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Couple renting property in County Down ‘let down’ by letting laws in Northern Ireland

A couple from County Down, Northern Ireland, have called for stricter regulation over letting agencies after their property was damaged by tenants. The O’Hare’s property in Kilcoo was left in poor condition with broken windows, damaged furniture, and a ruined garden.

The couple told BBC News NI that, in their view, the poor level of support they experienced was due to a lack of regulation regarding letting agents’ responsibilities. The O'Hares didn’t realise that regulation is currently not required by law in Northern Ireland, and that essentially anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent.

The Department for Communities said it "recognised that lack of regulation (in the rental sector) is an issue and its recent review recommended the introduction of a regulatory framework". However, it has been unable to progress this recommendation in the absence of a minister at Stormont for the past three years.

With the reopening of the Northern Ireland assembly and the appointment of a new Stormont minister, many agents, who are generally keen to raise standards in the sector, are hopeful that the regulation of letting agents will be enforced.

Jonathan Quinn, who runs an estate and letting agency and chooses to regulate his business through ARLA Propertymark, told BBC News NI his agency would carry out checks to the required standard of the regulating body.

"Ultimately a regulated agent should result in tenants renting safer homes," he added.

Although some letting agencies opt to self-regulate themselves through bodies such as ARLA Propertymark, situations like this highlight the need for stricter regulations in the private rented sector in Northern Ireland. Regulations already exist in Scotland and Wales, while reviews have been carried out and will be considered by the Government in England.