-fungus paint on walls and ceilings
  • reducing the moisture in your home to prevent mould from returning

For more advice on insulating and keeping your home warm and reducing condensation, mould growth or damp go to the Warmer Homes section of the website.

Disrepair in Rented Houses

In all cases, a landlord and tenant can agree whatever division of responsibility for repairs and maintenance they wish (with the exception of gas and electrical appliances and furniture safety which by relevant statute fall to the landlord). This will be included in the Statement of Tenancy Terms.

However, where a tenancy commenced after 1st April 2007 and where the Statement of Tenancy Terms does not provide a clear division of responsibility of repair or where a statement has not been provided within 28 days, the law imposes “default terms”.

Landlord Repairing Responsibilities:-

  • The structure and exterior of the property, including exterior paintwork, drains, gutters and external pipes;
  • The interior of the property other than matters covered under tenant responsibilities (see below);
  • Any installations for the supply and use of water, gas, electricity and sanitation (including baths, sinks, wash-hand basins and toilets);
  • Any appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity;
  • Any installation for space heating and water heating;
  • Any fixtures, fittings and furnishings provided by the landlord under the terms of the tenancy;
  • Keeping in good repair any common areas or areas required for access;
  • Keeping any area required for access adequately lit and safe to use.

Tenant Repairing Responsibilities:-

  • Generally taking proper care of the property as a good tenant;
  • Making good any damage to the property caused by the behavior or negligence of the tenant, members of his/her household or any other person lawfully visiting or living in the property;
  • Keeping the interior of the property in reasonable decorative order;
  • Not carrying out alterations to the property without the landlord’s permission.

Responsibility for other repairs depends on what the landlord and tenant agree themselves.

If you are a tenant and there are matters of disrepair which your landlord is failing to address, you can contact the Environmental Health Department. An Environmental Health Officer can assess the disrepair and in some circumstances can serve legal notices if that disrepair is:-

  • Causing a Public Health Nuisance (bad for health) e.g. dampness;
  • In such a state of disrepair its condition is such as to interfere materially with the personal comfort of the tenant;
  • Substantial repairs are necessary to bring it up to reasonable standard;
  • The property is in such a state that it is not suitable for occupation.

Safety of Gas Appliances

The landlord is required by law to ensure that all gas appliances are kept in good order and that an annual safety check is carried out by a tradesman who is Gas Safe registered. The Health and Safety Executive enforce the legislation in relation to the installation and use of gas and gas appliances.

Electrical Safety

The landlord should make sure that the electrical installation (fixed wiring, etc) is safe to use. If the landlord provides any electrical appliances as part of the tenancy (for example, cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines, immersion heaters, etc) the Electricity Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 requires the landlord to ensure the appliances are safe when first supplied. Each time the property is re-let, it will be classed as supplying to that tenant for the first time. If you have any queries in relation to this, contact the Environmental Health Officer.

Furniture and Furnishings

The landlord must ensure that any furniture and furnishings he or she supplies meets the fire resistance requirements in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

If you have any queries in relation to this, contact the Environmental Health Officer.

Harrassment & Unlawful Eviction

Under the Rent Order (Northern Ireland) Act 1978, a private tenant can only be forced to leave their home if a court of law has issued a court order.

Harassment and unlawful eviction are criminal offences under the Act.

Our public health and housing team can:

  • provide advice to landlords and tenants
  • investigate complaints of harassment and unlawful eviction
  • prosecute landlords who have harassed or illegally evicted their tenants.

Harassment covers any action taken by a landlord, or someone acting on their behalf, to make a tenant leave their home.

Examples include:

  • interfering with gas, water and electricity supplies
  • making threats and instructing a tenant to leave
  • entering the property without consent
  • refusing to carry out repairs
  • making frequent unannounced visits, especially late at night.

Tenants should record the details of any harassment including the date, time and a short description of the incident.

Unlawful eviction
This occurs when a landlord, or any person acting for them, forces or attempts to force a tenant from their home without following the proper legal procedures.

Examples include:

  • changing the locks to a property when a tenant is not at home
  • physically throwing a tenant out
  • stopping a tenant from getting into part or all of their home.

If a landlord wants a tenant to leave, they must provide a ‘notice to quit’, even if there is no tenancy agreement.

The following time scales for notices to quit apply regardless of what the tenancy agreement states:

  • If the tenancy was in existence for less than 5 years you must receive four weeks notice to quit.
  • If the tenancy was in existence for more than 5 years but less than 10 years you must receive 8 weeks notice to quit.
  • If the tenancy was in existence for more than 10 years you must receive 12 weeks notice to quit.
  • It should be in writing and both the landlord and tenant should keep a copy.

If the tenant does not leave after the notice has run out, the landlord can apply for a court order from a magistrates’ court.

However, it is an offence to evict a tenant without getting a court order, even if the notice to quit has expired.

Landlords do not need a court order to evict licensees, who share part or all of a property (usually with the landlord). Licensees are only entitled to ‘reasonable’ notice before they must leave the property.

Landlord Registration Scheme

For more information please see nidirect.gov.uk

Property Inspections & Certificate of Fitness

Property Inspections

If you are a landlord and you ask us to serve a Public Health Notice on your house, one of our Environmental Health Officers will inspect your premises.

If we are satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, we will serve an Abatement Notice on you, telling you to put the problem right.

It is not the disrepair (bad condition) which creates a statutory (legal) nuisance but whether or not the disrepair is causing conditions that are bad for health.

Your Responsibilities
You should finish the work needed to put the nuisance right within the time stated on the notice.

If you do not satisfactorily finish the work, we will apply for an order from the local magistrates’ court. We must do this by law and have no choice in this matter. The court has the power to make an order and also give you a penalty.

Northern Ireland Housing Executive Grants
You may be eligible for a grant if you need to pay for repairs to your property.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) Repair Scheme Grant is organised by the the NIHE and is paid to the owner or agent of a property.

For more information about the Repair Grant Scheme, visit the Northern Ireland Housing Executive website or call 03448 920 900.

Certificate of Fitness

Licence summary
Under the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (Article 33), out inspections to check whether properties are fit to live in.

Eligibility Criteria
This means landlords who own certain types of properties must apply to us for a Certificate of Fitness. Tenants can also apply for a fitness inspection in the same way, using the same form.

We will then inspect your property and decide whether to issue you with a Certificate of Fitness or a Notice of Refusal.

Regulation Summary
Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006

Application Evaluation Process
Note 3 of the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (Article 33) explains which dwelling houses do not need a fitness inspection.

You do not need a Certificate of Fitness for your house if:

  • the tenancy began before the Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 came into force
  • was built after 1 January 1945 (we will assume that your property was built in or before 1945, unless you tell us otherwise in your application form or you can provide us with documented evidence, showing that it was built after this date)
  • a renovation grant for the house has been paid by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (this only applies for a period of ten years from the date of the grant)
  • an HMO grant has been paid by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (this only applies for a period of ten years from the date of the grant)
  • it is currently registered with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for multiple occupancy
  • it was formerly let under a protected or statutory tenancy where a regulated rent certificate has been issued. This only applies for a period of ten years from the date of the certificate.

If your property meets any of these criteria, you do not need to apply for a fitness inspection and you do not need to complete the application form.

If you submit an application, and we later discover that your property does not need a fitness inspection, your application fee will not be refunded.

Timescales and inspections
After you apply for a Certificate of Fitness, it can take up to one month for us to conduct an inspection of your property.

We carry out checks with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and we also have to write to the tenant to ask if they have any objections to the inspection.

The tenant must reply in writing and, if they don’t reply, which is common, we must hold the application for 28 days before passing it to an inspection officer. We will then try to arrange access to the property by ringing the tenant, landlord or agent.

If your property is deemed fit, following the inspection, a Certificate of Fitness will be issued.

About your inspection
If your application is accepted, we will contact you to arrange an inspection. If your property is deemed fit, we will give you a Certificate of Fitness.

However, if your property is found to be unfit for people to live in, you will be given a Notice of Refusal. This outlines the type of work needed to make your property fit for people to live in.

Once the repairs are completed, you can reapply for another fitness inspection.

If your property fails our inspection, your rent may be controlled by a rent officer from the start date of your tenancy.

Application fee
It costs £50 to apply for a fitness inspection. This fee is non-refundable.

The fee for a re-application for a fitness inspection is £100. Please make all cheques payable to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council.

Returning your application form
Your application must be returned within 28 days of the start date of a new tenancy. It is an offence not to return your application within this period.

Will Tacit Consent Apply?
No. It is in the public interest that the dwelling must be inspected in order to determine whether the house is fit for human habitation. A certificate of fitness can not be issued without having assessed the property against the fitness standards.

If you have not heard from the Council within a reasonable period, please contact us. You can do this through the Environmental Health Department on 028 3752 9626, or email ehealth@armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk

Apply online
Application for a Certificate of fitness for a property built before 1945

We can accept the following payment methods:

Forms to Download, print and post
Application for a Certificate of Fitness for a property built before 1945 (Landlord)
This form also includes guidance notes to help you with your application.

Contact Details
Telephone: 028 3752 9626
Fax: 028 3751 7184
E-mail: ehealth@armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk
Environmental Health Department
The Palace Demesne
ARMAGH BT60 4EL

Public register
No Information held

Failed Application Redress
You are advised to take up any issue with the Council in the first instance.

Other Redress
Any complaints in relation to fitness of properties should be made directly to the Environmental Health Department.

Trade Associations
None

Useful links
Rent Officers website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/rent-control/
Housing Rights website at: www.housingrights.org.uk

Rent Books & Tenancy Statements

If you live in a privately rented house, you are entitled to a rent book.

If your tenancy started before April 2007, your rent book must contain the items laid out in the document below.

Particulars to be included in a rent book for compliance with Rent Book Regulations (2004)

If your tenancy started after April 2007, your rent book must contain the items laid out in the document below.

Particulars to be included in a rent book for compliance with Rent Book Regulations (2007)

Tenancy statements
If your tenancy started after April 2007, you are also entitled to a tenancy statement.

This must contain the information outlined in the Tenancy Terms Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2007.

If your landlord does not provide you with a tenancy statement within 28 days of your tenancy beginning, this means a six month tenancy has been created and they must meet their default repairing obligations.

These repair obligations are outlined in the Private Tenancy ( Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

What is the Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland?

A new tenancy deposit scheme for Northern Ireland will become law on 1 April 2013.

This scheme has been introduced by the Department for Social Development (DSD) under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme Regulations (NI) 2012.

This means that after 1 April, any deposit for a private tenancy taken by a landlord or agent must be protected in an approved tenancy deposit scheme.

Any disputes about deposits received prior to 1st April 2013 are civil matters between Landlord and tenant and may require decision in small claims court.

The deposit must be secured in an approved scheme within 14 days and a tenant must be informed that their deposit has been secured within 28 days.

There are, therefore, 2 offences;

  1. If the landlord does not protect the deposit, or comply with the requirements of the deposit scheme, they could face a fixed penalty fine (three times the value of the deposit) or be prosecuted in court, where they could be fined up to £20,000.
  2. The scheme also makes it illegal for a landlord or agent to take a deposit in any other form than money – all deposits must be monetary. The fine for taking a deposit in any other form is a fixed penalty up to £500 or a fine in court of up to £2,500.

Why is the scheme being introduced?

Benefits of the tenancy deposit scheme include:

  • Tenancy deposits will be protected by an independent third party – this will prevent deposit from being unfairly withheld by landlords or letting agents at the end of the tenancy.
  • Quick repayment of deposits – where a landlord and tenant agree about the return of the deposit, the deposit must be returned within 5 working days.
  • Free access to an independent dispute resolution service – every approved scheme will provide a free service to resolve disagreements over the return of deposits as an alternative to taking legal action through the courts.
  • Provision of information – Landlords must give the tenant key information about the tenancy, the deposit and the scheme that safeguards the deposit.
  • Sanctions for non compliance – a tenant can report a landlord to us if they fail to submit deposits to an approved scheme and/or provide information to the tenant within the specified time limits.
  • Improved professionalism of the private rented sector – the scheme will raise standards in managing deposits.

Types of schemes

The regulations set out two types of deposit scheme – custodial and insurance.

Custodial scheme:

This is where the landlord protects the entire tenant’s deposit in the scheme until it becomes due at the end of the tenancy.

Insurance scheme:

This is where the landlord can hold the deposit, on the condition they pay a fee and/or an insurance premium to the scheme to protect the deposit, until it becomes due at the end of the tenancy.

Who runs the scheme?

DSD has appointed three scheme administrators to operate the schemes; these organisations provide custodial and insurance schemes.

  1. My Deposits
  2. The Dispute Service NI
  3. Letting Protection Service Northern Ireland

Enforcement

We enforce the scheme for all private rentals in the Council area.

If we find a landlord or agent holding a deposit which has not been secured in one of the three approved schemes we can issue them with a fixed penalty that is three times the value of the deposit taken.

The fixed penalty for taking a deposit other than money will be determined by the Council and cannot exceed £500.

You can report a landlord or agent for not complying by calling 028 3752 9626 or emailing ehealth@armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk

There’s more information on the NI Direct website.

Private Tenancies – Advice for Tenants Leaflet

Private Tenancies Lithuanian
Private Tenancies Polish
Private Tenancies Slovak

For more information about your rights as a private tenant, visit the Housing Advice NI website.