How is “Retaliatory Eviction” likely to affect you?
From 1 October 2018, all Assured Shorthold Tenancies will be subject to the rules that were introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015 (‘the Act’), which outlines situations when a landlord can terminate a tenancy under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Daniel Coleman, Solicitor in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution team, explains how the Act affects landlords who are faced with a complaint about their property from their tenant, and why this may restrict you from serving a Section 21 notice.
One of the rules created by the Act prevents you from serving your tenant with a Section 21 notice where they have raised a legitimate complaint about the condition of your property, and you have failed to address that complaint to the satisfaction of the Local Authority.
Where your tenant has followed the right procedure and the Local Authority upholds their complaint, you will be prevented from “retaliatory eviction” and so unable to evict your tenant using the Section 21 procedure for a period of six months. You will also be required by the Local Authority to ensure that the repairs are completed to a satisfactory standard.
What kinds of repairs are covered by this legislation?
These rules allow tenants to make reasonable complaints about the property without the risk of being evicted as a result. The kind of complaints to which these rules apply concern a serious issue that might cause a potential risk of harm to the health or safety of them, or a family member. Examples of repairs that are covered by these rules would include a leak in the property or a problem with the heating, especially in colder weather. The sort of repair that would not be covered by these rules is a dripping tap, or changing a lightbulb.
How long do I have to respond to a tenant’s complaint about the property?
You have 14 days from the date of your tenant’s complaint to provide a response. Your response should set out what you intend to do to remedy the problem and include a reasonable timeframe for carrying out the works. You should then make arrangements to carry out the repairs, where appropriate.
What process must my tenant follow?
In order to rely on the protection against retaliatory eviction that the Deregulation Act 2015 provides, a tenant must approach you in the first instance. This is a mandatory requirement if your tenant is seeking to have a Section 21 notice that has already been served to be found invalid.
Where your tenant is dissatisfied with your response, or lack of, this is the time when they can approach their Local Authority and ask them to step in and carry out an inspection to verify the need for a repair.
The Local Authority will arrange to inspect the property and carry out a detailed assessment using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System; a system that has been developed to help Local Authorities verify whether a property contains serious health or safety hazards. If the inspection verifies the tenant’s complaint, the inspector will take appropriate action.
There are a number of enforcement options open to Local Authorities, including Improvement Notices and Notices of Emergency Remedial Action, but they will almost always engage with you first in order to try and resolve the problem informally.
Daniel comments, “If your tenant raises a complaint with you it is crucial that you take this seriously and try and resolve the issue without resorting to the Local Authority. In the event that the Local Authority carries out an investigation which results in an Improvement Notice or Notice of Emergency Remedial Action, this will restrict you from evicting your tenant for six months using the Section 21 procedure. If the Local Authority do become involved and they find that the complaint raised by your tenant is not legitimate, you will be free to serve a section 21 notice, or enforce a notice which has already been served.”
If you are a landlord looking for advice on a complaint from a tenant or eviction of your tenant, contact Daniel or the team on 023 8071 7487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.