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Tenancies (Reform) Bill Due to Pass through Commons

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

A private members bill regarding retaliatory evictions is scheduled to pass through the Commons on 28 November 2014.

The Tenancies (Reform) Bill 2014-2015 seeks to protect tenants against retaliatory eviction and amend the law on possession notices for assured shorthold tenancies.

The Bill, which was introduced by Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central and presented to Parliament through the ballot procedure on 2 July 2014, seeks to give renters security of tenure and improve conditions in the private rented sector, making the eviction process better for renters, landlords and the courts.

Assured shorthold tenancies, which usually last either 6 or 12 months, are the most common form of fixed-term tenancy with private landlords.

During fixed terms landlords can only evict tenants if they can prove certain grounds such as rent arrears. After the fixed term ends however, landlords can issue eviction notices, providing tenants are given two months notice, without having to provide any grounds of wrongdoing on the tenant’s part. Landlords who fail to protect their tenants’ deposit however, or fail to license their property when required to do so are prevented from serving no fault eviction notices.

According to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, over the last year more than 210,000 renters across England were evicted or served with an eviction notice because they complained to their landlord, letting agent or council about a problem in their home. In addition, 1 in 12 renters have avoided asking their landlord to repair a problem in their rented property due to fear of eviction.

Senior Personal Injury Solicitor Tristan Hallam said, “Landlords have a legal duty to carry out certain repairs. The Tenancies (Reform) Bill will restrict the use of so called ‘no-fault eviction notices’ also known as ‘Section 21’ notices, when landlords fail to meet their responsibilities.

“A Section 21 notice is the most commonly used method of eviction. Landlords can serve a Section 21 notice without the tenant having breached their tenancy agreement. Clearly this is wrong.”

A third of private rented properties fail to meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard, compared to only 15% in the social rented sector and 20% of owner occupied homes.

Research carried out by Shelter, shows that more than 60% of private renters have experienced at least one of the following problems in the last 12 months: rodent infestations, damp, gas leaks and electrical hazards, a leaking roof or windows and mould.

“Complaints about such conditions remain relatively low as tenants remain afraid of being evicted as a result,” said Tristan. “Sadly, many renters feel they have no choice but to tolerate such dreadful conditions as they simply dare not risk antagonising their landlord.

“At present, there simply aren’t enough homes to go around,” he added. “Renters are easily replaceable and landlords know this. There is currently no specific legislative protections in place to prevent renters who report poor conditions from being evicted from their homes.

“Retaliatory evictions happen far too often,” said Tristan. “This is why it is so crucial the Government do more to empower renters and take steps to end such evictions and improve substandard conditions in the private rented sector.

“The Tenancies (Reform) Bill will prevent landlords from evicting renters in response to legitimate complaints about their living conditions. By providing renters with the confidence to report problems, law-abiding landlords will be better able to maintain the standard of their tenant’s home.”

Tristan Hallam is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for people injured in accidents through no fault of their own. Call freephone 0800 916 9046 24 hours 7 days a week or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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