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New Law a charter for Anti-social tenants

RLA
Written by RLA

 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…

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.”

Further Information

 

About the author

RLA

RLA

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.

4 Comments

  • This threat comes at a time when some local councils are introducing expensive landlord licensing, with the lame excuse that landlords should prevent antisocial behaviour by their tenants. As landlords have no legal powers like the police or local authorities, eviction is our only solution. This is a very expensive and difficult course of action at present. If this law goes ahead, it will be a double whammy and cause real nightmares for us. We could be fined because we have problem tenants over whom we have no legal control and may not even be able to evict them.

  • I am a landlord but also work for a housing charity, so I see this issue from both sides!
    Two points: firstly if a tenant is in rent arrears, then surely the landlord can issue a Section 8 notice and still gain repossession of the property? It is only a Section 21 notice that will be suspended, not a Section 8. So I do not feel that this is a valid objection to the legislation.
    Secondly, if the property is not in a poor condition, then the local authority will not serve a notice for it to be improved! So if a landlord keeps his property in a good condition, he will not have to worry about this new legislation, as the LA will not serve a notice, and he also has recourse to a Section 8 notice if there are rent arrears! So the legislation may be a wake up call to the small percentage of landlords who do not maintain their property well.
    At the housing charity we are very aware of retaliatory evictions, because certain landlords regularly serve notice once a tenant complains about damp etc!
    To sum up, I don’t think the objections raised by the RLA are totally justified, and sadly I do think that legislation is needed to protect tenants from retaliatory evictions.
    As a landlord I am not concerned about this legislation because my properties are well maintained and I attend to issues raised by tenants promptly.

    • the problem is not just landlord who have properties in poor condition, it is also when tenants do not look after the property or pay the rent, cause damage, then complain to the council without even informing the landlord. In this situation, what is a landlord to do? you want to take away his right to evict these tenants who have caused the damage that he is forced to repair and will probably do again because they know that they can continue to live there for free if they keep this up. Using a Section 8 notice is not as easy as you make out, there is all the onus of proof for the landlord to provide and if the tenant argues that the property is in a poor state there is no guarantee the court will oblige. The reason a Section 21 is useful is that it is a no blame notice. If a property is so bad with structural faults, damp etc would the landlord not have trouble re-renting it?

  • I have been a landlord for over 5 years, in this time have only served notice once. Section 21 is easier that is why landlords use it more often. We had a tenant who damaged our property, owed us a small fortune in rent arrears so our solicitor advised us to serve the section 21. The Tenant was not working so we were not interested in getting 5 pounds a month back through the courts, we just wanted our property back to save it from further damage We had many sleepless nights thinking of what could happen next to our property until the tenant eventually moved out. if I was living in a property that had structural damage or damp, I would not want to stay.
    Everything is in favour of tenants just because of a handful of bad landlords.

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