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How new rules against revenge evictions will work

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 29 September 2015
  2. Housing
  3. 0 comments
Angry landlord

The relationship between a tenant and a landlord can be a fraught one. We’ve all heard horror stories from both perspectives – tenants who are destructive or don’t pay the rent on time, and landlords who won’t take care of problems with the property or won’t pay the deposit back.

New regulations are arriving this week with the intention of giving tenants some extra protection from so-called “retaliatory evictions”.

What are retaliatory evictions?

If a tenant is renting under an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), the landlord is able to take back the property from the tenant under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

This is different from a section 8 eviction, which the landlord can use if the tenant has failed to pay the rent or violated the tenancy agreement in some other way.

The landlord can evict the tenant under section 21 at any time, as long as the fixed-term period has ended and the tenant is given at least two months’ notice.

However, some unscrupulous landlords have used section 21 repossessions to kick out tenants who had the temerity to complain about them to the council, or do something else to inconvenience them.

Housing charity Shelter estimates that, based on a YouGov poll, over 200,000 tenants each year face such evictions.

As well as allowing landlords to get rid of complaining tenants without actually fixing the issues, this practice also makes some tenants too fearful to raise these sorts of issues with their landlord.

As usual, the minority ruins things for everyone else. This is why provisions to prevent these retaliatory evictions were included in the Deregulation Act 2015, which was passed this year.

What will the new rules do?

Under the new rules, a landlord may be prevented from serving a section 21 notice for 6 months if:

  • The landlord is served with an improvement/emergency remedial notice in relation to the condition of the property by the local authority; or
  • The tenant complains to the local authority after receiving a s.21 notice, following writing to the landlord about the condition of the property, and as a result the local authority serve an improvement/emergency remedial notice on the landlord.

Any attempt by the landlord to evict the tenant using section 21 during this period will be thrown out by the court.

This is good news for tenants, but landlords are concerned that the legislation is not watertight, and that tenants will be able to use the new laws to prevent the landlord from repossessing their property fairly.

“The Government says that the majority of good landlords will have nothing to fear,” said Chris Norris from the National Landlords Association, “but the truth is it will give unscrupulous tenants and ambulance-chasing legal firms more power to resist genuine and necessary attempts on behalf of landlords to regain lawful possession on a property”.

However, Shelter, the charity that led the fight for action on retaliatory evictions, expressed pleasure at the outcome.

“Hundreds of thousands of people will no longer face the appalling choice between living in a home that puts them or their family in danger, or risking eviction if they complain,” said Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb.

The changes come into effect on the 1st of October.

Want to know more about Section 21 notices and repossessions? Read our recent blog post here. If you need advice on this and any other property issues, our legal advice line can give you all the advice you need, whether you are a landlord or a tenant.

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