ATRO wholeheartedly supported the measures introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015 to counter retaliatory eviction by private landlords, that is where landlords use the section 21 automatic right to possession, because the tenant complains about their living conditions.
However with the benefits of the new legislation now having some positive effect, it is evident that there is still a long way to go if we really want to prevent landlords from using the section 21 possession ground to retaliate against the tenant raising legitimate concerns.
There are a number of problems in terms of the effectiveness of the legislation in preventing retaliation for raising issues to do with the condition of the property e.g.
- if the tenant makes the ‘mistake’ of trying to raise & resolve problems face to face with the landlord, or over the phone, before putting anything in writing, and the landlord then gives notice, then there is no protection what-so-ever;
- any protection at all, rests on the local authority taking formal enforcement action (serving the landlord a ‘relevant’ notice), leaving the tenant at the mercy of the policy approach and effectiveness of the particular local authority in which they live;
- the service of a relevant notice by the local authority depends largely on there being significant identifiable health and safety hazards as set out by the very technical, rating system in the Housing Act 2004, making very diffcicult for a tenant to predict whether the local authority will serve a notice, and therefore, whether they are likely to have any protection if they complain to their landlord
- a tenant may make a legitimate complaint about a repair which the landlord has not done e.g. a rotten window frame, but if the local authority does subsequently take action, this might be about a different problem altogether e.g. uneven steps, & in these circumstances, it is still unclear whether the tenant has any protection
- if a landlord appeals a local authority notice, all protection is taken away
- any protection at all, is limited to 6 months.
What’s more of course, there is no protection at all against a landlord retaliating by giving a section 21 notice, where the tenant makes a complaint against the landlord about anything other than the condition of the dwelling, for instance, where the tenant makes a complaint about harassment.
ATRO believes that there is much more work to be done to ensure that private tenants are not to be fearful of raising concerns about unscrupulous landlords. ATRO trusts that the government will monitor the effects of the recent change in law in Scotland, where the automatic possession ground has been effectively abolished.