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Harassment and unlawful eviction

  • COVID-19 (coronavirus) update

    The Department for Communities has produced guidance to assist landlords and tenants in the private rented sector to deal with issues and challenges which may arise during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, including extended timescales for issuing tenants notice to quit. Read the guidance (link opens in new window)

    Usually, a private tenant can only be forced to leave their home if a court of law has issued a court order. 

    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

    Harassment is 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. Tenants and registered private landlords can contact Housing Rights Mediation Service (link opens in new window) to help resolve disputes.

  • 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 lasted for less than five years you must receive four weeks' notice to leave.
    • If the tenancy lasted for more than five years but less than 10 years you must receive eight weeks' notice to leave.
    • If the tenancy lasted for more than 10 years you must receive 12 weeks' notice to leave.

    The notice to quit 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.

    To find out the difference between a tenant and a licensee visit Housing AdviceNI (link opens in new window).

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