Although the UK’s private residential rental market is relatively unregulated compared with other major European countries, all too often it can seem that the tenant holds the trump cards given the strict and often lengthy processes which have to be followed in order to secure a lawful eviction.
The residential rental sector was substantially deregulated in the 1980’s, with landlords being able to let out properties under Assured Shorthold Tenancies with much greater certainty of being able to get them back even if the tenants were not misbehaving. However, more recent times have brought changes providing greater protection to tenants.
The introduction of legislation to require the protection of tenant’ deposits has tipped the balance somewhat back in favour of the tenant. Even though the rules regarding the handling of tenants’ deposits changed over eight years ago we still come across landlords to whom the changes come as a surprise. This is despite the fact that not complying with these rules comes with potentially serious penalties including, very importantly, it being much harder to get possession back of the property until the rules have been followed. Section 21 notices, which are generally used to bring Assured Shorthold Tenancies to an end, can be invalid if the steps to protect the deposit have not been taken in advance. Monetary claims for compensation can also be brought against landlords who flout the rules.
The most recent tenant-friendly legislation comes in the form of the Deregulation Act 2015, which received Royal Ascent this spring. It has long been a complaint of residential tenants that they have been evicted by landlords in response to complaints being made by them about the physical condition of the property. This law in effect bans so called ‘revenge evictions’. More precisely the law makes a Section 21 Notice invalid where the tenant has made a complaint about housing conditions which the landlord has not responded to adequately.
When a landlord gives notice seeking possession, following a complaint about the condition of the property, a court must prevent any attempt to evict a tenant based on a Section 21 notice served in such circumstances. The new rules, which will come into force later this year, will apply in England only as housing is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Research suggests that ‘revenge evictions’ affect hundreds of thousands of tenants every year and given that up to a third of UK residential housing stock is substandard the scale of the problem seems to have compelled the Government to act.
I suspect that reputable landlords across the county will simply see this as yet another thing for them to worry about.