Regular readers of this blog will know how much we care about tackling retaliatory eviction. As we’re once again focusing on our ‘9 million renters campaign’ I thought it would be helpful for me to explain in more detail why reforming Section 21 eviction notices makes so much sense- and why the Government should take decisive action now.
1) The reforms Shelter- and many others- have proposed are good for renters and landlords.
We are calling for Section 21 eviction notices to be reformed, so that renters who report poor conditions to their landlord or local authority are protected from retaliatory action. Section 21 notices are what landlords can use to evict renters after the fixed period of their tenancy has ended. A landlord can serve one of these notices without having to give any reason for doing so.
This would be simple and easy to introduce, yet would dramatically improve England’s private rented sector. This is particularly important at a time when more and more people are renting (and so more and more voters are renters) and the Government is keen to attract institutional investors into the sector.
Let me elaborate.
Reforming Section 21 eviction notices, so that they are correctly served and not used in retaliation would:
- Directly target rogue landlords. Only rogue landlords engage in retaliatory eviction. The reforms being proposed will only affect landlords when they actually carry out this shameful practice. No additional burden or regulation will be placed on good landlords.
- Improve life for good landlords. Renters do fear retaliatory eviction, as a result they often do not notify their landlords about poor conditions. This can mean that the value of the property depreciates, or that a serious Category 1 hazard develops- without the landlord having the chance to do anything about it. By giving renters the confidence to report problems, good landlords will be better able to maintain the standard of their property. These reforms will also improve the reputation of the sector, ensuring that good, reputable landlords are not tarnished.
- Make English law consistent. Landlords who have not protected their tenants’ deposit or have not licensed their property when they are required to do so are already prevented from serving a Section 21 notice. These reforms are simply applying the same principle to poor conditions and clarifying the circumstances under which a landlord can legitimately serve a Section 21 notice.
- Bring England into step with the international private rented sector. Most countries that use the Assured Shorthold Tenancy model (6 or 12 month fixed term contracts) have inbuilt protection from retaliatory action. These reforms are modelled on regulations that already exist in Australia, New Zealand, and across the United States.
2) We believe that the political appetite for tackling this issue firmly exists.
These reforms have support from a very broad coalition and they have been gathering momentum for some time. As far back as 2007 Shelter and Citizens Advice called for reform of Section 21 eviction notices.
Organisations as diverse as the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, the Chartered Institute for Housing, Electrical Safety First, the Greater London Authority, the Local Government Association, the Local Government Information Unit, Generation Rent, the Association of Tenancy Relations Officers, a range of local authorities and a number of landlords have all called on the government to protect renters from retaliatory eviction.
And, to its credit, the Government has recently proposed taking some form of action to tackle retaliatory eviction. They used their review of property conditions in the private rented sector to explore the issue. Now we need that exploration to become concrete action.
Since October 2013 the Department for Communities and Local Government have been rolling out a programme of private renting reform:
- They have legislated to make letting agents more accountable (and will be legislating to make their fees more transparent).
- They have called for the introduction of ‘family friendly tenancies’ that will improve stability for renting families.
- They have released a ‘How to Rent’ guide for renters and landlords.
- And they are introducing a new property management code of practice.
Implementing reforms to Section 21 eviction notices would be in keeping with this programme. These reforms would improve the reputation of the sector and make it more secure for families, weeding out rogue landlords without burdening the good ones.
So really, what’s to lose?