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Retaliatory eviction - a thing of the past?

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When a landlord evicts a tenant, for asking for repairs to be completed at their property, this is known as retaliatory eviction. Although many landlords are keen to keep their properties in good repair a few either don’t want to or cannot afford the repairs.

According to Shelter one in twelve renters have avoided asking their landlord to repair a problem or improve conditions because they were scared of retaliatory eviction.

This situation has led to the development of the Deregulation Act 2015, which received royal assent on 26 March 2015. This act is designed to, among many other things, prevent retaliatory evictions.

The act covers a number of areas of law and was introduced as a way to ‘cut red tape’. The act includes a provision, not yet in force, designed to restrict private landlords use of a section 21 notice to evict a tenant in a specific set of circumstances, namely when they have complained to the local authority about repairs and or conditions at a property.

The act includes a three part test where by the landlord will not be able to rely upon a section 21 notice:

1.         When a tenant has written to them about disrepair at the property before the notice was served; and

2.         where the landlord has failed to provide an adequate written response within 14 days of the complaint: and

3.         the local authority have issued an improvement notice or an emergency remedial notice following a complaint from the tenant.

This restriction will only be in place for six months following the local authority issuing an improvement or emergency remedial notice. Critics have noted the potential for landlords to fail to complete repairs promptly and then later attempt to issue a section 21 notice after six months have lapsed.

The act includes a number of other restrictions on the use of section 21 notices including restricting the timing of such notices. Landlords will not be able to serve a section 21 notice within the first four months of a fixed term tenancy under the new provisions and a new section 21 notice has been introduced which no longer requires the landlord to specify the last day of the tenancy.

There are also exceptions to the new provisions when a property is genuinely up for sale; the tenant has caused the disrepair or when the local authority notice is revoked.

If your landlord will not complete repairs or make your property safe you can report them to the local authority who may be able to take steps to make your landlord complete the repairs. Our housing department may also be able to assist you with a wide variety of issues, including making your landlord complete repairs. You can contact us using the online enquiry facility and a member of the team will be in touch shortly.

In some situations, where there is a significant risk to health, legal aid is available for disrepair cases and it is worth seeking independent legal advice if you have issues of disrepair at your property or if your landlord starts possession proceedings against you.

As for the end of retaliatory evictions only time will tell how successful the Deregulation Act will be following the provisions coming into force on 1 October 2015. The provisions will initially only apply to new fixed term tenancies entered into from that date. Eventually, the provisions will apply to all tenancies but this will not be for another three years.

By Laura Waby, graduate paralegal in the housing law team