Bill to prevent landlord “revenge evictions” could become law

Bill to prevent landlord “revenge evictions” could become law

Commercial Litigation solicitor, Sarah Coates-Madden, takes a look at how pressure is growing for change under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and the implications to local landlords.

Recently Housing Charity, Shelter, reported that 213,000 people, around 2% of renters were subject to “revenge evictions” in 2013.  This so-called retaliation or revenge eviction happens when a tenant in the private rented sector reports disrepair or poor conditions, and their landlord then serves them with a Section 21 Notice requiring possession of the property. 

The Section 21 Notice is a “no-fault” notice which was introduced in order to give landlords greater flexibility to obtain possession of their properties.   The tenant does not need to have done anything wrong to be served with a Section 21 Notice.  

A change in the law on Section 21 Notices is expected soon, but was held up by MPs on Friday 28th November 2014.  A private members’ bill aimed at giving tenants protection from revenge evictions had its second reading last Friday, but despite having cross-party support and government backing insufficient numbers of MPs turned up to vote.  The debate was also “filibustered” by two conservative MPs, which left no time for the vote.  The bill will be debated again this Friday 5th December 2014, but the news for landlords is that it is now unlikely to become law before the end of this Parliamentary term.

If passed restrictions could be imposed on the circumstances in which a Section 21 Notice may be served. Under the proposed legislation, tenants could notify local authorities to intervene where they think they have evidence that a revenge eviction is taking place. 

Landlords would not be able to serve a valid Section 21 Notice within 6 months of a local authority having confirmed a tenant’s complaint about poor conditions is genuine, or having issued an improvement notice to a private sector landlord.  Neither will it be possible to serve a valid Section 21 Notice if a gas certificate is not in place.

So what are the implications?

From a local perspective, private sector landlords outside of very high demand areas such as London and the South-East may query the scale of the problem caused by so-called “revenge evictions” and the need for this legislation.  Landlords rely to a large extent on their tenants reporting issues to them and may be concerned that a tenant will make a report to the local authority before giving the landlord a chance to remedy the problems.  Many landlords already feel it is difficult and costly enough to obtain possession of a property, and are fed up with being tarred with the “rogue landlord” brush. 

As reassurance for landlords, the proposals will not prevent landlords from seeking possession on other grounds, such as rent arrears, for which a different type of notice is served.  However, the alternative proceedings can be more complex and costly and take longer for landlords than the Section 21 route. 

The bill has many stages of debate and amendment to pass through if it is to become law, and the full detail of the legislation will not be known until then. 

Please contact Sarah Coates-Madden, Commercial Litigation Solicitor, Gosshchalks who specialises in advising private residential landlords if you have any concerns over these changes.

Need advice? We can help you

Sarah Coates-Madden specialises in advising private residential landlords and regularly works with them on the preparation and service of notice and court possession proceedings.

Call her today on 01482 324252 or email scm@gosschalks.co.uk if you have any concerns over these changes.

You can find out more about our Housing Litigation services here.

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