Standard of Fitness Required for Private Tenancies

April 18, 2016

In 2007 the Private Tenancies (NI ) Order 2006 introduced a framework for the provision of good quality housing in the private rented sector in NI. It also removed restrictions on the development of good quality privately rented housing and provided that protected tenants would retain their security of tenure.

Fitness Inspections

Under the 2006 Order the level of fitness of a property can determine the amount of rent which can be charged. Since 1st April 2007 all landlords must apply to have any property to be let inspected unless they already have a Certificate of Fitness in place or the property is exempt. Failure to do so is an offence under the Order. Exempt properties include those where:

  • constructed after 1st January 1956
  • a renovation grant was paid by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive within the last 10 years
  • an HMO grant was paid by the NIHE within the last 10 years
  • the dwelling is currently registered as an HMO with the NIHE
  • a regulated rent certificate was issued by district council within the last 10 years.

Additionally either the landlord or the tenant can apply for (or challenge) a Certificate of Fitness at any time, whether the tenancy was granted before or after the commencement of the Order (Articles 33-37). The landlord should complete the appropriate form and send it to their Local District Council. Further guidance is provided within Schedule 2 of the Private Tenancies (Forms etc) Regulations (NI) 2007.

Properties will be inspected against the fitness standard in the Housing (NI) Order 1981 and must: •be structurally stable

  • be free from serious disrepair
  • be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants (if any)
  • have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation
  • have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water
  • have satisfactory facilities for the preparation and cooking of food, including a sink with a supply of hot and cold water
  • have a suitably located fixed bath or shower and wash hand basin with satisfactory supply of hot and cold water; and
  • have an effective system for drainage of foul, waste and surface water

Following their inspection of the property the District Council can either Issue a Certificate of Fitness or issue a Notice of Refusal of Application for a Certificate of Fitness, should they consider the property unfit for human habitation. Any Notice of Refusal will contain reasons for not issuing Certificate of Fitness and, where apt, a schedule of works which, in the opinion of the District Council, would be required to make the property fit for human habitation.

Copies of the Certificate of Fitness or Notice of Refusal will also be served on:

  • The tenant of the property in question should it be let on the date the inspection was applied for, and
  • The Rent Officer and Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Appealing the Council’s Decision

Article 37 gives both the Landlord and Tenant the power to appeal the decision of the District Council in the County Court. In making a determination to Court will not only look to the state of the property at the time of the hearing but will also take into consideration its condition at the time the decision is made.

An appeal must be lodged to court by a landlord within 21 days of the Notice of Refusal being served. Where the appeal is allowed the District Council will be ordered to issue a Certificate of Fitness, effective from the date of the Court Order.

Tenants appealing the issue of a Certificate of Fitness must do so within 21 days of same being served upon them. Where their appeal is allowed, the Council will be ordered to issue a Notice of Refusal and this will take effect from the date the Certificate of Fitness was issued. The Certificate of Fitness will be extinguished, deemed never to have existed.

Ending a Certificate of Fitness

Any Certificate of Fitness will cease only when a subsequent Repair Notice, Notice of Unfitness or Notice of Refusal is issued and when any appeal period of these notices has expired, or upon the Order of a Court.  The Certificate of Fitness remains operative even if the relevant tenancy is terminated and a subsequent tenancy is commenced.

Applications for Inspection

Application forms can be obtained from the District Council. They must be submitted within 28 days of a tenancy commencing and be accompanied by a fee of £50. Landlords of unfit premises will be issued with a notice of refusal and will be subject to rent control until the property is made fit. The fee for re-inspection is £100 (Regulation 3 & Schedule 2 of the Prescribed Fees and Charges Regulations (NI) 2007).