By Adrian Whyatt
The Government has announced it will support Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather’s bill to restrict revenge evictions against tenants who complain about poor conditions.
The Tenancy Reform bill is likely to ban landlords from evicting their tenants by serving a no-fault ‘Section 21’ notice. Under these notices landlords can give tenants 2 months notice to leave without needing to give any reason. The Bill is likely to ban landlords from doing this within 6 months of a local authority improvement or hazard awareness notice. It is also likely to prevent landlords from evicting tenants in response to a legitimate, written complaint about the condition of the property which the local authority considers legitimate.
The Bill will not allow tenants to use spurious or malicious complaints as a defence, and nor will it add a discretionary element to Section 21 hearings.
A Shelter spokesperson said: “In just the past year more than 200,000 renters have been victims of revenge evictions – kicked out by their landlord just for complaining about dangerous or unacceptable living conditions. Worse still, 1 in 12 renters are too scared to complain, in case it leads to them losing their home. With the new law, renters can leave all this behind.”
Lib Dem Department for Local Government Minister Stephen Williams said: “Our private rental sector is a vital asset, providing a home to nine million people across the country. So I’m determined to root out the minority of rogue landlords that give it a bad name.”
Today Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has also published a new model tenancy agreement to give tenants the power to agree longer deals with landlords. As well as a new code of practice produced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to make clear the legal requirements of landlords and letting agents to their tenants. This is on top of a new requirement for letting agents to belong to 1 of 3 approved redress schemes by the October 1 2014 deadline.
There has been a 26% rise in landlords making claims for repossession between 2010, when the Coalition government took power, and 2013. The trend continued upward in the first half of 2014 to 85,717 according to the Ministry of Justice. Claims had previously been falling since 2002.
Shelter claims about 600 households in England are at risk of losing their homes every day, according to research published on 07 August 2014. They state: “Sky-high housing costs are pushing more and more families to the brink. With finances stretched to breaking point, just one thing, like a sudden illness or job loss, can leave a family facing homelessness.” Shelter says that their “helpline is fighting to meet the demand. Since 2011, calls from people struggling with rent arrears have almost doubled.”
In response to the crisis, Newham introduced a private landlord licensing scheme which came into effect on 01 January 2013. Other councils such as Croydon, Barking and Dagenham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets have either followed them or have started public consultation processes to try to tackle this problem.
Everyone we interviewed on the streets of Dalston, Hackney thought it was wrong that people could be evicted without any reason needing to be given and that people must be given transitional support so that they could avoid homelessness.
Rebekah Khan, from London Hackney Fields emphasised that “people aren’t robots, they’re human beings” and “People shouldn’t be left up in the air”. She stressed that we must have: “People First, Politics second” and “Maybe I’m an idealist” but “there should be some kind of back up so that they don’t become homeless”
Gabriel Le from Dalston felt that “landlords should not be able to evict tenants without reason” and that the help that tenants should be given “depends on their situation”.