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Lack of rent fees ban leaves Northern Ireland in the cold

Northern Ireland is about to become the only part of the United Kingdom without a tenant fee ban for landlords and letting agents.

The ban is set to become law in England from 1st June, expected to come into force in Wales from September and already in place in Scotland as well as the Irish Republic. Yet tenants in Northern Ireland will continue to pay charges to take on or extend a tenancy.

The continued lack of a ban is could be considered surprising, given that a Belfast County Court ruling in August 2018 demanded that a letting agent should repay a £36 administration fee charged at the start of a tenancy to a student.

Following the case, lawyers and housing charities claimed it closed a loophole allowing landlords and letting agents to charge tenants fees.

Although the case means fees should not be charged, the ban is still not law and cannot be passed until politicians return to sit at Stormont.

Meanwhile, rents are rising faster in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK, according to the latest official data.

The figures to the end of September 2018 show a 1.6 per cent increase - but this could be revised downward when new statistics are released in March.

“The annual rate of change for Northern Ireland is higher than the other countries of the UK. Northern Ireland has seen an increase in its annual growth rate between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017, but has fallen back slightly during 2018, says the latest Private Housing Rental Price Index for January from the Office for National Statistics.

“Northern Ireland data has been copied forward since September 2018. The next update to Northern Ireland data will be in the release on 20 March 2019.”

Source: Office for National Statistics