Landlords are opposing fresh attempts at legislation which could become a charter for anti-social and rent dodging tenants. The Residential Landlords’ Association say the plans to address so-called ‘retaliatory evictions’ also risks stunting the only part of the housing market that is growing. Instead the sector needs to attract further investment to meet ever growing demand.
A Government amendment to the Deregulation Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords on 11th February, raises the prospect of landlords being unable to swiftly remove tenants who are failing to pay their rent or committing anti-social behaviour.
Under the amendment, landlords would have a Section 21 notice suspended when a tenant makes a written complaint about conditions in a property and a local authority then serves a notice to improve on the landlord. This would make it almost impossible for a landlord to regain possession of their property when a tenant commits anti-social behaviour or fails to pay their rent and the Section 21 notice is served at the same time as the local authority decides to take action on the complaint raised by the tenant.
This is why the RLA has been calling for the law to make clear that a link has to be made between the complaint and the issuing of a Section 21 notice rather than it having been issued for another legitimate reason.
The amendment follows a previously failed attempt to introduce a Retaliatory Evictions Bill in the Commons.
The RLA condemns any attempts by landlords to engage in retaliatory evictions and says that the proposed legislation is not necessary as sufficient laws already exist to protect tenants.
Instead, what is proposed could have damaging potential consequences.
The idea was considered by the Law Commission in 2008 but was rejected. Martin Partington, a former Law Commissioner, has said: “…we concluded that it would just not work in practice. There would be tremendous problems of proof and the cost of any litigation would be prohibitive.”
A report by Shelter Cymru and Citizens Advice Bureau on retaliatory evictions in Wales in 2013 pointed out, landlords need time to raise investment to minimise the likelihood of extreme rent rises. This report also argued that illegal evictions could increase as a result of a change in the law.
As MPs on the Communities and Local Government select committee pointed out when they considered the issue: “We are not convinced, however, that a legislative approach is the best or even an effective solution. Changing the law to limit the issuing of section 21[possession] notices might be counter-productive and stunt the market.”
RLA chairman Alan Ward said:
“We have always been vehemently opposed to any landlord who commits a retaliatory eviction. But we believe this latest proposal is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, with very little evidence to suggest that there is a widespread problem.
“Our survey of landlords last year underlined the fact that landlords are very reluctant to evict their tenants and when they do it’s usually for significant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.
“This legislation would bring more administrative burdens for landlords, and would hamper their efforts to manage their homes responsibly. It could threaten the growth of a sector which has become increasingly vital to meeting our country’s housing needs.”
The RLA is arguing for an alternative approach, building on existing rights which already protect tenants.
“We don’t need more laws in place when there is already strong protection for tenants. But what we do need is better information for tenants so they know what to do if they have a problem,” said Mr Ward.
“We are therefore pleased to see that the Government’s amendment provides for this and we look forward to working with Ministers and others to improve tenant understanding of their rights and responsibilities.”
- The Government’s amendment to the Deregulation Bill can be found here.
- The RLA’s detailed concerns are can be read here.
- Details of the RLA’s member’s survey on the issue can be found here: Landlords do not evict tenants without reason, new research shows.