The Tenancies (Reform) Bill, the so called revenge eviction Bill, Sarah Teather’s Private Members Bill which failed in its second reading last Friday has been rescued by Lib Dem members of the House of Lords.
The Bill, which aims to restrict private landlords from evicting tenants that complain about repair issues is, ironically, to be added as an amendment to the Deregulation Bill.
Revenge evictions occur when private sector landlords allegedly “throw out” tenants who complain about their homes’ conditions.
Sarah Teather’s Bill apparently has garnered cross-party support and the backing of London mayor Boris Johnson, following a concerted media campaign from homeless charity groups such as Shelter, Crisis, Citizens Advice, Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, the NUS and Generation Rent.
However, landlord groups have serious concerns about the proposed new legislation which they claim would be a charter for rouge tenants to avoid eviction when responsible landlords have good cause to do so.
They say it is not clear from the drafting of the initial Bill how this can be made to work and that it would put intolerable pressure on the already overworked and under resourced council inspection and court systems.
The Bill has received strenuous opposition from landlord association membership groups including the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
A spokesman for NLA has said:
“The NLA has always been concerned that there is not the weight of evidence to justify the need for additional legislation.
“It seems the majority of MPs share these reservations given that so few were present to vote for it.
“Retaliatory eviction, if and where it does happen, is an unacceptable and completely unprofessional response. Tenants should be able to raise issues with their landlords without the fear of losing their home. However, the Tenancies (Reforms) Bill is a response more to the fear of it happening than widespread experience”.
Commenting on the amendment, Alan Ward, chairman of the RLA said:
“The RLA shares concerns about the need to tackle retaliatory evictions and condemns any landlord who engages in such practices.
“Rather than pile yet more regulations on the sector, what is needed is better enforcement of existing powers which hard pressed councils already find difficult to enforce.
“Tenants need better information about their rights and responsibilities. That would give many the confidence to complain about a minority of landlords who have no place in private rented sector.”
The Lib Dems claim that the move for an amendment in the House of Lords will give another opportunity for the measures to become law during current parliament. But with an election approaching fast, some argue there is a danger that this important measure for landlords and tenants could be cobbled together and rushed through.
The amendment has been signed by Lib Dem Peers Baroness Bakewell, Baroness Grender, Lord Stoneham and Lord Tope and will be considered by the House of Lords early in the New Year.
Baroness Bakewell has said:
“Lib Dems want to make sure that no one is made homeless. Sarah Teather, Stephen Williams and many others have worked too hard to have this issue fall because of archaic procedure, this is about real people, not procedural games. That is why it is right we seek to add the proposals to ban retaliatory evictions in a different Bill.
“The government has already said that they accept the principles of Sarah’s Bill and we look forward to working with them on this amendment to make sure that the proposals make it into law.
“Sarah, Stephen Williams and organisations such as Shelter have done incredible work on this issue and we praise their work and the work of all our MPs in the Commons in fighting for the rights of those left at the whim of unscrupulous landlords.”
This proposed amendment to the Deregulation Bill continues the line of the original Private Member’s Bill in that six months protection for tenants that have raised a complaint with their council about repair issues in their accommodation would delay eviction for at least 6 months, and it would include some safeguards and exemptions for responsible landlords.
It is possible that more clauses could be added when the government and the opposition get the opportunity to table their own amendments to the bill.
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) December 5, 2014