Housing

Almost half of tenants face revenge eviction for complaining

Citizens Advice discovered that tenants could be kicked out inside six months for highlighting problems to landlords despite laws against it

Renting Yuki Mok/PA

If you make a complaint to your landlord then you are almost 50 per cent more likely to be turfed out, according to new research into revenge evictions.

The Citizens Advice report found that tenants who complained about issues like damp and mould had an almost one-in-two (46 per cent) chance of being served an eviction notice within six months.

Data also showed that those who received a section 21 ‘no-fault eviction’ notice were five times more likely to have taken their gripe to their local authority, and eight times more likely to have contacted a redress scheme about the issues in their home. About 141,000 tenants are estimated to have been affected since 2015 when laws attempting to ban such evictions were introduced.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The chance of a family being evicted from their home for complaining about a problem shouldn’t carry the same odds as the toss of a coin.

“Those living in substandard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain. Our report shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked and a new fix is needed.

She added: “There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason – known as section 21.”

The charity identified cases such as a mother with two children who had gone to the local council because of a leak in their home which was damaging her husband’s health. She was issued a section 21 eviction notice one day before an Environmental Health inspection was due to take place.

In July, the government revealed plans to write minimum three-year tenancies into law, with the coinciding consultation closing on August 22. The move is supported by the charity, though they said such tenancies should include limits on rent rises to prevent landlords from pricing tenants out.

They also called for no break clauses at six months and for contracts which allow tenants to leave early if their landlord fails to uphold their legal responsibilities.

To force all landlords to dramatically alter their businesses in order to make up for poor enforcement, against a tiny minority of criminals, is disproportionate and would introduce significant new challenges

Chris Norris, director of policy and practice at the National Landlords Association (NLA), has pointed the finger at poor enforcement rather than placing the blame at landlords’ door.

“We all want a private rented sector rid of the kind of rogue operators who would rather evict someone than make a repair,” he said.

“However, this is not an accurate picture of the situation. Landlords increasingly rely on ‘no fault’ evictions as the courts are too clogged up to cope with section 8 possessions claims, and because rises in fees mean it is becoming increasingly expensive, especially as tenants may not be paying rent.”

He added: “In their report, Citizens Advice point to evidence that the law on revenge evictions is not being properly enforced, which may well be the case. However, to force all landlords to dramatically alter their businesses in order to make up for poor enforcement, against a tiny minority of criminals, is disproportionate and would introduce significant new challenges.

“Rather than provide constructive solutions for the problems faced by local authorities and the tenants they serve, the charity has used this report as an opportunity to criticise the very laws they called for only a few years ago.”

Citizens Advice said that the government should review grounds for section 8 evictions (commonly used for tenants who are antisocial or fail to pay rent) to allow landlords to recover the property if they decide to sell.

Images: Yuki Mok/PA

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