A year to change the law

Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister gave a speech about housing. You may have noticed that Shelter had a lot of opinions about that speech…

But amidst the detail on Starter Homes, David Cameron proudly announced that his government are putting an end to revenge eviction:

“What’s more, we are outlawing ‘retaliatory evictions’, so tenants don’t face the prospect of losing their home simply for asking that repairs be made.”

And today, they did just that. The Deregulation Bill passed its final hurdle in the Houses of Parliament. Revenge eviction will soon be against the law.

Those of you who have been with us on this journey, will know it has been lengthy and complicated.

On 12th March 2014 we launched the ‘9 million renters’ campaign – almost a year ago to the day. This campaign had one simple ask: to stamp out revenge eviction in the private rented sector.

Working with our front-line advisers; our legal team; and our friends at Citizens Advice and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) we devised a legislative solution.

Since then, we’ve seen:

  • A private members bill (July 2014): a political opportunity – thanks to Sarah Teather MP – that the government could not ignore.
  • Heartbreak (November 2014): a bump in the road – courtesy of Mr Chope and Mr Davies.
  • A lifeline (December 2014): another political opportunity – thanks to the Liberal Democrat front bench in the House of Lords.
  • A government bill (February 2015): a further government commitment to securing legislative change.
  • A brand new law, outlawing revenge eviction (March 2015).

In the space of a year, we’ve changed the law.

This has been the product of a lot of hard work, by a lot of people: Shelter and our wonderful supporters; Sarah Teather MP; the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG); parliamentarians from all the major political parties; and a broad coalition of organisations.

By working together to seize opportunities and overcome barriers, this appalling practice has finally received the political attention it deserves.

It is not the panacea to fix private renting, but make no mistake – it is a significant step change.

But not only that, we’ve witnessed a seismic shift in political attitudes too.

To get an idea of how much has changed in a year: when this campaign started, it was called ‘9 million renters’. According to the latest English Housing Survey, there are now 11 million renters in England. Over 1.5 million families with children rent their home from a private landlord.

Politicians can no longer afford to ignore the daily struggle that many renting families face.

Labour have put reform of the private rented sector at the heart of their offer to voters, pledging to introduce longer-tenancies in their first Queen’s Speech. David Cameron used a major campaign speech to solicit the votes of renters. And the Liberal Democrats have been quick to capitalise on their efforts to end revenge eviction.

What next?

  • The Deregulation Bill will receive formal Royal Assent at the end of March, just before Parliament dissolves for the General Election.
  • It will then need a commencement order to bring it into force – this will happen after the General Election, probably in October 2015.
  • Before this happens, we’ll do everything we can to educate tenants of their new rights – and landlords of their new responsibilities.
  • But most importantly, we need to keep campaigning. Renters are now a political force to be reckoned with – and there is a lot more for us to do. A lot of promises have been made ahead of the General Election. Let’s use the next Parliament to hold politicians to account and make sure everyone who rents privately has a safe, stable home.
  1. It was a good win Martha.
    Sneaked it in the back door using the same kind of dirty tricks as the Tory filibusters.
    But what will be the consequences?
    This will only make it harder for the most vulnerable to get a tenancy.
    And landlords have already worked out the ways around it.

    1. So you’re a landlord then? When you consider the ridiculous rents some landlords think they can charge its easy to see what the real barrier to getting a tenancy is. Rent caps based on floor space can easily fix that though again, landlords won’t like it as they don’t like this.

      1. Dan, impose rent caps and landlords will just select low risk tenants.
        Once again, vulnerable tenants will lose out.

        1. So…Put a high, value-based tax on empty property.

  2. Following Royal Assent of this Bill I’ve read that some of the legislation, in particular sections regarting tenancy deposits, come into force immediately. But other sections including retaliatory eviction and s21 changes will need a commencement order?

    Could Shelter shed any light on this because I for one am confused about when each section of this Act will take effect??

    1. Hi Paul,

      Different parts of the Act come into force at different times. As you mentioned, the new tenancy deposit requirements are already in force: they were launched with Royal Assent on 26th March.

      We’re expecting a Commencement Order bringing the retaliatory eviction provisions in to force on 1st October 2015. This may change and will depend on the plans of the next government.

  3. All parts of Acts of Parliament require Commencement Orders which can be done in several tranches, not all in numerical order, The new deposit rules were mainly introduced to” correct” current law following from unexpected decisions of the higher courts and can be implemented fairly easily.

    The Retaliatory Eviction provisions being totally new legislation are likely to require guidance and explanatory notes and possibly new Regulations that help to provide meanings and definitions (Secondary legislation) They are approved by a minister so will have to wait for a new one to be appointed.

    I have read on a landlord blog that that the eviction provisions are due to come into force on 1 October but so far I have not been able to find any announcement from the Dept for Local Govt press site.

    Just as an aside, some sections of new laws passed by Parliament are never brought into force, which seems a bit of a waste of time!

  4. A Commencement Order ( No 1) was issued the day following the Royal Assent. The retaliatory eviction provisions wil be in force on 1 October 2015

  5. Thanks Colin and Martha that’s really helpful thank you.

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