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Retaliatory evictions could be outlawed

Tom Wall17/09/2014 - 13:00

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Ministers have backed Sarah Teather's bill
Ministers have backed Sarah Teather's bill

The government has backed proposals in a private members bill to prevent landlords evicting tenants who complain to local authorities about unhealthy and dangerous conditions.

Former Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather’s bill will stop landlords evicting tenants if EHOs are taking enforcement action or have found category one or two hazards.

The text of the bill has not been finalized yet but Ms Teather’s office told EHN it would stop the use of no-fault Section 21 eviction notices for six months when:

• An improvement notice, a hazard awareness notice, or a notice of emergency remedial action has been issued by a local authority.

• A local authority finds a category one hazard, or two or more category two hazards following a written complaint from a tenant.

• The landlord has not provided a gas safety certificate or energy performance certificate (EPC).

Ms Teather’s office said it was based on the principle that landlords may only serve a Section 21 notice if they are acting lawfully.

DCLG said it had given its backing ‘in principle’ on the condition that the bill ‘only targets bad landlords and cannot be used by tenants to frustrate legitimate evictions’.

Communities minister Stephen Williams said Ms Teather’s bill would help root out a minority of ‘spiteful landlords’ and ensure that tenants are not afraid to ask for better standards in their homes.

‘Our private rental sector is a vital asset, providing a home to 9 million people across the country. So I’m determined to root out the minority of rogue landlords that give it a bad name,’ he said.

‘That’s why we’re backing Sarah Teather’s bill to outlaw revenge evictions once and for all - ensuring tenants do not face the prospect of losing their home simply because they’ve asked for essential repairs to be made.’

Ms Teather said it was completely wrong that some rogue landlords evict tenants simply because they ask for repairs to be carried out.

‘Everyone should have somewhere comfortable and safe to live. But all too often, tenants put up with things like damp, dangerous electrical fittings and mould because they are too scared to complain, ‘ she said.

Bob Mayho, CIEH principal policy officer, said the CIEH very much welcomed the government’s support for the bill.

‘We have been supporting Shelter in their campaign and have helped with the drafting of the bill, while a group of EHPs working in local authorities have been advising on the practicalities of the bill’s proposals,’ he said.

Tenants, he continued, need to feel secure and safe in their homes.

‘The fear of retaliatory eviction is widespread. This fear stops renters from reporting poor conditions - often forcing them to live in substandard properties. This also means that conditions in the private rented sector decline, as landlords and local authorities are not made aware of vital repairs that need to be carried out,’ he said.

In January 2014 Shelter and British Gas carried out a survey of 4,500 private renters. This survey found that one-in-eight tenants have not asked for repairs to be carried out in their home, or challenged a rent increase in the last year because they fear eviction. It also found one-in-50 tenants have been evicted or served with notice in the past year because they complained to their local council or their landlord about a problem in their home. This is equivalent to 213,000 renters.

Mr Mayho added: ‘We believe this Bill will actually help local authorities carry out their core work. Both the LGA and the LGiU used their responses to the government’s review of property conditions in the private rented sector to call for restrictions to the use of Section 21 notices. This Bill has been developed in consultation with the CIEH we believe it will enable our members to work even more effectively.’

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