Private tenants who are dissatisfied with the conditions of their private rented homes may lack protection from local government, it has been revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by campaign group Generation Rent. As a result, many could risk being evicted by landlords in what are called “revenge evictions”.
Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, landlords were once fully entitled to evict tenants outside of fixed terms without reason. However, the Deregulation Act 2015 altered this somewhat, stating that, in the event that local councils had placed an improvement notice on a property, landlords were not entitled to evict tenants in such a manner for at least six months.
Despite recent changes to the law, local governments have not granted these improvement notices in a majority of cases where complaints have been made about the state of a property, according to evidence released by Generation Rent.
Lack of local council protection
Between 2017-18, as many as 67,026 complaints were received by local governments about the state of private rented property. However, only 3,043 improvement notices were issued for these properties. The remaining 64,000 cases or so were not deemed in need of improvement, according to the evidence released by Generation Rent.
This means as many as 95 per cent of tenants who complained about living with poor housing conditions, including mould or other severe hazards, may have been denied local government protection. In the worst cases, they may have even faced recriminations for complaining such as higher rent or sudden eviction without reason from their landlords, according to Generation Rent.
Recent changes to the law
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act recently came into force, affording private tenants the right to take landlords to court if they believe they are negligent in ensuring acceptable living conditions.
However, Generation Rent is concerned that the new act doesn’t change the fact that private tenants could still face revenge evictions and has therefore called for Section 21 to be scrapped.
Dan Wilson, director of Generation Rent, explained: “These figures demonstrate that, despite powers and protections, tenants living in squalid homes are being let down by their councils. If landlords are free to evict tenants who complain about disrepair, then we cannot expect the quality of private rented homes to improve.”
He concluded: “The new Homes Act gives tenants with an unreliable council an alternative route to force landlords to fix problems, but they are still at risk of eviction. Tenants have a right to a safe home, but can only exercise it if the government stops landlords from evicting without needing a reason.”