I was a bit concerned today to read in Landlord Today that groups of activists have staged a protest outside a landlord’s home.
It is alleged that the landlord has served a section 21 notice on the tenants because they have complained about damp in their property. If true this would make this a ‘retaliatory eviction’ which is where landlords evict tenants who complain about the poor condition of their property and ask the landlord to put it right.
Now I am not supporting retaliatory eviction in any way, I consider it to be deeply unpleasant. However, unless the anti retaliatory rule in s33 of the Deregulation Act applies (in which case the notice will be invalid) the landlord is within his rights to serve a section 21 notice.
It is always worrying when people decide to take the law into their own hands and threaten individuals. This may (I don’t know) be an unpleasant landlord and his reasons for wanting to evict the tenants may be morally wrong. But it sounds as if he is within the law.
Another article received today, this time in the Negotiator, talks about activists targeting an agency which had served section 21 notices on three tenants allegedly because they had been furloughed.
But here the agency was following the instructions of their landlord. They were doing their job. Having activists demonstrating outside their offices could be deeply distressing for their staff, many of whom will have had nothing to do with the service of the notices.
This pandemic has caused problems for many people, not just tenants. Many tenants rightly fear eviction. However, landlords and letting agents have also had problems. Many landlords have not received any rent for their properties for up to a year or more. It has not exactly been a walk in the park for many letting agents either.
Who is at fault and who should be targeted?
Along with (I suspect) most lawyers, I do not condone targeting people whose actions are within the law.
However, demonstration is, so far as I am aware, a legitimate form of public protest. Who then should the activists’ target?
In the first case, it is reported that the property is suffering seriously from damp. In which case – why is the Local Authority not doing anything about it?
In law, Local Authorities can be asked to carry out an inspection and if the property suffers from any serious hazard, they can take action. Which would include serving an improvement notice. Why have they not done this?
If the improvement notice is ignored then the Council can take further action AND the tenant can apply for a Rent Repayment Order.
Surely this would be a better course of action? So maybe the activists should demonstrate outside the Council Offices asking why no improvement notice has been served? Always assuming that the tenant has gone to them for help and they have not done anything.
In point of fact, no tenants whose landlords have served section 21 notices on them are actually going to be evicted any time soon. Some predict that it could take landlords up to a year or more to obtain vacant possession. So these tenants are in no immediate risk of eviction.
Many of the problems with rented property today are down to inadequate enforcement by Local Authorities. Surely activists should concentrate on this?
Rather than target letting agents – who are just following instructions, and the landlords who will probably take no notice. As they are not, technically, doing anything against the law.
What do you think?