LibLink: Sarah Teather: Tackling revenge eviction – a step closer

Sarah Teather was one of the five Liberal Democrat MPs who won a spot in the annual ballot (actually a big raffle) for Private Members’ Bills. John Hemming is tackling secrecy in the family courts, Andrew George the Bedroom Tax, Martin Horwood is trying to stop parking on pavements while Mike Moore wants to enshrine the 0.7% aid target into law.

Sarah’s bill is to stop your landlord chucking you out in the street if you complain about poor conditions. So called revenge evictions cause huge problems. She’s written a blog for Shelter explaining what her bill would do and why it is necessary:

In my 11 years as an MP, a number of victims of revenge eviction have come through the doors of my constituency office in Willesden Green needing my help. But there is little I or anyone else can do to stop landlords evicting tenants simply because they have reported dangerous or unsanitary conditions in their homes.

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 gives landlords the power to evict renters without a reason. These powers are often used when a landlord wants to sell a property or move into it. But because Section 21 eviction notices can be issued without a reason,the system is open to abuse by rogue landlords.

This is bad for everyone: tenants, good landlords and local authorities.

It’s bad for tenants. If rogue landlords evict tenants and re-let properties instead of fixing problems, poor conditions prevail. The threat of eviction also means many stay silent – as many as 12% of all tenants have not reported a problem for this reason.

Butit’s also bad for good landlords. With many tenants too scared to report problems, landlords will often only find out about problems when a tenancy ends. Most landlords want to know about poor conditions so they can do something about it.

Finally, it’s bad for local authorities. Currently, many councils are hesitant to serve a statutory notice on a landlord’s property because they fear the tenants will be evicted and will need re-housing. Removing the threat of retaliatory eviction means local authorities will feel more confident in tackling conditions in the private rented sector.

Some groups are more at risk: if you live in London, receive Housing Benefit or are from an ethnic minority, statistics show you are more likely to be a victim of revenge eviction.

This is brought into stark relief when you realise that 17% of BME renters in London have been victims in the last year, compared to the 2% figure for the UK as a whole.

You can read the whole article here.  Sarah is asking everyone to contact their MP to get them to support the Bill. The Government, in the form of Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Stephen Williams, has already said it will support the Bill, but it will only pass if MPs stay in Westminster on a Friday.

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3 Comments

  • In July the Lib Dems had a wonderful opportunity to protect private renters by backing an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill which ended letting agent charges to tenants, bringing the situation in line with Scotland. Only two of the 57 Lib Dem MPs voted in favour and the amendment was defeated by 53 votes. You didn’t even abstain but actively voted to retain the status quo.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Oct '14 - 6:34pm

    Well done, Sarah T. But it would be a lot simpler to re-establish proper tenancy rights (with due safeguards) to ensure that tenants of over (say) 2 years standing can not be thrown out at all without good reason.

  • Nigel Jones 23rd Oct '14 - 1:20pm

    Sarah Teather has the right attitude to tenants, especially given the high rents that are now paid by so many. The right to reasonable living conditions should be firmly enshrined in law, whether the landlord is a council, housing association or private owner. I fear, however for the future, since much depends on councils having the resources to inspect and enforce this on landlords and I sincerely hope that we as a party will firmly resist any moves by the next government to keep on squeezing local authorities.
    Tenants too should be expected to live up to minimum standards themselves; due to the behaviour of a small minority, certain types of tenants have a reputation for bad behaviour which makes it difficult for them to get a private rented property. I am dealing at the moment with a person who has been shunned by certain private landlords in her attempts to find a suitable property simply because she is in receipt of housing benefit.

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