Private renters in England who formally complain about issues such as damp and mould in their home have an almost one-in-two (46%) chance of being issued an eviction notice within 6 months, according to a new report – Touch and go – released today by Citizens Advice.
The charity estimates this has affected about 141,000 tenants since laws attempting to ban revenge evictions were introduced in 2015.
It comes as the government’s consultation on introducing minimum three-year tenancies in the private rented sector closes this Sunday.
The research found complaining dramatically increases a renter’s chance of getting an eviction notice when compared to people who do not complain.
Tenants who had received a section 21 “no-fault eviction” notice were:
Twice as likely to have complained to their landlord
Five times more likely to have gone to their local authority
Eight times more likely to have complained to a redress scheme
The charity argues the figures prove 2015 laws designed to prevent families and other tenants in the private rented sector from being evicted after raising a complaint have not worked.
The research includes a unique survey of council Environmental Health Officers (EHO) that found 3 in every 4 EHOs saw tenants receive a no-fault eviction after complaining last year. Of the officers who had been in their role before the 2015 Act was passed, 90% said they have not seen a drop in revenge evictions.
With the private rented sector being the second most common tenure in England with 4.7 million households – including 1.7 million families with dependent children – Citizens Advice is calling for laws around tenant security to be significantly strengthened.
Advisers from the charity helped one mum who moved into a house with her husband and two children and went to her council because a leak in the home was causing her partner’s health to deteriorate. One day before an Environmental Health inspection was due to take place, she was issued a section 21 eviction notice.
The charity backs the government’s proposals for minimum 3-year tenancies, but is concerned that potential loopholes may undermine protections that longer tenancies provide.
Citizens Advice is calling for 3-year tenancies to be written into law, and for these tenancies to include limits on rent rises to prevent landlords from effectively evicting tenants through pricing them out, no break clause at six months, and allowing tenants to leave contracts early if the landlord doesn’t uphold legal responsibilities.
The charity also believes if 3-year tenancies are agreed, the government should then review grounds for section 8 evictions – normally used when tenants are antisocial or fail to pay rent – to allow landlords to recover the property if they choose to sell up.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“The chance of a family being evicted from their home for complaining about a problem shouldn’t carry the same odds as the toss of a coin.
“Those living in substandard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain.
“Our report shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked, and a new fix is needed.
“There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason – known as section 21.
“While Government plans for minimum 3-year tenancies is a step in the right direction, these changes must be strong enough to genuinely prevent revenge evictions once and for all.”