A Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut?

There has been a recent trend of what have been described as "revenge evictions" by both social and private landlords. As the nickname implies, such evictions are a means of retaliation to a complaint made by the tenant regarding, for instance, the condition of the property or some other obligations of the landlord which they have allegedly failed to adhere to.

This has resulted in a private members Bill being introduced to prevent the threat of "revenge evictions". The Bill is, in principle, being backed by the Government.

Shelter, the housing and homeless charity, have been calling for this Bill for some time and a study carried out by them demonstrated a significant number of tenants facing "revenge evictions". The National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Associations are taking a defensive stance on this issue saying that the scale of the problem is being exaggerated. However, exaggerated or not, the actions of a minority of landlords could well result in new legislation being introduced in order to tackle a problem which can potentially be dealt with by less draconian means. The Government has already invested £6.7 million into tackling this problem, with noticeable success. There has been inspection of over 6,700 properties across 23 different Councils which has resulted in notices being given to landlords to comply with their implied duty to maintain the standard of their property. Further action and prosecution of approximately 1,700 landlords has followed.

The NLA and RLA are certainly arguing that the current approach through Government investment is far more suitable and deals directly with the problems which are at the source of the alleged "revenge evictions".  Any new legislation may well put people off the idea of renting out their property. It would also give problem tenants another means by which to avoid eviction. Furthermore, a threat of eviction is only the first step on the road to actually evicting a tenant. There is a significant burden on landlords to justify why they should recover their property and, even in the event of a possession order being granted, some County Courts can take many weeks to enforce such an order if a tenant refuses to leave.

In the midst of the current housing crisis, the passing of the proposed Bill would be unwelcome news to current and prospective landlords and as such could have a negative effect on the availability of suitable housing in the rental market.

The Bill for the proposed legislation will have its second reading before the House of Commons on 28 November 2014. A further article will follow when there are further developments.

Posted on: 22/09/2014

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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