Northern Ireland news

Half of rental properties in Holylands student area unregistered

Clearing up in the Holylands area of south Belfast after St Patricks Day. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

ALMOST half of all rental properties in the Holylands area of south Belfast are not registered by landlords.

A total of 550 tenancy properties - or 46 per cent - in the mainly student area have not been registered with the compulsory Landlord Registration Scheme.

The figures emerged amid fresh concerns over rental accommodation in the Holylands following disturbances as hundreds gathered on St Patrick's Day.

A PSNI officer was injured when bottles were thrown at police, and 11 people were arrested in the area and city centre over the holiday period.

Tenancy properties make up 80 per cent of houses in the Holylands, according to a survey of more than 1,500 properties.

The Landlord Registration Scheme allows tenants, neighbours and councils to identify if landlords are registered, and aims to increase the accountability of landlords.

All private landlords must register or face a fixed penalty of up to £500, or a fine of up to £2,500 if brought to court.

Of the unregistered properties, Belfast City Council has sent letters relating to 165 houses warning that they must registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme.

But no information is held on the other 385 properties, meaning landlord details may have to be collated by approaching tenants or checking with Land Registry.

Paul Loughran, community officer at Queen's University Students' Union, collated the figures with the help of College Park Avenue Residents' Association.

"The Landlord Registration Scheme provides regular information to those registered on their duties and responsibilities as landlords so it's pretty worrying to us that so many are not registered," he said.

"Rogue landlords who ignore the law should pay the penalties. Regular information on staying compliant and good practice is provided to all landlords who do register to the Landlord Registration Scheme, which is why we think it's so important to be registered."

Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) are separately registered through the Housing Executive, but landlords are still required to join the Landlord Registration Scheme.

SDLP Belfast councillor Declan Boyle rents out properties in the Holylands and is registered as a landlord.

He said the unregistered figures seemed "exceptionally high" and suggested some landlords may only be registered with the Housing Executive.

Defending Holylands landlords, he said they can't be held responsible for what tenants do outside the bounds of their properties.

"You can't expect a landlord to be walking up and down policing the street. Landlords should be looking after their properties and ensuring that they [tenants] behave when in charge of the property," he said.

"I think that the landlords who don't do that have failed in some respect."

A Belfast City Council spokesman said: "Belfast City Council is writing to all landlords in the area, for whom it holds details, reminding them of their responsibilities under the Landlord Registration Scheme and the possible consequences of failing to be properly registered."

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