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Landlords in Wales are opposing Government plans for rented housing which were criticised by Shelter Cymru as unlikely to tackle rogue landlords.

The Welsh Government’s Renting Homes Bill, published Monday, outlines plans to tackle so called “retaliatory evictions” – landlords evicting tenants because they complain about their property.

The Residential Landlords Association is warning that it will become a charter for lawyers as tenants and landlords get bogged down in costly court processes.

Shelter Cymru has previously warned that such proposals could increase rents and are unlikely to tackle rogue landlords.

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In 2013, Shelter Cymru, working with Citizens Advice Bureau Wales published a report on this issue. It noted:

“In reality the transition to protecting tenants from retaliatory action may need to be managed in a way that gives landlords time to raise investment and minimises the likelihood of extreme rent rises.”

It continued:

“Rogue landlords will still be a problem. There is a risk that introducing protection from retaliatory eviction may encourage rogue landlords to resort to illegal eviction methods such as harassment or withdrawal of services. This is why it is critical that local authorities have the resources to carry out enforcement.”

In 2008, the Law Commission for England and Wales also warned against such legislation.

The RLA is instead calling for better enforcement of existing consumer rights regulations* which make retaliatory evictions illegal already.

Commenting on the proposals RLA’s Vice Chairman for Wales, Douglas Haig said:

“The RLA condemns any landlord who commits a retaliatory eviction. It is simply wrong.

“The Government’s proposals will do little for tenants and landlords. It’s short on detail and long on vagaries. It would simply become a lawyer’s charter for anti-social and non-rent paying tenants to exploit.”

The RLA is however welcoming a number of measures in the Bill including efforts to tackle abandoned houses and work to better educate tenants about their rights and responsibilities.

Mr Haig continued:

“It is a shame that a Bill that could enjoy support across the sector is being let down by a measure that will cause such uncertainty.

“There are already sufficient powers to tackle poor quality housing. What is missing is the resources needed to enforce it.”

The RLA represents almost 20,000 private sector residential landlords in England and Wales.

* In June, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued guidance for England and Wales on the relationship between landlords and tenants. This guidance makes clear that under the terms of the 2008 Unfair Trading Regulations, coming from the Consumer Protection Act, it is a breach of these where “any commercial practice that, in the context of the particular circumstances, intimidates or exploits consumers such as to restrict (or be likely to restrict) their ability to make free or informed choices in relation to a product, and which cause or are likely to cause the average consumer to take a different transactional decision. These are known as aggressive practices.”

In the examples of what could constitute aggressive practices, it includes, “Threatening the tenant with eviction to dissuade them from exercising rights they have under the tenancy agreement or in law, for example where they wish to make a complaint to a local authority about the condition of the property, or seek damages for disrepair.”

This Competition and Markets Authority guidance can be found here

In July 2013, Shelter Cymru, working with Citizens Advice Bureau Wales entitled, “Making rights real – Preventing retaliatory evictions in Wales” which can be found here

This document made a number of striking observations about the potential impact of legislation such as that being put before the Assembly.

In the report it notes that such measures could lead to rent rises. Page 5 reads:

“in reality the transition to protecting tenants from retaliatory action may need to be managed in a way that gives landlords time to raise investment and minimises the likelihood of extreme rent rises.”

Legislation is not likely to address the problem of the criminal landlords. Page 6 reads:

“Rogue landlords will still be a problem. There is a risk that introducing protection from retaliatory eviction may encourage rogue landlords to resort to illegal eviction methods such as harassment or withdrawal of services. This is why it is critical that local authorities have the resources to carry out enforcement.”

In its report, published in August 2008 entitled, ’Housing: Encouraging Responsible Letting’ see here

the Commission said of Retaliatory Evictions on pages 68 and 69:

“Although this was not an issue on which we consulted, it is an issue which has attracted a considerable amount of public attention over the last year. The basic idea is that, where a landlord seeks possession against a tenant, but it can be shown that the proceedings were taken against the tenant in retaliation for the tenant making a complaint to or taking some other step against the landlord, for example resulting from poor housing conditions, the landlord would not be entitled to a possession order from a court.

“At first sight, this form of legal protection for tenants may seem an attractive idea. We think, however, there are likely to be significant difficulties with it in practice.

Most tenants do not seriously consider taking legal proceedings. The availability of legal provisions to address retaliatory eviction may be of symbolic importance but be of little practical effect.

There would be major evidential problems in establishing that a landlord was bringing possession proceedings solely as retaliation for steps that have been taken against him or her.

Retaliatory eviction does not fit the smart regulation approach we advocate here.

We anticipate that introducing retaliatory eviction could cause considerable disturbance to the private rented sector by introducing a measure whose impact would be unpredictable and uncertain.”

Please Note: This Article is 4 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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