LETTING & ESTATE AGENT

New law a “charter for anti-social tenants”

New law a “charter for anti-social tenants”

The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) and National Landlords Association (NLA) are opposing fresh attempts at legislation which they say could become a charter for anti-social and rent dodging tenants.

The government has published amendments to the Deregulation Bill, which will extend the existing restrictions on a landlord’s powers to evict, where they don’t protect a deposit or have a licence they are required to hold, to situations where a health and safety hazard has been identified by environmental health officers.

Communities minister Stephen Williams said: “We’re determined to create a bigger, better private rented sector – a key part of that is to tackle the minority of rogue landlords that blight the lives of their tenants.

“That’s why I’m proposing changes to the law that would outlaw ‘retaliatory evictions’, so tenants don’t face the prospect of losing their home simply for asking that repairs be made.”

But the RLA says the plans to address so-called ‘retaliatory evictions’ also risks stunting the only part of the housing market that is growing.

The RLA claims the amendments to the Deregulation Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords on 11 February, raises the prospect of landlords being unable to swiftly remove tenants who are failing to pay their rent or committing anti-social behaviour. 

Under the amendment, landlords would be barred from issuing a notice to remove a tenant, known as a section 21 notice, when a tenant makes a written complaint to the landlord about conditions in a property.

In a statement the RLA said: “The RLA is concerned that landlords who seek to issue a section 21 notice because of a tenant not paying their rent or committing anti-social behaviour could be prevented from doing so because it happened to coincide also with a complaint being made by a tenant about conditions in the properties. The RLA believes a better approach would be that proof has to be given that a section 21 notice has been given directly in response to a complaint as opposed to another legitimate reason such as tenant rent arrears of poor behaviour.”

Once a landlord has received a written complaint from a tenant, they would then have 14 days to provide an “adequate response” to the problem raised which would need to outline how the landlord intends to deal with the complaint in a “reasonable timescale”.

The RLA believes clarity is needed as to who would decide what an “adequate response” and a “reasonable timescale” would be.

It said: “This potentially becomes a substantial lawyer’s charter, bogging tenants and landlords in court processes that are already unable to cope with the volume of work they have at present. The RLA therefore calls on the Government to undertake a review on the capacity and ability of the courts and local authorities to process the extra work that this would inevitably entail.”

The amendment follows a previously failed attempt to introduce a “retaliatory evictions” bill in the Commons.

Chris Norris, head of policy at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “The Government has been distracted from the business of ensuring that existing legislation, intended to protect tenants and landlords from genuine criminals, is enforced properly. At best this is will be a burdensome nuisance for the majority of good landlords. At worst it will further mask the actions of criminals who abuse their tenants, while regulators struggle to differentiate between those in genuine need and vexatious troublemakers.

"The Government says that the majority of good landlords will have nothing to fear but the truth is it will give unscrupulous tenants and ambulance-chasing legal firms more power to resist genuine and necessary attempts on behalf of landlords to regain lawful possession on a property.”