We all know that the UK rentals industry is a difficult place to be a tenant – that’s the very reason that The Tenants’ Voice was set up. Over the past few months we have seen increasing numbers of people on our forums who mention being threatened with eviction – or being evicted – as a result of asking a landlord or agent to do something to the property. This actually has a name – ‘revenge eviction’ – and is becoming and increasingly more regular occurrence.
According to research from the charity Shelter, between 2013 and 2014 more than 200,000 people in the UK faced a revenge eviction. A YouGov survey that was carried out on some 4,500 tenants indicated that most people now simply don’t say anything if there is an issue with a property. That was the case even though 41% of those who were surveyed were living with damp, 25% with a leaking roof or windows and 16% with an electrical hazard. The research highlighted that many of those who had asked a landlord to take action – even over something many of us would consider to be a basic standard of living, such as a clean, dry, warm home – had been evicted by section 21 notice within a matter of weeks. The justification for this? Many landlords felt that it simply wasn’t worth the expense when there would be another tenant along in a minute.
Of course this seems like a fairly shortsighted approach to us – if one tenant complains about a leaking roof then isn’t the next tenant going to do the same? Well apparently landlords are willing to take that risk – and to go through all the expense of getting a new tenant installed – to avoid having to deal with these issues in the hope that the new tenant will be too scared to say anything and will simply let it go. Essentially, the rental market that we currently have has created a monster.
If you look at the statistics for renting in the UK as they currently stand it’s pretty easy to see how landlords (and their agents) have gotten to a point where they feel this untouchable. At the start of 2014 rents were growing at around twice the rate that they had been in 2012. Across 2014 rents rose by 6.6%. At the same time it’s much harder to get a mortgage than it used to be and house prices continue to rise, squeezing many potential buyers into the rental market too. As a result the UK has a huge number of tenants and very few properties to house them in, which means that landlords are getting away with the equivalent of rental murder.
So what can be done? Well, first of all you can contribute to the Tenants’ Voice community to help identify and reward agents and landlords that don’t resort to revenge evictions. Second, make sure you know your rights. Last year a private members bill that sought to make it illegal to evict tenants who make justifiable complaints was defeated by parliament. However, this month we heard that this has now become part of the Deregulation Bill, which has just been passed by the House of Lords. The bill received royal assent at the end of March and is expected to be in force by October 2015. This means that, as of autumn this year, if your landlord evicts you for making a justifiable complaint then you will be able to do something – check back with us closer to October for more details on the remedies the bill will provide and remember that this is the perfect time to take other renting issues to your local MP with an election looming…