On Friday 28th November MP’s heard a parliamentary bill aimed at putting an end to landlords ‘revenge evicting’ tenants who complained about their property.
That bill did not become law because two Conservative MPs filibustered and stopped the debate which would have ended in the bill becoming law.
Philip Davies MP, a landlord himself, talked for an hour on various subjects including his party’s 1987 manifesto. He was eventually stopped from talking by the speaker of the House of Commons but then he handed on the baton to Christopher Chope, another MP. Ultimately the two of them talked so long the bill ran out of time and will not become law.
The bill had received support across both parties and also (on the face of it) had government backing. The government had said it was behind the bill that sought to:
“Outlaw revenge evictions once and for all — ensuring tenants do not face the prospect of losing their home simply because they’ve asked for essential repairs”.
The idea was that tenants complaining about serious problems with their rented property would enjoy protection from simply being evicted just because they had complained. Whether or not ‘revenge evictions’ are a serious problem remains open to debate.
The National Landlords Association supports the principle of preventing misuse of possession procedures, however they do not accept that so called ‘revenge eviction’ is common practice.
Shelter on the other hand suggests that, in the last year, 2% of renters in the private rented sector have been victims of revenge evictions. With nine million renting privately, that equates to almost 200,000 people during 2013.
The vast majority of landlords look after their properties and arrange repairs when problems arise, but a small percentage of rogue landlords use section 21 to evict tenants in retaliation for them asking their landlord to bring the property up to scratch.
If the bill had passed, landlords who wanted to give tenants a Section 21 notice requiring the tenants to leave would be made to wait for six months if the tenant had lodged a complaint about the property.
A section 21 notice is a no-fault eviction, allowing landlords to serve notice in line with section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy without showing grounds or any other reason why the landlord requires possession.
The change in the law would not have prevented landlords evicting tenants who were in arrears on their rent. Those tenants could still have been evicted under Section 8 of the same act.
It was not just the government who wanted action on this matter. The National Landlords Association supported the principle of preventing misuse of the possession procedures. However they did not accept that so called ‘revenge eviction’ was common practice.
Sometimes it is the tenant themselves who has caused the problem or the landlord has not been given access to the property to effect repairs. Indeed, many decent landlords feel frustrated when their tenants fail to report problems. Many only discover that there is a serious issue with the property at the end of a tenancy, and in the time it takes to fix the problem, they lose out on rental income.
There are unquestionably some bad landlords who do indulge in ‘revenge eviction’, but there is already quite a lot of legislation in place to keep such ‘rogue landlords’ in line. It unlikely for example that these rogue elements would comply with legislation relating to tenant deposits. Deposits must be held in an approved scheme and some local authorities insist that landlords in their area obtain a licence before letting out a property. Failure to deal with both procedures satisfactorily can result in a fine and may prevent a landlord from obtaining possession in any event.