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On 11th February, the Government’s amended Deregulation Bill was debated in the House of Lords. The main part of the Bill relates to ‘Retaliation Eviction’, meaning that landlords will not be able to serve a Section 21 notice in England or Wales within six months of the council serving a notice of improvement on a landlord. This would be served if a landlord failed to give an “adequate response” within 14 days of being informed of disrepairs by a tenant. As previously discussed, the issue I still have is that 14 days is not a reasonable enough length of time. A landlord could quite easily be away on holiday, for example. I am in agreement with Lord Ahmed, that 28 days would be a far more realistic timeframe for a landlord to respond. The landlord should not expected to carry out the repairs within this time.
My other concern relates to Councils not having the necessary resources to be able to inspect properties in good time. This is something I addressed in the evidence I provided to The Cross Party Parliamentary committee for the Private Rented Sector at on the 27th October (where the initial Bill was talked out at The Houses of Parliament) as well as dealing with the issues of dis-repairs causing Landlords further delays. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon proposed that landlords should still proceed with the Section 21 possession action at court, and if the council had still not dealt with the issue by the time the judge hears the case, then the tenant would not have a defence to the proceedings on the grounds of retaliation eviction.If a tenant lists disrepair issues after a section 21 notice is served by a landlord, then a landlord can still proceed as normal, ‘Retaliation Eviction’ does not apply. It is very important that landlords keep a paper trail of correspondence they have with tenants in regards to disrepair issues and problems gaining access to inspect the property. It can provide a crucial defence for a landlord at court.
I have always said that the figures issued by Shelter suggesting 213,000 renters have been affected by ‘Retaliation Eviction’ was guess work. If any organisation would know about this, it would be us, as we deal with landlord/tenant issues on a daily basis and have a good handle over the scale of this problem. In reality, the figures are much, much smaller. When we did conduct a survey, only 2% of landlords that used us reported wanting to evict a tenant because they had asked for repairs to be carried out. Much of the time, it is because relationships between the landlord and tenant have broken down or the landlord wishes to evict on other grounds, such as arrears or anti-social behaviour. There are only a small minority of landlords that will exploit tenants, taking rents for properties that are in poor condition and refusing to carry out repairs. I would like to see these landlords named and shamed and councils to take more prosecutions to ban these landlords from renting in the PRS.
I just worry that the majority of good landlords could end up being exploited by tenants playing the system, relying on delays by the councils and courts in order to remain in properties for longer.
The Bill also proposes that a section 21 notice cannot be served at the beginning of a tenancy, but only after the first 4 months. Although the Lords have debated these amendments and it went through on the vote, there is still an opportunity to lobby for amendments, for instance on the 6 month moratorium on Section 21 after the repair notice is served. The Bill still has to go through the Commons and back to the Lords before it gets Royal Assent. Most new law is enacted in either April or October, so it is unlikely to come into force this April as the time is now very tight. We will have to wait and see.
Landlord action was set up by landlords for landlords with problem tenants. That is, tenants who are in rent arrears or break some other part of a tenancy agreement. Landlord & tenant law is a specialist area and we found solicitor charges were too much and too vague. When you have a bad tenant you want to evict them fast. Any landlord would want a bad tenant out. they want advice and help with the law. And that's what we do. We are experts in this area and unlike solicitors, we only act for landlords, never tenants. And we'll help recover the outstanding rent. Our free advice line is open to all landlords and we have carried out thousands of evictions.