Conference told retaliatory eviction law under review

Publication Date: 23rd May 2014

Subject: Housing

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is considering introducing legislation to outlaw ‘retaliatory eviction’ of tenants who complain to their landlords about poor housing conditions.

The announcement was made by Jonathan Bramhall of the DCLG’s private sector property division at the CIEH’s sixth annual housing and health conference held at 15 Hatfields, in London.

Mr Bramhall said the DCLG received more than a thousand reports of retaliatory evictions a year and had also received evidence of the practice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

He told the conference that, following a consultation on the private rented sector concluded in March, the government would announce by the summer any new laws, it wished to introduce. It was committed, he said, to cracking down on rogue landlords and improving conditions for tenants.

One way to protect tenants, he speculated, would be to block landlords from evicting using Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, if the property contained health-threatening hazards - an approach adopted in Australia, New Zealand and some parts of the US. He said it could also be possible to extend rent recovery orders to landlords who had illegally evicted tenants or let hazardous properties. But no decision had yet been made.

Simon Gordon, consultant to the Residential Landlords Association, told the conference that Section 21 was a ‘holy grail’ to landlords, adding: ‘The government should be very careful about touching that.’

Ahead of introducing any new laws, said Mr Bramhall, the DCLG was committed to publishing next month a revamped tenants’ charter and, in July, a code of practice for landlords on managing property. Later this year, DCLG would publish a lay-person’s guide to the housing health and safety rating system and, in October, revised guidance for local authorities on tackling rogue landlords, replacing 2012 guidance.

The government had introduced powers, under the Energy Act 2013, to require landlords to fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms but would only implement them if there was a ‘clear need to do so and the benefits outweighed the costs’. It had not yet been decided whether to impose on landlords a legal duty to check electrical appliances, as they had for gas appliances.

On licensing houses in multiple occupation, Mr Bramhall said that some local authority selective schemes covering large areas constituted a ‘blanket approach’, which the government did not support, covering all landlords whether they were bad or not: ‘The risk is that good landlords are caught up and that imposes on them extra costs. We want to focus on the bad landlords.’

Two options, he said, were restricting the geographical area of selective schemes or scrapping them, in favour of schemes focusing on landlords rather than property. Landlords who were not part of a landlord association or had a failed a ‘fit and proper person test’, he said, could be subject to compulsory accreditation.

He said that next month the current £5,000 cap on fines for illegal eviction would be replaced by a potentially unlimited fine.

CIEH principal policy officer Bob Mayho said: “The CIEH is in active discussions with Better Regulation Delivery Office to set up a national expert panel on housing issues.

“In relation to the Government's consideration of the next steps on their review of conditions in the sector the CIEH hoped that proposals would be brought forward to reform Section 21 and bring to an end retaliatory evictions. The CIEH has also long called for a review of the HHSRS operating and enforcement guidance and in its response to the Government discussion paper had supported a relaxation of the onerous bureaucracy associated with selective licensing schemes.”

The conference was told that the private rented sector in England is expanding rapidly and is now larger than the social rented sector, providing homes for more than four million household. At least a third of the sector fails to meet the decency standard. Wales is set to introduce mandatory licensing of all private sector landlords later this year.

Notes to editors:

  • For media enquiries please contact Brian Cowan on 020 7827 5922 or 07721 456727 or email b.cowan@cieh.org 
  • The award of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire awarded by the Queen is in recognition of Graham Jukes’ outstanding service to the public through the environmental health profession, and the role he has played in improving environmental health conditions both nationally and internationally over an environmental health career spanning 43 years.


About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health:

  • The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved
  • The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is a leading provider of regulated qualifications in health and safety, food safety, environmental management, fire safety and first aid and operates in over 50 countries.
  • Over 10 million people around the world from the UK to the USA and the Middle East hold a CIEH qualification 
  • The CIEH’s clients range from small businesses to multinational enterprises like the InterContinental Hotels Group. We work with governmental bodies in Hong Kong as well as international agencies like the United Nations 
  • The CIEH’s 60 qualification training programmes are delivered through a network of over 10,000 registered trainers. The training is developed for the varied skill levels within organisations. They cater to different learning styles and preferences through a series of flexible structures. CIEH qualifications are valued and recognised throughout the world 
  • For more information about the CIEH visit www.cieh.org 


     

 

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