Earlier this year Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather introduced a Private Members' Bill to Parliament – the Tenancies (Reform) Bill – in an attempt to ban so called 'retaliatory' or 'revenge' evictions.
Backed by a range of housing campaigners, lobbyists, and the Mayor of London, the Bill seeks to restrict a landlord's right to use a section 21 notice to regain possession of their property where a tenant has made a complaint about repair or housing conditions.
The Bill failed to progress as too few MPs were present to force a vote and it ran out of time. However, a group of Liberal Democrat Peers have tabled an amendment to the Deregulation Bill that reintroduces the core elements of Teather's Bill. The RLA continues to oppose the measures contained in the amendment and believe it is the wrong approach to tackling the issue.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Private Rented Sector has now published its report into Retaliatory Eviction. The report says there is not enough evidence at present to justify more legislation, highlighting the lack of official statistics on the subject. The group also raises concerns about the ability of local councils to enforce legislation. The APPG report can be read here, and the RLA report can be read here.
What happens next?
The new amendment is likely to be debated at Bill's Committee Stage in the House of Lords, in January. The RLA has now contacted key Peers to make them aware of the Bill's shortcomings. The RLA has also contacted the DCLG to discuss the likely impact of the Lords amendment and to propose alternative ways of dealing with the issue of retaliatory eviction.
The RLA also wants to hear from landlords about their experience of using section 21 notices, and why they are so important to maintaining the confidence of those who invest in the PRS.
Tell us about the problems you have faced with nightmare tenants running up rent arrears, causing misery through anti-social behaviour, or engaging in criminal activity, and why section 21 is so important in dealing with these issues.
What is Retaliatory Eviction?
Retaliatory eviction is when a landlord evicts a tenant for asking to carry out repairs or maintenance, or complains about the condition of the property.
How common is Retaliatory Eviction?
Shelter claim that over 213,000 renters across England have been evicted or served with an eviction notice in the last year because they complained to their landlord, letting agent or council about a problem in their home. The RLA does not condone retaliatory eviction.
However, according to the latest English Housing Survey, just 7% of all tenancies are ended by the landlord, the vast majority of which are for legitimate reasons, such as wanting to sell the property, the failure of tenants to pay rent, or where they have engaged in anti-social behaviour. This leaves scope for only a very small minority where the landlord is being unreasonable.
How does this affect me as a Landlord?
At present landlords can regain possession of their properties based on two key sections of the 1988 Housing Act.
- Section 21 - Gives a landlord a right of possession without having to give any reasons once the fixed term of a tenancy has expired.
- Section 8 - Allows a landlord to seek possession on a number of grounds including anti-social behaviour and tenant rent arrears. If a tenant refuses to leave the property on the date specified in a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice, landlords then have to apply to the courts for a 'possession order'.
We all know that, in the case of a section 8 notice this can be a process that is both lengthy and expensive. It is more straightforward when section 21 is relied on by the landlord.
The key measures proposed in the Lords amendment include:
- Landlords will be prevented from evicting their tenant(s) in response to a local authority intervention about the condition of their property. They will be unable to serve a no-fault 'Section 21' eviction notice for 6 months following the issue of a local authority improvement or hazard awareness notice.
- Landlords will be prevented from evicting their tenant(s) in response to a legitimate, written complaint about the condition of the property.
What are the RLA doing about this?
We believe that 'retaliatory eviction' has become a rallying cry for lobbyists determined to remove S21 because it is regarded a "no-fault" clause. But in reality it is the only effective means to regain possession when absolutely necessary.
The RLA believes this legislation is not needed as consumer protection regulations already make such evictions illegal. The problem is not that there isn't sufficient protection for tenants under the law, but that they do not know about the protections they already have and so do not speak out and complain when they need to.
Since this Bill has been introduced into Parliament the RLA has raised awareness by:
- Meeting with Government Ministers including Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP, to explain clearly that this Bill could have serious implications for the private rented sector.
- Circulating a briefing to all MPs clearly outlining the case against abolishing section 21 and appealing to them to raise their concerns about the Bill with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP. You can read this here.
- Securing an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry into the effects of the Tenancies (Reform) Bill. Interested parties and MPs have submitted written evidence and give oral evidence. The report has been published and circulated in Parliament and can be read here.
- Briefing key members of the House of Lords ahead of the Committee Stage of the Deregulation Bill in January 2015.
- Conducting a survey of more than 1,760 landlords about reasons for evictions. Almost 90% reported that they had carried out evictions for rent arrears, 43% for anti-social behaviour, nearly 40% for damage to the property and 20% for drug-related activity. Just under 30% wanted to regain possession of the property, for example, because they needed to sell it for personal reasons, showing that Landlords only evict when they really need to.
- Attending both the Labour and Conservative party conferences meeting MPs and government influencers to discuss issues currently affecting landlords, including the Tenancies (Reform) Bill.