An amendment that would have made it so rents in Northern Ireland would have been cut by 10% and frozen for three years has been overturned from the Private Tenancies Bill.
After Members of the Legislative Assembly previously failed to oppose the motion, tabled by Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey urged politicians not to support it, saying it would make the bill fail.
She said: “I know that the previous amendment was well intended, but it cannot be done like this.
“I have made it clear that, with the legal advice that I have, the amendment that was made at Consideration Stage puts the whole Bill outside competence.”
Rather than pass the amendment she instead committed to consulting on a rent reduction and rent freeze.
Daryl McIntosh, policy manager for devolved nations at Propertymark, said: “Northern Ireland’s private rented sector is currently starved of investment and the introduction of rent reduction and freezing powers is a backward step that is likely to increase rents in the immediate term and limit supply of housing in the long term.
“The inclusion of such a fundamental provision without any assessment of affordability is inexcusable.
“Though a consultation is on the horizon, if these changes come in it will be to the detriment of the private rented sector, directly affecting the tenants who rely on it.
“The Private Tenancies Bill is set to introduce a number of much needed measures, however there are many that will impose costs and limitations on landlords and the latest restrictions take these too far.
“While they may salvage the Bill’s progression, they do not provide the incentives or confidence required to encourage investment in private rented sector housing.”
The Private Tenancies Bill plans to extend the ‘notice quit’ period from four weeks to six months, though Hargey said there must be exemptions for a notice period as long as that.