What is a tenant retaliatory eviction?
Retaliation eviction, or as commonly known, revenge eviction, is when a landlord is unhappy with an action that a tenant may have taken.
Retaliation eviction may be deemed unlawful when a tenant has complained about, say, repairs, and the landlord, instead of doing the repairs, embarked on evicting the tenant.
The tenant, however, is required to provide verifiable evidence of the requests to repair the rental property.
How does retaliatory Eviction work?
The tenant has requested repairs, and the landlord has decided to evict the tenant rather than do the repairs.
At this junction this is what can happen:
The tenant upon reporting disrepairs to the council. The local council has served an improvement notice on the landlord to carry out the repairs.
If the council has served an improvement notice on the landlord, the landlord may not be able to serve a valid section 21 notice on the tenant.
Reasons for eviction when it comes to revenge eviction are rarely declared by a landlord when taking retaliatory action.
The above legislation prevents landlords from serving a section 21 in certain circumstances due to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) hazards in a property.
There are exemptions to the Retaliation eviction legislation that are discussed below.
From 1 October 2018, the retaliatory eviction legislation applies to all assured shorthold tenancies in England, including any granted before 1 October 2015 or tenancies that went into statutory periodic tenancies.
My landlord wants to evict me for asking for repairs
A landlord must keep the rental property in a good state of repair and carry out repairs as and when needed.
No landlord should ask any tenant to leave their home because repairs have been requested.
All landlords must follow the proper legal process to seek a possession order through using the court eviction process.
It may be unlawful for a landlord not to carry out repairs and request a tenant give up possession of their home just because they asked for repairs to be done.
However, suppose a landlord tries to evict a tenant because they have asked for repairs. In that case, this is known as revenge or ‘retaliatory eviction’.
A tenant may be able to challenge a retaliatory eviction and should contact the Citizen Advice Bureau.
What is constructive eviction?
Simply put, it is a method to drive out a tenant from their home by using methods that make the tenants’ lives intolerable.
A typical example is when a landlord cuts off the electric or water supply. These tactics are used by rogue landlords and are frowned on by professional landlords.
Cutting off utility like electricity, gas, or water supply to a tenant’s rental property is unlawful.
Some landlords think this practice is justified because the tenant is in rent arrears. Nothing justifies this unacceptable rogue behaviour.
Is Constructive eviction the same as retaliatory eviction?
No, they are not the same. Constructive eviction is an unfair eviction of the tenant that occurs when the tenant does not fully use and possess its rental property per the tenancy agreement or inferred rights.
Constructive eviction is when a landlord withholds, changes, or cuts off any utility or harasses a tenant where it becomes practically difficult to occupy the rental property.
Changing the locks to the rental property. Causing continuous interruption of the elevator service. Turning off the utilities serving the rental property are all customary practices of rogue landlords.
Construction eviction usually occurs when a landlord avoids the possession proceedings procedure through the county court and wants a quick solution.
Can I be evicted for reporting my landlord to the council?
No professional landlord should worry about any tenant contacting the council for an issue.
However, it is unacceptable if a tenant has failed to contact the landlord and requested the problem be fixed via the council direct.
All tenants must give landlords reasonable time to fix any repairs required.
If you have not had any positive results, you should put your complaint to the landlord by post or email. Keep records of the communication.
If the above fails, you can contact the council, or if the landlord belongs to a professional body like the “The BLA” or “The NRLA”, you can complain to them.
Typical reasons why a tenant may need to complain are:
- The landlord is not doing repairs.
- Harassment like entering your home without your permission or other reasons.
- They have discriminated against you by charging you a higher rent or deposit than other tenants because of your nationality, sex, race, or age.
- Sex for rent is an increasing problem where some rogue landlords manipulate young women.
Sex for rent should be reported to the police immediately. Any severe health & safety hazards should be reported to the landlord and/or the Council environmental officer.
What is a retaliatory eviction notice?
This is when a landlord serves a section 21 eviction notice when a tenant has requested repairs to be done.
As stated, it is a tenant’s legal right to live in a safe home free from hazards.
The local authority may inspect any residential premises under the HHSRS and identify hazards that might harm a person’s health or safety.
The HHSRS has a list of 29 hazards in total. Each one of the hazards is scored based on the likelihood of harm being caused and how severe that harm might be.
A category 1 hazard is the highest and most profound. The local authority must take some action if category hazard 1 exists. A category 2 hazard has a lower score, and the council may take some action.
However, the council should allow the landlord to do the work within a specified time before they serve legal notice of repair.
The possible courses of action available include:
- serving an improvement notice seeking works to be carried out within a specified time (the most common method of action by local authorities)
- issuing a prohibition order on the house or flat (which takes effect 28 days after it is issued)
- issuing an emergency prohibition order (which takes effect immediately)
- carry out emergency remedial works (the local authority directly carries out urgent works and invoices the appropriate person).
Retaliatory Eviction & Deregulation Act 2015
It is important to re-iterate the legislation’s ‘retaliatory eviction’ element under the Deregulation Act 2015.
You may not be able to serve a section 21 notice for the initial 6 months if an HHSRS notice has been served by the council.
An HHSRS notice is an improvement notice served under section 11 of the Housing Act 2004 (improvement notices relating to category 1 hazards).
When the Six-Month Rule Does NOT Apply
Once an HHSRS notice has been served on a landlord, no section 21 notice may be given within the initial 6 months. The 6-month rule still applies even if the work stipulated in the HHSRS is completed within the given timescales.
However, there are several exclusions to the 6-month rule:
- If the improvement notice was served in error by the council. The whole improvement notice is revoked under section 16 Housing Act 2004. The landlord can request the council to rescind the notice if served in error.
- The landlord has successfully appealed to a tribunal about the refusal. The decision is reversed (so the notice is revoked). After the improvement notice is revoked by the tribunal, a section 21 notice can be served.
- The main ground used is when the rental property is genuinely on the market for sale. See below what the definition of “genuinely on the market for sale” is.
What is Genuinely on the market for sale?
When a landlord genuinely wishes to sell a rental property, a section 21 notice will be valid because, at the time, the section 21 notice is given:
- the six-month prohibition after an HHSRS notice has been served does not apply.
- The retaliatory eviction rules do not apply if a property is genuinely on the market for sale.
In law, a dwelling-house is “not” genuinely on the market for sale if the landlord intends to sell the property to:
- A person associated with the landlord,
- A business partner of the landlord,
- A person associated with a business partner of the landlord, or
- A business partner of a person associated with the landlord.
A business partner of a person (“P”) is a person who is.
- A director, secretary, or another officer of a company of which P is also a director, secretary, or another officer,
- A director, secretary, or another officer of a company in which P has a shareholding or other financial interest,
- A person who has a shareholding or other financial interest in a company of which P is a director, secretary, or other officers,
- An employee of P, a person by whom P is employed.
How long does a landlord have to carry out repairs?
The 2015 legislation is designed to protect tenants and a timescale, although only in specific circumstances does exist.
The guidelines say landlords should fix any major problems within two weeks, especially if they threaten a tenant’s health and security. These can be like a broken boiler in winter.
Suppose a landlord refuses to do the repairs required. In that case, the tenant can report the matter to their local authority, who may commence enforcement.
The British Landlords Association is a free national landlords association, why not join us today for free?
Author: Sarah Featherstone Sarah@thebla.co.uk
Date: 23rd of May 2021
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