Tenants complaining about conditions rarely given protection against revenge evictions

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 March 2019

Housing campaigners are calling for better protection for tenants. Picture: Ben Birchall

Housing campaigners are calling for better protection for tenants. Picture: Ben Birchall

PA Archive/PA Images

Just six per cent of tenants who complain to Newham Council about bad housing conditions get protection against revenge evictions, figures reveal.

Housing campaign group Generation Rent has warned that local authorities are failing to use their full powers to protect renters.

Data obtained by Generation Rent, through a Freedom of Information request, shows that Newham Council received 877 complaints from renters claiming sub-standard living conditions, between April 2017 and March 2018.

However, the local authority only issued 52 improvement notices to landlords.

Current regulations allow landlords to evict tenants without a reason, which is known as a section 21 eviction.

But section 21 evictions are invalid for six months if the council serves an improvement notice on the property.

This is designed to stop so-called revenge evictions, which is where landlords kick out tenants in reponse to complaints about living conditions.

An improvement notice legally requires landlords to make safety repairs to their property, and if they don’t they can be fined or prosecuted.

Councils normally only issue one if there is a severe hazard, such as mould or broken stairs.

Even among the 156 homes with serious hazards, Newham Council only issued improvement notices in 33.3pc of the cases.

Cllr John Gray, deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing, said: “Newham has led the way in tackling bad landlords and driving up standards across the private rented sector.

“We take all complaints made by tenants seriously and we will always investigate and do whatever is in our power to ensure issues are resolved.

“These figures alone do not demonstrate the significant work Newham carries out to tackle poor standards in private rented housing. Improvement notices are only one of the many enforcement tools we use.

“In 2017/18, we served 174 notices directly related to property standards as well as issuing 102 financial penalties and sent 115 housing crimes for prosecution.”

We also issued 10 prohibition orders and two emergency remedial action notices. In some cases, there is no need for enforcement action and disputes are resolved informally between landlord and tenant, without the need to serve notices.”

In total, 99 councils responded to Generation Rent’s FoI requests about landlord complaints.

Overall, only one in 20 tenants who complained received protection against revenge evictions.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, said tenants living in squalid conditions are being let down by councils.

He said: “If landlords are free to evict tenants who complain about disrepair, then we cannot expect the quality of private rented homes to improve.

“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 tenants without needing a reason.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said laws created to stem revenge evictions have not been effective.

She said: “The chance of a family being evicted from their home for complaining about a problem shouldn’t carry the same odds as the toss of a coin.

“Our research shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked, and a new fix is needed.”

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