Revenge evictions

The rental market in the UK is a very positive place to be at present – if you’re a landlord. This time last year average rental growth was running at twice the rate it was in 2012 and in 2014 average rents rose by 6.6%.

Despite schemes such as Help to Buy, the housing market in the UK is still a fairly hostile place for a lot of people and as prices continue to rise and it remains difficult to get a mortgage, the number of people moving into the rental market long term continues to grow. What all this represents is essentially more tenants than there are properties and that’s one of the reasons that UK housing charities are blaming for an increase in the number of revenge evictions.

Our housing law experts have a specialist quality mark from the Legal Aid Agency for housing cases, this means that we will often be able to provide assistance to you free of charge if you qualify for help under the legal aid scheme and are based in the North West of England.

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What is revenge eviction?

A revenge eviction is when a landlord gives a tenant a Section 21 notice to leave in response to a request from the tenant to do something to the property, such as carry out maintenance or repairs. As there is little or no representation of tenants rights in this country – and given the buoyant rentals market – unfortunately this has made tenants disposable in the eyes of some landlords who, rather than work to meet decent standards in their properties, will simply ask a tenant to leave rather than spend money fulfilling requests. With homelessness charities reporting the levels of those without a roof over their heads rising by the month, being evicted represents a very real threat for many people that they will not be able to find somewhere else to live. This is particularly the case for those who come with ‘complications,’ such as a pet or even a family - we are beginning to see increasing numbers of landlords who are opting to fill their properties with childless, pet-less tenants.

According to research by the housing charity Shelter, more than 200,000 people across the country faced a revenge eviction between 2013 and 2014. A survey of around 4,500 tenants carried out by YouGov indicated that many tenants are too afraid of being removed from a property to do anything at all, avoiding asking landlords to repair a simple issue or carry out basic maintenance because they were too worried about being evicted as a result. Of those tenants 41 per cent said that they had been living with mould, 16 per cent were living with electrical hazards and 25 per cent with a leaking roof or windows. The research highlighted many tenants who had been evicted within weeks of asking for a problem to be fixed – one landlord even said it wasn’t “worth his while” to fix an issue and was easier to just get another tenant.

However in October 2015 the Deregulation Bill came into force. The new rules set out in the Deregulation Bill apply if you have an assured shorthold tenancy which started on or after 1st October 2015 or if you signed a renewal tenancy on or after that date.

Under the new rules if your landlord serves you with a Section 21 Notice after you have complained about repairs of the conditions at your property the court can refuse to make a possession order against you if the following apply:

  • You complained about repairs or the conditions of your property in writing
  • Your landlord served a Section 21 notice after you complained
  • You complained to the local authority
  • The local authority sent a Notice of improvement or a Remedial Action Notice to your landlord

Once the local authority serves one of the above notices the Section 21 Notice served by your landlord becomes invalid and the court cannot order possession.

Your landlord will not be able to serve a Section 21 Notice within 6 months of receiving a notice from the local authority.

You must ensure that you complain in writing. The local authority must also serve a notice on your landlord before any court hearing in order for you to successfully defend a possession claim on this basis.

Unfortunately the new rules do not apply to tenancies entered into before 1st October 2015 until October 2018 when the rules will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies. 

They also do not apply if your landlord issues proceedings using a Section 8 Notice on the basis that you have breached the tenancy, for example by not paying your rent. In those circumstances you may be able to bring a counterclaim against your landlord for damages relating to the disrepair to be offset against any arrears.

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