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Perhaps it is the time of year, but ‘rogue landlords’ have reared their ugly head in Parliament. Maybe it is eagerness to address the issue before the summer recess, but a group of MPs, from both sides of the House, are decided that that greater protection is needed for private sector tenants from revenge evictions, rent increases and harassment by rogue landlords.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee published a report on the private sector in which it called on the Government to address ‘a clear power imbalance’ in parts of the private rented sector. It reported on cases where tenants who make complaint to the local authority about landlords who do not respond to repair complaints, find that they are not only living in miserable conditions, but have their tenancy ended and are faced with the prospect of homelessness.
I do sometimes wonder whether our MPs deserve what they are paid, as they seem to live in sublime ignorance of what has gone before and go on repeating the same formula, spending Government, and their own time discussing issues which have already been addressed.
A case in point is this call by the cross-party group of MPs, to address retaliatory eviction, amongst other things, by calling for rogue landlords who try to retaliate when complaints are made, to have their properties confiscated.
The legislation already exists to assist tenants. The De-regulation Act of 2015, which became legislation from 1st October 2015, introduced a new section 21 notice (form 6A) which simplified the eviction paperwork process for landlords, though added more requirements which must be complied with, if a section 21 notice was to succeed in Court.
The subject of tenant complaints about property standards was also addressed with clear steps which should be taken.
The landlord must be advised of the complaint and it should be in writing. It should be an issue which demands attention and could affect the health and well-being of the tenant; changing a light bulb comes within the tenant’s aegis, not the landlord’s whereas blocked toilets and drains should be addressed as soon as possible. (nb. when I worked for a local authority, blocked toilets in social housing had to be addressed within 10 days! Most private landlords would expect to deal with this within hours of it being reported!)
The landlord has 14 days in which to inspect and hopefully, rectify the fault which the tenant has reported. If they fail to respond, then the local authority should be notified, and they will then arrange an inspection. They can then issue an Improvement Notice or specify Emergency Remedial Action.
If either of these actions takes place, the landlord is banned from evicting on a no-fault basis (i.e. section 21, form 6A) for 6 months. This does not protect the tenant who decides to withhold rent – they can still be evicted if the debt exceeds 2 months by use of a section 8, using the mandatory ground 8.
What more protection is needed? Admittedly, landlords can be very patient and might still evict after 6 months but 6 months is long enough for a tenant to re-build bridges with the landlord, particularly if the rent is paid on time.
I for one am sick of the ever more punitive measures that are being suggested for the few rogue landlords that deserve them. If properties are confiscated, who will manage the tenancies?
What is needed are more officers, acting pro-actively to deal with the problems we know are there. But that can’t happen without an investment of funding, so that there are more men and women on the street, doing inspections.
Every time a complaint is made, this should trigger inspections at every house the landlord owns. They should be named and shamed – and guess what – they are, in local newspapers and housing publications.
The problem is that the sector has insufficient officers to crack down where they know there are problems. Instead, they will do routine inspections where there are no problems.
This is not an efficient way of working but may be what Government feels is the right way to go.
It is not!
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon