Tenants complaining about the state of their rented property could soon receive protection from ‘revenge evictions’ under proposed legislation to be debated by MPs in the New Year. The Tenancies (Reform) Bill is made by Sarah Teather, a Lib Dem MP who said it would protect tenants from landlords who’d rather evict their tenants than put right any issues.
If this bill is passed, it will require landlords who want to evict their tenants to wait six months if the tenant had previously lodged a complaint about the property. Currently, if a landlord wants to evict a tenant, they use a ‘Section 21’ notice, which requires them to give at least two months’ notice to assured shorthold tenants and fixed-term tenants can’t be evicted until their tenancy ends. Teather’s aim with this bill is to make the private rented sector better for tenants, local authorities and good landlords.
The bill was due a second reading in the House of Commons at the end of November, but this was adjourned. It is expected to resume its second reading debate on the 23rd of January. This means that this bill still has a long way to go, and may not yet make it into law.
However, the Private Member’s Bill has won cross-party support, including London Mayor Boris Johnson and the government is supporting the bill in principle.
Teather said, 'Good landlords want to know about these problems, so tackling retaliatory eviction will help them too. And it will help local authorities, who will be more confident using their powers to tackle poor conditions in the private rented sector if the threat of eviction is removed.'
According to Teather, the proposed changes would not prevent eviction on grounds of arrears, and nor would it allow tenants to dodge eviction through complaints about minor issues. She said, 'My bill will protect tenants from eviction when there is a serious problem in their home – such as severe damp or exposed electrical wiring.
My bill will only affect the minority of rogue landlords who are not meeting their legal duties. The onus will be on tenants to prove they complained about the problem before the eviction notice was issued.’
Chief Executive Officer of the National Landlords Association, Richard Lambert, said: 'Whilst no responsible landlord would defend the tiny number of incidences of retaliatory eviction, we are concerned that, far from protecting vulnerable tenants from abuse, the measures proposed by this bill may become a tool for misuse in the hands of those intent on gaming the system.
Retaliatory eviction, if and where it does happen, is an unacceptable and completely unprofessional response. Tenants should be able to raise issues with their landlords without the fear of losing their home.
The NLA supports the principle of preventing misuse of the possession procedures. However, there is no hard evidence that retaliatory or revenge eviction is common practice, and so the Tenancies (Reform) Bill is a response more to the fear of it happening than widespread experience.’
Housing and homeless charity Shelter released figures back in June that shows a massive rise in renters at risk of losing their homes, however. With recent research showing that more than 213,000 people have faced eviction in the past year after asking their private landlord for repairs, Shelter argues that calls to their helpline from renters facing revenge evictions have become all too common.