Renters in PRS denied protection from revenge evictions

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act finds that councils in England are failing to use “powers” to protect tenants.

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Just one in every 20 private renters who complains to the council about poor conditions in their home gets protection from a revenge eviction, according to Generation Rent analysis released today (18th March).

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act finds that councils in England are “failing” to use their powers to protect tenants.

Reports reveal that even when a severe hazard – such as mould or broken stairs – is found in a rented home, tenants only get protection from eviction in one in every five cases.

On 20th March, the Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act comes into force, aiming to give tenants the ability to take negligent landlords to court rather than rely on their council.

However, successful tenants are said to still not be protected from eviction without their council acting.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government consulted in summer 2018 on proposals to introduce 3-year tenancies, within which tenants cannot be evicted under Section 21, to replace 1-year tenancies. It has yet to publish its final proposals.

Generation Rent has reported to have made Freedom of Information requests to 102 councils, covering two-thirds of England’s private renter population.

The 99 councils that responded received a total of 67,026 complaints about housing in 2017-18, but served just 3,043 improvement notices on landlords – meaning just 5% of people who complained ended up being protected from eviction.

According to reports, just 2,545 Improvement Notices were served as a result, equating to 21% of cases.

Many of these cases may have been resolved by informal dialogue between the council and the landlord, but a tenant would have still been exposed if the landlord decided to ignore the council and issued an eviction notice.

Eight councils had a ratio of improvement notices to Category 1 hazards of more than 75%:

• Tower Hamlets – 309%
• Merton – 289%
• Nottingham – 215%
• Wiltshire – 96%
• North Somerset – 90%
• Waltham Forest – 83%
• Bournemouth – 83%
• Cornwall – 75%

Five councils served no Improvement Notices:

• Brighton and Hove (carried out 861 inspections but reported no hazards)
• Hillingdon (reported no complaints or inspections either)
• Kensington and Chelsea
• Kingston upon Thames
• Sefton (despite reporting 360 Category 1 hazards)

Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, said: “These figures demonstrate that despite powers and protections, tenants living in squalid homes are being let down by their councils.

“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 without needing a reason.”

Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing, Waltham Forest Council, added: “Many tenants don’t report disrepair because they fear a retaliatory eviction, so the cases we deal with are only the tip of the iceberg.

“Although tenants are protected if the council serves the landlord with an improvement notice, this is too blunt a tool to rely on.

“In many cases an informal response is enough to encourage the landlord to act, even though tenants could still face the threat of eviction.

“It would be easier to give tenants protection by abolishing Section 21, so that landlords who wanted tenants to move out would need a valid reason.”

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