Industry news

Attempts to protect tenants from retaliatory eviction have failed

A national charity and lobbying organisation is claiming that efforts to end the practice of private landlords from evicting tenants after they make legitimate complaints about their home, have failed. Citizens Advice found that tenants who made a

formal complaint have a 46 per cent chance of being served with an eviction notice within six months, because it is easier for landlords to move unwanted tenants rather than fixing problems. This is despite the Government banning retaliatory evictions in 2015. The charity is calling on Ministers to protect

tenants from the point when they make a complaint regardless of its outcome. This is one of the main recommendations in their report Touch and Go, based on a survey of more than 2,000 private renters earlier this year. It claims about 141,000 tenants have been adversely affected since 2015 when the ban was put in place. Now the Citizens Advice are recommending that tenants be allowed to leave a fixed-term contract

early and without any penalty, if their landlord fails to uphold their legal responsibilities and is in breach of contract. They are also backing the Government’s proposal to introduce a mandatory three-year tenancy for all private rented sector tenancies. Housing is the third most ‘popular’ issue raised

with the charity after benefits and debt advice. Problems with repairs and maintenance are the most common issue across all rented tenures. Almost a half of private tenants who have experienced a problem chose not to make a complaint to their landlord because of a fear of eviction or rent increases. Compared to those who have not, tenants who have received a Section 21 notice are:

• Over twice as likely to have complained to their landlord in the previous six months;

• Five times more likely to have complained to their local authority prior to their notice being issued; and

Merger deal for troubled HA

A year of uncertainty rooted in a poor regulatory assessment came to an end for a Cumbrian social landlord when it completed its merger with a large association celebrating 90 years in existence. Workington based Impact has 2,770-homes. It

was rated non-compliant for both governance and viability last year, when it was found to have

insufficient financial headroom in its business plan by the regulator. After an exercise to find a suitable rescue partner,

Impact chose Riverside, a large association based in the North West with more than 52,000 homes, including 6,500 in Cumbria. The merger was completed after a vote by Impact’s shareholders and consulting with their residents.

• Eight times more likely to have complained to an independent redress scheme.

GREATER PROTECTIONS Only ten per cent of council Environmental Health Officers reported seeing a reduction in the number of retaliatory evictions since 2015. And last year, seven in ten of Citizens Advice advisers helped tenants who were facing a retaliatory eviction. Gillian Guy, 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. Those living in substandard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain.” She said there were “serious question marks” over

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, which allows landlords to evict tenants without reason. Local authorities rarely serve the notices required

to protect tenants due to the lack of resources and a preference for informal negotiation. Cuts in council budgets over the past ten years have fallen particularly hard on public protection services, limiting the resources available to work with tenants and landlords. In most consumer markets, Citizens Advice say

that transactions come with customer guarantees. Consumers know that businesses will generally provide a remedy, reduction or refund for poor practice or sub-par products. But in the private rented sector they say this is often not the case.

Carol Matthews, chief executive at Riverside,

said: “Welcoming Impact into the Riverside family is a really fitting way to celebrate our 90th year as a provider of social housing. It’s a landmark event and the start of an exciting new chapter for both our organisations. “We will maintain local service delivery to

customers through the offices and colleagues they know and trust while we begin scoping out with them the ambitious housing improvement programme.” | HMM September 2018 | 9

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