An end to revenge eviction is back on the table

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.

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17 Comments
  1. From a skim of the proposals I am not sure that it will be as viable as the original Bill.

    There is still significant opposition to the proposals although ironically the RLA says that it welcomes them, however they then go on to state

    “This potentially becomes a substantial lawyer’s charter, bogging tenants and landlords in court processes that are already unable to cope with the volume of work they have at present. The RLA therefore calls on the Government to undertake a review on the capacity and ability of the courts and local authorities to process the extra work that this would inevitably entail.”

    So in effect they oppose them. If the amendment is approved in the Lords it has to go back to the Commons for agreement. Unless the main parties put on a whip it could still fail.

    I have to say, that in a rare agreement with the RLA, I think the amendment confuses rather than clarifies. Of course the RLA in principle opposes any new legislation for the private sector, unless it provides them with an even faster eviction process than at present.

  2. Thank you very much for the update and explanation. However, it might be too late to help me – I am in that situation right now. I complained about the lack of heating and what happened? – you are right.

  3. As both a tenant & a landlord I think this is a pointless exercise & agree with the RLA that it will be a lawyers charter, we have 1 house & 2 of the 4 tenants we have had have racked up rent arrears, upset the neighbours & left the house a complete mess costing hundreds of pounds to fix. one tenant did complain about a fence panel being down, but then I explained that as she was 6 months in arrears I couldn’t afford to fix it.
    Why do they need it? the local government Depts. have the power to sort a lot of these issues already.
    What happens if a landlord has a bad tenant? the tenant will just damage the house & say it is revenge eviction, Then the Lawyers get rich & future rents have to go up to cover legal costs.
    Every action has an equal & opposite reaction.

    1. Rob, You make a reasonable, though inapplicable point in relation to the issues of rent arrears, and in particular the complaint by the tenant of the fence panel being blown down.
      The regulations preventing use of the S21, would not apply in relation to a broken fence. The regs are concerned with hazards or disrepair that are considered to be Cat 1 or 2 matters. .Broken fences would not in anyway be something that would prevent a S21 being in force. The restrictions on use also require an LA involvement.

      There is not an LA in the country that would consider it either legal or reasonable to issue a statutory enforcement notice on such an issue. If an LA did do so it would be a good subject of an Ombudsman complaint. EHOs are not under an obligation in any event to issue an enforcement notice even if there is a Cat 2 hazard if they do not think it reasonable to do so.

      A good or fair minded landlord who maintains property management records, including notes of emails, texts, telephone calls and notes will be able to convince a judge not to strike out a S21 claim. In this instance it should even be possible for a landlord to act successfully as a litigant in person as the dispute is likely to be about matters of fact, rather than law.

    2. You had the power to evict the tenant who was 6 months behind in her rent and regardless of whether she pays or not, it is your obligation to do necessary maintenance. You just said you had 4 tenants living in one house, so for the sake of the 2 that were paying rent you should have fixed the fence. Kicking out the 2 non-payers is up to you. Why didn’t you do that? Perhaps you were being kind to them?

  4. Hi Rob
    below , I can understand your point , you see I am in court at the moment
    with a section 21 (4)a Notice , thanks to shelter with help I got involved
    in the Law of the housing acts and use it to place it under a directions
    hearing for 10th March 2015 , the point is I have a rouge
    Landlord even to the point of placing fraudulent papers into the court
    (TDS) and more and what I want is to go to a high court . When we
    leave this place I bet the landlord will mess up the house and blame it on us, but this I am going to cover with video and pictures and an independent witness before we leave the house, you do get bad tenants but sometimes there is more than one side to the story tenants react to the landlords requirements in most cases and if you pick the right tenants in the first place why should it go the wrong way between landlord & tenant , it’s about time the government at least did something about section 21 Notices , if a good landlord works within
    the housing acts they should not have to worry about any changes to the housing acts, bad tenants will have to worry. Just building my own campaign take a look at tenantsnightmare.website

  5. Excellent news, but we still have a long way to go, and we must keep pushing. How about the tenants where formal local authority action is not taken? In three years, I have been served a s21 three times, after the 12 months had ended. I had not approached the council, as there were no repairs issues. Rent paid on time, and property kept immaculate. The paradox is that I am an environmental health practitioner and building surveyor. S21 needs to be abolished completely, or at least very strong measure put in place such as two months rent free period, to cover the cost of moving. And, extra measure when schoolchildren are involved. There is a subtle campaign by landlords and letting agents to lower the status of private renters, that shows in so many ways, such as not being able to obtain a personal loan due to being in private rented. Let us push for the abolition of s21. There are enough voices, raise this at a high level. Would people react if mortgage companies started repossessing homes for no reason? Yes, there would be a national outcry. Politicians often see tenants as a ‘lower class’. That they are not so intelligent, and that they do not have so much cashflow. Discussion welcomed, and more than happy to be interviewed professionally.

    1. Neil,
      Why would a landlord want to get rid of a perfectly good tenant without very good reason?
      If they wanted to put up the rent after 12 months it is easy and legal to do so.
      Much easier than the time, hassle and cost of evicting, having an empty property and moving in a new tenant.
      Your post just doesn’t add up.

      1. Hi Glen,
        Thank you for your response, and it sounds like you are a landlord, as you are clearly defending the landlords. My post does add up, and I resent that you have tried to infer that I have acted otherwise. What does not add up, is that we have a very broken private rental market, very few powers that actually defend the tenant, and that landlords see private renting purely for monetary reasons. When they think that they are not getting a return, they evict. Also, as the thread of this discussion is about retaliatory eviction, take a moment to ponder. One property had a damp issue, not actionable by an EHO, but it caused damaged to a parquet floor. The issue was an inadequate damp proof membrane. I am a surveyor, and provided the diagnosis. The landlord did not want a tenant who raised issues, and only wanted a ‘quiet’ tenant. Returns for profits are estimated on the minimum of repairs costs, and when landlords face large repair bills, they evict. Also, if there had been a real issue with me as a bad tenant, then the landlord could have taken other action. One letting agent actually did stand up for me, but the landlord was adamant. I have had three section 21s in three years. Yes, a lot does not add up with private renting. One landlord wanted to increase the rent by 10% after nine months, the other, to sell the house, for no reason other than profit. The typical accidental landlord does not add up.

        1. Neil,

          None of those were retaliatory evictions.
          Of course landlords are renting out properties for monetary reasons, why else would they be doing it?
          You agreed to a 12 month contract and the contract ended.
          If you want a longer fixed term tenancy, then negotiate, commit to it and pay for it.
          You aren’t a victim here.

    2. ” I have been served a s21 three times, after the 12 months had ended. ”

      Was this by a letting agency? May be they want you out, so they can get commission for re-letting the property. They would tell the landlord, the tenant is going.

      As a Landlord I prefer it tenants stay a long time.

  6. I think that Shelter has lost the plot, just look at the housing changes
    in the deregulation bill, Landlords have been putting forward amendment
    after amendment to the point where Tenant protection is almost
    completely lost
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2014-2015/0095/lbill_2014-20150095_en_1.htm
    Shelter should have been making representations to the Lords as and
    when these were made by subsribing to the changes. The Labour Party is
    also guilty of ignoring this. The idea of this legislation was to
    address Superstrike but it has not been a Landlords desire bill. Just
    remember I warned you.

  7. I absolutely agree that rogue landlords should be legislated against. But what about the responsible landlords who end up with tenants who trash the place and don’t pay rent? Referencing

    1. Shelter is a charity helping those at risk of homelessness, landlords aren’t at high risk of being made homeless, common sense really.

  8. “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.”

    This is a sad story. No one can live without heat. Most tenants would have stopped paying the rent.

    I don’t understand why the landlord would refuse to repair the boiler, since it would be cheaper to get the boiler fixed rather then pay a month’s rent in commission to a letting agent.

    Even if prospective tenant came for viewing, Rachel would have told them the boiler does not work.

    With a council notice, the landlord would still have to repair the boiler, even with a new tenant.

  9. The problem with Shelter, Environmental Health Officer and Citizen Advice Bureaux, is they only hear from tenants. None of these organisations will help Landlords who have issues. So how can they have an objective view of private renting?

  10. I am so pleased revenge eviction is being addressed! But what i dont understand is that if landlords “do not need a reason” how will this be really effective ?
    Surely the “no reason” evictions are what need to be abolished!

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