UPDATE: on 11th February , the House of Lords voted to formally adopt these measures. Although the Deregulation Bill still has one more stage in the House of Lords – and must pass through the time hurdle outlined below – an end to revenge eviction is now official government policy. The Bill will be debated as a whole on 4th March before racing back to the House of Commons to secure royal assent ahead of 30th March. As always, we’ll keep you updated.
Last year, renters spoke; today, the government have listened. They have taken concrete steps to end revenge eviction.
The government have tabled amendments to the Deregulation Bill. These amendments include almost all the measures proposed by the Tenancies (Reform) Bill and raise the prospect of real, meaningful consumer rights for renters.
Tell me more.
In November last year the House of Commons debated Sarah Teather’s Tenancies (Reform) Bill. This bill would have put a stop to revenge eviction in the private rented sector. Despite widespread political support, two Conservative backbenchers scuppered it.
But the story did not end there.
With parliament and the public united in their support for the bill, the Liberal Democrats brought it back to life. They tabled two key amendments to the Deregulation Bill.
Since this point, things have been quiet; my ‘revenge evictions’ Google alert has sent me nothing but Celebrity Big Brother updates since the start of 2015.
That is all about to change.
So what is happening?
The government are responding to the Liberal Democrat amendments by tabling their own. They are taking this opportunity to keep their promise and put an end to revenge eviction.
These amendments will be debated on 11th February. If the House of Lords accepts them, they will become part of the Deregulation Bill and – hopefully – will pass into law when the bill secures royal assent.
Are we happy with the amendments?
On the whole, yes. They are not as strong as Sarah Teather’s bill but they are a big step forward and we will be supporting them.
- The amendments prohibit landlords from serving a no-fault ‘section 21’ eviction notice for 6 months following the issue of a local authority improvement notice. Victims of revenge eviction will now have a right of appeal under these terms.
- We are frustrated by the omission of hazard awareness notices. Under the Tenancies (Reform) Bill, hazard awareness notices were also a trigger for the prohibition outlined above. Without including this form of notice, protection for renters risks being patchy. We will have to work closely with local authorities to make sure this is not the case. And we will keep this issue alive into the next parliament.
- Crucially, the amendments introduce a time-limit on section 21 notices. This important measure was not included in the previous amendments.
- They also provide for secondary legislation, which could prevent landlords from serving a valid section 21 notice before they have given their tenants key information about their rights and responsibilities. This sends a strong signal about professionalising the sector.
Are we there yet?
The amendments need to survive a vote in the House of Lords, and the Deregulation Bill needs to make it through all the necessary parliamentary hurdles before 30th March. On this day the 2010-2015 Parliament is dissolved – and all remaining legislation bites the dust.
You’ll keep hearing from me until this law really is passed and until revenge eviction is outlawed. But make no mistake, today is a big day.
We published our first blog about these measures back in March 2014. And alongside Citizens Advice we’ve been campaigning against revenge eviction since 2007. Over seven years later, we’re still here. But for renters like Rachel, it is so important that we keep fighting.
In 2013, Rachel was diagnosed with cancer. After undergoing surgery, Rachel returned home to find that her heating wasn’t working. She contacted her agent but heard nothing for five months. At her wits end, she contacted her council – who immediately ordered the landlord to fix the problem. Instead of fixing it, he served Rachel with an eviction notice.
We need to stop this from happening. And the government’s announcement is a big step forwards. No, it is not perfect. And yes, we still have a long way to go until we fix private renting. But renters spoke and the government listened.