Nearly half of tenants who make complaint face ‘revenge eviction’

Estimate by Citizens Advice puts figure at 141,000 tenants since 2015

Nearly half of all tenants who make a formal complaint about their housing suffer a “revenge eviction” by private landlords, according to research by Citizens Advice.

It estimated that 141,000 tenants have been subject to “complain and you’re out” evictions since 2015.

The evictions are possible because section 21 notices under the 1988 Housing Act allow landlords to force out tenants on a no-fault basis.

Citizens Advice found that tenants who had received a section 21 notice were twice as likely to have complained to their landlord – and eight times more likely to have complained to an official redress scheme.

Gillian Guy, the 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.

“There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason.”

The Citizens Advice research came hours after a separate coalition of campaign groups delivered a 50,000-signature petition to the government calling for a ban on unfair evictions.

The petition calls for the abolition of section 21 and comes days before the close of a government consultation on proposals to make private tenancies three years or longer.

The campaigners, a coalition that includes Generation Rent, the Acorn renters’ union and the London Renters Union, argue that even if the proposals are approved, tenants could still be evicted without a reason after the three years are up, or even sooner if their landlord wants to sell or move back in.

The campaigners released polling data showing that even Conservative voters are strongly in favour of rent controls and greater protections for tenants.

A Survation poll commissioned by Generation Rent found that 72% of respondents think landlords should not be allowed to raise rents faster than inflation and 59% agreed that tenants who pay their rent and take care of their home should have an automatic right to stay in it.

Among people who voted Conservative in 2017, support for limits on rent increases is, at 72%, the same level as the wider population, and 56% agree that blameless tenants should have their moving costs paid if evicted.

Generation Rent asked renters to share their experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #ventyourrent. Stories ranged from black mould and rent hikes, to revenge evictions in response to requests for repairs, aggressive behaviour from landlords and failure to fix dangerous gas leaks.

Some of the comments on Twitter include:

  • @shoutyspouty My Landlord has left me and my 2 kids in a damp mould filled flat, with leaking windows, the roof leaked for weeks, we had no floor in the bathroom for months, put the rent up twice, didn’t put our deposit in a T.D.S scheme, threatened to kick us out every 6 months
  • @smoulderstoat Given a s.21 notice for complaining about damp, black mould everywhere, the shower pouring through floor into the kitchen, and a sinkhole in the garden that nearly killed someone. Had to move miles away a few weeks before my daughter sat her GCSEs
  • @jessrowan Letting agent told us landlord was happy to extend our contract, but with 5% rent increase. We pushed back as existing rent already extortionate – landlord had no idea about 5%, didn’t want to increase rent and it was all a ploy by (well established) letting agent

Dan Wilson Craw, the director of Generation Rent, said: “Short-term tenancies, rent increases and unsafe conditions are disrupting the lives of millions of renters, many of whom are raising children or entering old age.

“The government has recognised that people can’t lead a stable life when their tenancy agreements only last 12 months at most. But its proposal for three-year tenancies with various get-out clauses still leaves the threat of evictions hanging over tenants who’ve done everything right.”

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Council with Most Prosecutions of Agents and Landlords is Named

Camden has been revealed as the local authority with the highest number of prosecutions of agents and landlords in London.

According to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord and agent checker, launched last December to assist Londoners in securing affordable homes with the knowledge that their agent or landlord has not committed previous offences, Camden has prosecuted on 59 occasions and put 35 names on the blacklist.

Southwark Council has brought 51 prosecutions and placed 14 names on the blacklist. In third place is Newham with 44 prosecutions, and 27 names on the blacklist.

Camden Council’s prosecutions include one of a property management firm which was accommodating 26 people in over-crowded conditions above a former pub. The case resulted in a £40,000 fine.

Camden claimed that as a result of its prosecutions, more agents were coming forward to get HMO licences and seek advice.

Tenants also received compensation after seeking rent repayment orders for living in unlicensed HMOs, with £9,000 reclaimed in the last six months.

Dissimilar to the national ‘blacklist’ of agents and landlords, the Mayor of London’s database is completely accessible to the public. The national blacklist, launched in April, can only be viewed by local and central Government.

Notable prosecutions by Camden Council in the last year include:

Over £42,000 in fines and costs secured from the managers of an unlicensed house in multiple occupation which had come to the council’s notice after tenants complained of a rat infestation, rotting windows and the need to use saucepans to catch water dripping through the bathroom floor.

A £40,000 fine for a property management company who were found to be accommodating 26 people in overcrowded conditions above the former Grand Union Pub on Camden Road.

Clamping down on a landlord who illegally sub-divided rooms in the listed building which was the birthplace of Benjamin Disraeli.

Tenants are also receiving compensation after seeking rent repayment orders for living in unlicensed HMO’s, with £9,000 reclaimed by tenants in the last 6 months and more on the way.

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Mould in Northwich flat leaves landlord with £2,500 fine

A LANDLORD has been fined almost £2,500 after a Northwich flat tenant complained of excessive mould and a front door they could not close.

Nicholas Ian Shaw, 47 and from Norbury’s Yard, Knutsford, was convicted at Chester Magistrates Court on Thursday, August 9, after failing to comply with an improvement notice.

Mr Shaw had rented out a Victorian terrace flat in Huxley Street to a young family with two children under five years old at the time of the complaint in September 2016.

Following numerous requests to Mr Shaw to take action to replace single-glazed windows, repair a front door that could not close, improve insufficient loft insulation and fix problems with mould in the bathroom of the property, court action was the only remaining option.

Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing, said: “As a council we are very keen to improve housing conditions in the private rented sector.

“Our first preference is always to work in partnership with landlords however, we are not afraid of taking legal action against landlords who refuse to engage with us and do not carry out the necessary works we have recommended.

“In the autumn we will be launching a Better Renting Campaign which will not only feature the work the council is doing to improve housing conditions and housing management standards across the borough, but will also show how we are working with our partners in making sure that tenants are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

“The council is keen to ensure that the private rented sector works for good landlords and tenants alike and that appropriate action is taken against landlords who do not fulfil their responsibilities.”

Mr Shaw was fined a total of £2495 by magistrates, following his failure to comply with the Housing Act 2004.

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Landlord to be prosecuted after 31 beds found in ‘appalling’ three-bedroom house

A landlord faces prosecution after police found he had squeezed 31 beds into a very overcrowded three-bedroom house that had just one bathroom.

The property, located in Kenton, north-west London, was discovered in what was described as “appalling living conditions”, with mould visible, along with a peeling ceiling, a makeshift curtain and several fire hazards, including no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, and an array of health and safety issues.

There were 10 people found inside the semi-detached house during the time of the raid, but plenty of evidence to suggest at least 20 people living at the property, which was unlicensed despite clearly being a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

Harrow Council is now actively looking to take action against the landlord of the property.

One of the tenants has also landed in hot water for allegedly subletting the property and was arrested by police for immigration offences.

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Rogue landlord fined as council clamps down on ‘unacceptable living conditions’

“I hope this sends a clear message – we want to clamp down on unacceptable living conditions.”

A landlord has been fined for his failure to have a licence in place for the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Barnstaple which he owns and manages.

Mr Franco Capocci was found guilty on 31 July at North and East Devon Magistrates Court of failing to obtain a licence in relation to The Gables at 4 Albert Villas, New Road, Barnstaple from June 2017 until July 2018.

The court fined Mr Capocci £500 and ordered him to pay a victim’s surcharge of £50, as well as North Devon Council’s cost of £624.

The Housing Act 2004 requires landlords of HMO properties that have three or more storeys, which are occupied by five or more people forming two or more households, and have shared facilities or are converted into self-contained flats without a building regulations approval, to have a mandatory licence.

Andrew Millie, Assistant to the Head of Service for Environmental Health and Housing at North Devon Council, said: “I hope this latest fine will send a clear message to landlords and agents of HMOs: applying for a licence to operate a defined HMO is a mandatory legal requirement and failing to do so will cost you far more in the long-run.

“If you don’t renew, apply for or update a licence you are not only putting your tenants and other residents at risk, you are also breaking the law.

“We as a council are taking advantage of a new range of powers given to us by central government to crack down on irresponsible landlords.

“We want to clamp down on unacceptable living conditions and standards of management, and ensure that those who rent HMOs live in safe and healthy homes.”

The council’s executive member for health and wellbeing, Councillor Brian Moores, said: “This is a very positive outcome for those who rent in North Devon.

“New legislation and guidance has been introduced by the government to ensure tenants’ safety and wellbeing, and landlords and agents of HMOs must obtain a licence from the council to ensure they are meeting their duty of care for their tenants.

“Failure to do so will be taken very seriously by the council and any breaches of this legislation and guidance will be referred by us for prosecution.”

In October 2018 the rules are further changing to remove the three-storey rule for HMOs requiring a mandatory licence. This means all HMOs that meet the criteria for inclusion, including single and two-storey properties, will require a licence.

The council is looking at adopting powers that will enable them to issue ‘civil penalties’ of up to £30,000 and fixed penalty notices for the failure or absence of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

If you’re a landlord or agent and you’re unclear about your responsibilities please see the council’s website for advice. You can also apply for an HMO licence online . If you’re concerned about your landlord not meeting his or her responsibilities, report them online .

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