There is a new report out from Shelter with proposals regarding the problem of ‘retaliatory eviction’.
Retaliatory eviction is where landlords ‘retaliate’ against tenants who make complaints, for example regarding the poor condition of their property, by evicting them.
This does undoubtedly happen – which is of course unacceptable. It is a problem that has been around for a long time.
Two important questions however are:
- how prevalent is the problem in reality, and
- what is the best way of dealing with it?
How prevalent is the problem?
This is a difficult question. How can one accurately assess the number of people who don’t complain?
Shelter make the point in their report (which I have not read in detail) that 61% of renters have experienced some sort of serious disrepair issue with their property in the past 12 months.
However the figures produced by Shelter are challenged by landlords organisations, for example see this thread on the Property 118 site.
The truth probably lies somewhere between the two, but until we have a proper register of rented properties we are all guessing to a certain extent.
What is the best way of dealing with the problem?
Inevitably the tenants organisations want restrictions on the use of s21 by landlords where tenants complain about the condition of their property.
Shelter’s recommendations, which are set out on p15 of their report, are
Renters who report poor conditions to their landlord and are subsequently served with a Section 21 Notice, should have the right to appeal the eviction notice.
An Improvement Notice or Emergency Remedial Action served by a local authority should automatically prohibit a Section 21 Notice,
A Hazard Awareness Notice served by the local authority should also automatically prohibit a Section 21 Notice from being served.
Shelter say that these proposals would also help landlords, as it would encourage tenants to report problems so landlords can deal with them quicker.
They also propose an exception where landlords want to sell:
We also recommend that landlords who wish to sell their property would still be able to issue a Section 21 Notice, provided they could produce documents clearly evidencing a binding exchange of contracts to ensure that the proposed sale is genuine.
These proposals may well be effective but at what cost? Would they discourage landlords from renting? We need a strong private rental sector.
In particular the first proposal could allow ‘devious tenants’ to make false complaints to landlords specifically to make it more difficult for landlords to evict them.
And if the problem is as serious as Shelter allege, why should landlords seeking to sell their property be let off? They may be selling to another company owned by the landlord.
My personal view is that we should introduce a mandatory licensing system, as described in my free ebook >> here along with mandatory accreditation for landlords and letting agents. Non accredited landlords would have to let their properties via an accredited agent.
This would force those involved in managing property to be properly qualified and regulated. THEN prohibitions on the use of section 21 could be introduced – as I discuss >> here.
The reason why I think registration and accreditation are the way to go is because the provision of housing – ie people’s homes – is an important social service. It should not be left to amateurs with no training or understanding of the issues and legislation involved.
You can read Shelters report >> here.