This time its Citizens Advice targeting landlords over section 21 evictions. This follows last week’s attack on letting agents by Shelter and the National Housing Federation (NHF), claiming that agents and landlords are discriminating against Housing Benefit Tenants.
“Complain and you’re out”, says the CA’s latest report entitled “Touch and Go”. The report claims that there’s a 46 per cent chance of private tenants who complain about issues like damp or mould being issued with a no-fault Section 21 eviction notice within six months.
However, their implication belies the latest available figures for landlord possessions produced by the Ministry of Justice which shows that overall claims for possession by private landlords are relatively small in number in relation to the size of the sector; they have in fact been on a downward trend, and are lower number than those for the smaller social housing sector.
“Landlord possession claims … and repossessions by county court bailiffs (9,370) were down 8%, 10%, 9% and 15% respectively (compared to the same quarter last year; Jan-Mar 2016). Continuing the annual downward trend, seen since April to June 2014.” (Ministry of Justice 2017).
The overwhelming reasons for claims for possession in the private rented sector (PRS) are rent arrears, damaging the property and anti-social behaviour, and there’s strong evidence to show that when tenants are in rent arrears complaints to landlords actually increase.
These issues don’t appear to be addressed in the CA report, but it implies that tenants can be just thrown out on a whim, which is impossible. The Ministry of Justice figures show that from a claim to a full repossession the average time taken… [is] 41.0 weeks (Jan-Mar 2017). That’s around 10 months.
It also ignores that fact that the law has been considerably strengthened in this regard so that tenants now have a right of redress should landlords attempt a retaliatory eviction.
The CA wants to see increased security of tenure for private tenants. The timing of the report therefore is rather auspicious given that the Government’s consultation on introducing minimum three-year tenancies in the private rented sector closed at the weekend, and landlords now await a decision with some apprehension.
The charity is backing the government’s minimum 3-year tenancy proposals, but it thinks these don’t go far enough, because of as they see it, potential loopholes which “may undermine protections that longer tenancies provide.”
Citizens Advice says it wants:
“3-year tenancies to be written into law, and for these tenancies to include limits on rent rises to prevent landlords from effectively evicting tenants through pricing them out, no break clause at six months, and allowing tenants to leave contracts early if the landlord doesn’t uphold legal responsibilities.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, says:
“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.
“Those living in substandard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain.
“Our report shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked, and a new fix is needed.
“There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason – known as section 21.
“While Government plans for minimum 3-year tenancies is a step in the right direction, these changes must be strong enough to genuinely prevent revenge evictions once and for all.”
See the full report here