Law News

Renters at Risk of Revenge Eviction Due to Council Inaction

Rose Jinks - June 19, 2018

Retaliatory or revenge eviction, refers to a landlord attempting to evict a tenant living in their property who has requested repairs or made complaints regarding the condition of their property. However, after 1st October 2015, a landlord is required to prove that the tenant is at fault prior to evicting them. For example, a tenant not paying their rent would be a valid reason to enforce eviction.

 

As revealed by Generation Rent analysis of Freedom of Information, only one in six private tenants is receiving council protection from revenge eviction.

Despite their obligation to protect tenants from eviction, only a select few councils are enforcing actions, compulsory to prevent evictions. In addition, only some are choosing to record cases where the tenant is at risk of facing eviction.

According to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, a landlord is permitted to claim back possession of their property, without providing a reason for this claim. Due to this, it is possible that a tenant could lose their home without being at fault. As a result of this rule, some landlords decide to abuse this power by evicting tenants who simply complain.

However, the Deregulation Act 2015 renders a Section 21 notice invalid for six months, providing that the council serves the landlord with a notice to make necessary improvements to the property in question. This action should be taken by the council if there is a discovery of a severe hazard in a private rented property. It is estimated that 17% of private rented properties have one of these hazards.

A lot of hazards can be missed, due to councils not monitoring each individual property that is complained about. From the 58,586 requests made to the council regarding complaints and inspections, only 39,148 inspections were carried out.

Extracted from analysis of data provided by Generation rent, Freedom of Information, of the 100 councils, only 72 recorded 12,962 “category 1” hazards in 2016-17. In only 18% of these cases, councils issued improvement notices. 28 of 100 councils who were contacted, failed to record the number of hazards discovered.

Despite their new responsibilities, councils took 23% less formal action in the first full year that the Deregulation Act was in force than the year before. The total of improvement notices was down from 2959 in 2015-16. Complaints about private landlords also fell in that period, but only by 6%.

most councils are failing to record their interactions with tenants who are facing a revenge eviction – only 4 of the 97 councils that responded on this question had logged the number of Section 21 eviction cases they dealt with in 2016-17:

• Bournemouth (2)
• Plymouth (18)
• Cheshire West & Chester (11)
• Wigan (0).

Eight councils managed to serve as many improvement notices as there were hazards, including, Barking and Dagenham, Barnsley, Bournemouth, Calderdale, Cambridge, Dudley, Merton and Tower Hamlets. This provides an indication that the tenants involved enjoyed protection from revenge eviction.
Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, commented:
“Right now, tenants only get security over their home when their landlord is breaking the law and their council takes sufficient action. This evidence shows that too much can go wrong in a council’s processes – from not responding to complaints to failing to issue formal notices – to reliably provide even this basic protection.
“Instead of this flaky, fiddly and temporary system of protection, tenants need a stronger fundamental right over their home. The government should restrict the ludicrous ability of landlords to evict tenants who have done nothing wrong by abolishing Section 21.”
Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government, said:
“No one should be forced to live in substandard conditions as a result of their landlord’s failure to resolve problems in the property, nor should they be afraid to report problems due to the fear of being evicted.
“If the government are serious about standing up for renters’ rights, they must provide overstretched councils with the resources required to hold rogue landlords to account.
“The national database of rogue landlords must be made publicly available, allowing tenants to make informed decisions and avoid revenge evictions.”