Posts with tag: revenge evictions

Landlords Urged to Prepare for Revenge Eviction Claims

Published On: October 31, 2017 at 10:29 am

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Landlords are being urged to set up basic procedures to protect themselves against revenge eviction claims.

Danielle Hughes, a solicitor at Kirwans law firm, says that many landlords are leaving themselves wide open to revenge eviction claims and property disrepair, by failing to put clear processes in place to deal with tenant issues.

The introduction of laws against retaliatory evictions – in which landlords are accused of evicting a tenant solely because they have made a complaint about the condition of the property – were brought in as part of the Deregulation Act 2015. The laws currently only apply to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) entered into since 1st October 2015, but will apply to all ASTs from 1st October 2018.

According to Hughes, landlords are now at an increased risk of seeing their claims for possession defeated in court, as tenants gain a greater understanding of the new retaliation eviction legal defence.

She explains: “Landlords may be shocked to discover that tenants could potentially successfully fight a claim for possession based on what has until recently been known as the non-fault eviction process.

“This defence can not only invalidate a Section 21 Housing Act notice and lead to the judge striking out a claim, but can also prevent a new Section 21 notice being served for six months.”

She continues: “There is a particularly strong chance of this happening in cases where landlords have failed to deal effectively with complaints and have had an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice served on them by the local authority.”

Hughes advises landlords to actively encourage tenants to report any problems with the property to them in writing at the earliest opportunity, to avoid the issue escalating to the point where the local authority becomes involved.

“The law sets out that landlords must provide an adequate response to complaints within 14 days of receipt,” she says. “The belt and braces approach is to inspect the property regularly and undertake any work required within a reasonable timeframe, depending on the works required.”

Hughes adds: “Most landlords pride themselves on being responsible, and are keen to be made aware of issues with a property so that they can both protect their asset and continue to provide safe and secure homes for their tenants.

“Keeping properties in good repair is not only preferential, it’s also essential to avoid other legal action being taken, such as housing disrepair claims, a hazard notice being served by the local council, and investigations into a breach of licence conditions, with the latter two carrying risk of criminal sanctions.”

There are cases in which landlords carrying out genuine evictions will be legally protected, including situations where the tenant has caused the disrepair, if the property is genuinely for sale on the open market (not to family, friends or business partners), and if, at the date of the Section 21 notice, the mortgage lender requires vacant possession to sell the property.

“However,” Hughes continues. “It goes without saying that the best approach is for landlords to be proactive in managing their property to ensure they’re not accused of a retaliation eviction in the first place.”

Hughes has her key tips for landlords to protect themselves against revenge eviction claims:

  1. Be aware of your repair obligations as set out in the AST and under Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
  2. Make open channels of written communication available so that tenants are able to report any problems.
  3. Implement a system whereby you respond to any written complaint within 14 days of receipt. If you will be away, then arrange for someone to monitor this for you. If a letting agent manages the property, ask them about their process for responding, to ensure they are doing so in a timely manner, as ultimately the landlord bears the overarching responsibility for repairs and responses.
  4. Put in place a schedule for any works to be completed within a reasonable timeframe, depending on the nature of the work needed.
  5. Keep records of your responses to the tenants in case the details are ever needed in court.
  6. Keep a log of any repair work you have undertaken.
  7. Retain any evidence you might have of occasions on which tenants have refused to allow access to the property for inspections or for repair work to be undertaken. This could prove vital.
  8. Most importantly, check whether there are any outstanding complaints with the property and address any such issues before service of notice under Section 21.

Many tenants and councils unaware of new Section 21 rules

Published On: February 10, 2017 at 2:11 pm

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A concerning new BBC survey claims that powers to tackle so-called ‘revenge evictions’ are not being utilised by the majority of councils in England.

Since October 2015, it has been law that a Section 21 notice can no longer be served during the first four months of a tenancy agreement.

In addition, a further piece of legislation now prevents agents or landlords from ending a tenancy with a Section 21 notice, should they fail to address a complaint about the state of repair in a property made by their tenant to a local authority.

Unaware

However, research conducted by BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, which used Freedom of Information requests, shows that over half of local councils in England have not taken advantage of these powers.

This suggests that tenants either did not know about the new provisions, or that councils were unaware of their responsibilities after being informed.

At the time of the amendments to the law, a separate report from the National Landlords Association found that 90% of tenants had no clue of these changes.

Many tenants and councils unaware of new Section 21 rules

Many tenants and councils unaware of new Section 21 rules

Labour MP, Clive Betts, chair of the Communities and Local Government select committee, told the BBC: ‘I can’t believe there are that many local authorities where no-one has been the subject to a revenge eviction. We’re talking about landlords here who are trying to avoid carrying out their responsibilities.’[1]

‘They’re the landlords we’ve got to get at – and they’re going to be in the worst properties, with people living in the worst conditions. That’s the biggest challenge for everybody,’ Mr Betts added.[1]

[1] https://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2017/2/section-21-few-tenants-and-councils-use-new-powers–claim

 

Tenant Campaigners Make False Allegations over Revenge Eviction Case

Published On: September 26, 2016 at 9:11 am

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Tenant campaigners have made false allegations over a revenge eviction case, according to a landlord in Bristol.

Last week, the Daily Mail reported on a case where a tenant had been served an eviction notice to move out of her home of 12 years for complaining to her landlord about damp and dirty carpets.

Tenant Campaigners Make False Allegations over Revenge Eviction Case

Tenant Campaigners Make False Allegations over Revenge Eviction Case

It highlighted an “amazing show of support” from the tenant’s neighbours, who linked arms to prevent bailiffs entering the property in Easton, Bristol.

However, the photographs show that the majority of these so-called neighbours were in fact tenant campaigners from the Acorn Community group, which is pushing for an ethical lettings charter.

The story in the Daily Mail claims: “Residents came out to express their disgust at the revenge eviction of Ms’ Abdullahi.”

One campaigner allegedly stated: “We don’t want people in our community treated like this. It’s a revenge eviction and people deserve decent rented accommodations.”

Another said: “This landlord, and all landlords, need to know there are people in this community who won’t ignore it.”

While another supposedly commented: “We live in this street and it’s a close community. It’s amazing how many people have turned out.”

Despite the tenant campaigners’ efforts, the tenant and her family were evicted. If this really was a revenge eviction, then why hasn’t the landlord been penalised?

The Bristol landlord that pointed out the case, explains: “The reason the eviction went ahead is that it wasn’t a retaliatory eviction at all; you can tell that by the pictures.

“The landlord even invited both parties to a meeting to resolve the situation, after trying to evict her for over two years. So it’s surprising he even tried to go above and beyond his duties by trying to explain the reasoning behind the eviction to Ms Abdullai and Acorn Bristol campaigners.”

The landlord insists: “He followed all the correct procedures; getting in a damp specialist and environmental health to inspect the property after he was notified of the issue. The reports stated that the issue was not damp, but condensation mould due to inadequate ventilation to the wall, something this tenant was given several reminders about over the last few years.

“Acorn and the tenant have also failed to mention that access to the property for the workmen to resolve the repairs/issues was denied for over eight weeks. Surely if the condition of the property was substandard, then why did she delay repairs being made for such a long period?”

They add: “Acorn is gathering momentum and the problem here is that their ethical lettings charter isn’t about ethics at all; it’s about lynching landlords at any cost. Clueless tenant groups like these shouldn’t be allowed to continue to make a mockery of existing private rental sector legislation.

“£3,000 worth of rent arrears and he still allowed her and her family to stay in the property for an extra six months. Honestly, it smacks of desperation from an anarchist campaign group who are obviously looking for any opportunity to gain publicity and awareness.”

Landlords, always remember to follow the correct eviction procedures and respond to any repair requests quickly.

Councils Not Doing Enough to Tackle Rogue Landlords

A new report claims that councils are not doing enough to tackle rogue landlords, with only around a quarter of complaints about substandard rental homes leading to inspections.

Last week, Conservative MPs rejected an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill that would have forced landlords to ensure properties were fit for human habitation. They argued that councils already have adequate powers to tackle rogue landlords. Read more here: /conservatives-reject-move-to-ensure-rental-homes-are-safe/

However, research conducted on behalf of Labour MP Karen Buck found that councils are not using the powers they have.

Poor living conditions

A survey of 120 local authorities in England revealed that although councils received 51,916 complaints about poor living conditions in 2013, housing officers only inspected 14,043 properties.

The data shows that housing officers were four times more likely to respond informally to complaints, by letter or phone call, rather than issuing a legal notice. On average, each council prosecuted less than one landlord per year.

The report highlights a difference between the amount of potentially life-threatening hazards that councils recorded during inspections and the number of notices that they served; inspectors identified 4,301 category one hazards – such as excess cold or fire risks – but councils only took enforcement action on 3,550 cases.

The growing private rental sector

The private rental sector is now the second largest tenure in the country – about 4.4m households rent from a private landlord, more than double the number recorded in 1996. However, the growing sector is leading to more concerns over the standard of properties being let.

Buck says that it is alarming that there is such a low level of enforcement in the private rental sector: “Far too few of the landlords that let grossly substandard properties can expect to have tough enforcement against them.”

She adds that as the sector grows, it is increasingly being used to house low-income families and homeless people, but that housing officers lack the resources to protect vulnerable tenants.

Councils Not Doing Enough to Tackle Rogue Landlords

Councils Not Doing Enough to Tackle Rogue Landlords

She insists: “The more vulnerable people that go into the private rented sector, the more urgent the need for more resources to protect them.”

The author of the report, Stephen Battersby – a housing consultant – acknowledges that resources are a factor, but believes that councils are too cautious.

“Taking a softly, softly approach to landlords does nothing to discourage those who are undermining the more responsible landlords,” he says. “It is a strategy that has failed.”

He adds: “If a council finds a category one hazard, then the very least they should do is serve a hazard awareness notice. If they don’t then it is a breach of their statutory duties under the Housing Act.”

Enforcement action

In October, new laws were introduced to stop landlords making revenge evictions when a tenant complains about the state of their property. However, tenants are only protected if councils serve improvement notices.

Battersby explains: “Just a letter from the local authority will not stop these evictions. If councils continue their softly, softly approach, it won’t do anything to prevent retaliatory evictions.”

Similarly, local authorities will not be able to use new powers in the Housing and Planning Bill to ban rogue landlords unless they take more enforcement action. Find out more about the banning orders here: /rogue-landlords-to-be-banned-under-the-housing-bill/

Battersby has conducted the survey for the past three years. He observes that enforcement activity has remained at around the same level since 2011.

“While it is a good thing that this report indicates no great drop off in enforcement activity, that still remains very low by comparison with the scale of the problems in the private rented sector,”1 he says.

The Local Government Association claims that councils take complaints seriously, but that enforcement is a last resort.

A spokesperson states: “The private rented sector is growing, and, with limited resources and competing funding pressures, councils are working hard to ensure that complaints from tenants are prioritised and dealt with appropriately.

“Some may be resolved without the need for inspection, and enforcement is a last resort when all other options fail.”1

Cracking down

In July last year, The Guardian and Environmental Health News released a list of convicted landlords, of which there were 2,006 convictions between 2006-14, resulting in fines of just £3m – less than £1,500 for each conviction. 

Data from the Building Research Establishment in 2015 found that 8.4m homes in England have a significant hazard. The annual cost to the NHS of these issues is around £2 billion in England and £2.5 billion for the whole of the UK.

Buck believes that tenants should have the right to sue landlords over uninhabitable conditions, as enforcement levels are too low overall.

“Some local authorities do this very well, but there is a lack of consistency,” she notes. “We need to complement what local authorities do with a power for tenants.”1

There are reports that amendments may be tabled to the Housing and Planning Bill that give tenants the right to sue, when the law passes through the House of Lords.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government insists that the Government is determined to crack down on rogue landlords: “We have brought in legislation to protect tenants from being evicted, provided £6.7m of funding, and introduced selective licensing so councils can target the areas with the worst problems.

“Furthermore, the housing bill strengthens councils’ powers, including enabling them to blacklist landlords who have been convicted of serious offences and seeking banning orders for the most prolific offenders.”1

1 http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jan/18/local-councils-softly-softly-approach-rogue-landlords-poor-living-conditions

 

 

 

 

 

Expert Says Official Guidance on Revenge Evictions Contradicts the Law

Yesterday, ministers published new guidance for the private rental sector, stating that tenants will be able to avoid eviction by complaining about repair issues to the local authority, without telling the landlord or letting agent.

The landlord or agent would not be aware of any issue and thus could not address the problem before the renter instead goes to the local authority.

If the local authority decides to address the issue, the tenant cannot be served with a section 21 notice for six months, at which point the landlord or agent would learn of the problem.

Expert Says Official Guidance on Revenge Evictions Contradicts the Law

Expert Says Official Guidance on Revenge Evictions Contradicts the Law

The allegedly flawed guidance on revenge evictions was described by a lettings expert as “ludicrous”.

He believes the guidance contradicts the legislation.

The footnote to the new guidance reads: “Where the local authority has served an improvement notice or notice of emergency remedial action, the tenant is protected from eviction for six months from the date of service of that notice, regardless of whether they raise the issue with the landlord first.”

However, the law states that the tenants should raise repair issues first with the landlord or agent, who must then give a quick response.

Only if there is no response, or an inadequate one, the tenant can go to the local authority, which might then serve a notice.

The Director of Fixflo – which specialises in reporting repairs – Rajeev Nayyar, says he could not believe what he read in the guidance footnote.

He says: “If the tenant does not have to tell the landlord or agent of a repair issue, how are they expected to remedy a problem they know nothing about?”

He believes that the new guidance is incorrect, “with the potential to lead tenants, landlords and agents, with severe consequences.”

He adds that the guidance seems to have been rushed.

Nayyar continues: “The provisions are premised on the fact that a landlord should not serve a section 21 notice in retaliation for tenants requesting a repair.

“As such, the notification of a repair request by the tenant to their landlord is both conceptually and factually a necessary part of any section 21 process that could be considered retaliatory.

“The guidance states that if the local authority has served an enforcement notice or emergency remedial action notice then a tenant will be provided with protection from eviction for six months from the date of notice irrespective of whether they have first raised the issue with their landlord.

“This conflicts with the legislation, other sections of the guidance and common sense.

“If followed, it has the potential to mislead tenants as to their rights, and agents and landlords as to the necessary steps to better protect their position in light of the change in law.”1 

The footnote is footnote 9 on page 9: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/retaliatory-eviction-and-the-deregulation-act-2015-guidance-note

1 http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/new-bombshell-as-official-new-guidance-on-revenge-evictions-contradicts-the-law/

MP Called the Friend of Rogue Landlords

Published On: December 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm

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A Conservative MP has come under fire from a leading national newspaper following his supposed opposition to the prevention of revenge evictions.

The Independent branded Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, as being “Britain’s most-belligerent MP” after he supposedly “talked out” a proposal to stop these types of evictions by rogue landlords.[1] The newspaper was also unhappy on Davies’ similar actions towards legislation concerning smoking bans, gay rights and overseas aid.

Revenge evictions

So-called revenge evictions are where landlords serve eviction notices on tenants after they have complained about the condition of the property, or have asked for basic improvements to be made.

According to the newspaper, Mr Davies made an hour-long speech, opposing the Tenancies Reform Bill, which was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Teather. If the bill had become law, tenants would have received greater protection against rogue landlords. Despite being defeated, with assistance from Davies, a new version of the legislation will be debated in the House of Lords next month.

MP Called the Friend of Rogue Landlords

MP Called the Friend of Rogue Landlords

Tactical

The Independent has accused Mr Davies of tactically elongating his speech in order to try and prevent support for the bill. During Davies’ speech, the deputy speaker of the House of Commons, said: “He has been talking for a very long time on the same point. He is in danger of repeating the same point continuously, and, dare I say it, repetition can get a bit tedious.”[1]

However, when questioned on his behavior, Mr Davies said: “When I first got elected to Parliament my mentor was Eric Forth [the former Conservative MP] and he really was the past master of talking out bills on a Friday.” He continued by saying that Forth “did it for fun and he was brilliant at it. After he died I vowed I would do the same kind of work.”[1]

[1] http://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/1293-mp-branded-as-the-friend-of-rogue-landlords