Failings and functions

BBC News reported on the effect of the Retaliatory Eviction provisions in the Deregulation Act, some 16 months on. A large scale FOI request produced the result that only 19% of councils had recorded stopping even 1 retaliatory eviction through service of an Improvement Notice or Emergency Remedial Action Notice. This does not come as any surprise, given what we already knew about the paucity of inspections after complaints and then the even dramatically smaller number of notices served.

I did a stint on BBC2 Victoria Derbyshire on the story – that’s me on the sofa. Without a tie, and in an informal jacket. Because orders from the BBC. (The programme is here, see about 1 hour 15 mins in).

There was also the slightly surreal experience of recording advice on disrepair and possession in 5 second snippets for Radio 1 Newsbeat. And saying ‘Hi’ cheerfully, on instructions. This did not come naturally.

The story got a lot more attention – including the main news programmes, so there may be hope of the Deregulation Act provisions and/or funding of LA enforcement being subject to some closer scrutiny in the future.

Also, if you missed it, Channel 4 Dispatches had a dispiriting if not surprising programme in which council homeless units unlawfully turned away ‘secret shoppers’ fleeing DV, with depression and with learning difficulties. Haringey and Barnet, amongst other councils, blamed ‘training issues’. Of course they did. With the Homeless Reduction Bill going through Parliament, it remains sad to see councils still trying to avoid the point of the Supreme Court decision in Hotak/Johnson/Kanu. Funding of homeless provision was quite rightly raised, though.

Closer to home, a couple of bits about the blog.

I’m having problems with the software for the email updates. It has taken to stripping out dates in square brackets from case references. It has also taken to doing away with margins on at least one post if the update has two or more. This is mostly fine, but reading on a phone means text goes right up to the screen edge. These are both making me tear my hair out and the software provider is being less than helpful. I hope to have either resolved this or change software shortly.

And then we seem to have had a lot of job ads lately. We run them for free, basically as a service to readers – those advertising and those maybe looking for a job. But there have been a lot. And I’m not sure how great it is when they threaten to outnumber the actual housing law posts.

So, I’m wondering – do we keep running them, or not at all (no exceptions, either way, that would not be right)? Any strong views, either way? Let me know in the comments. An absence of strong views will mean the status quo continues.

 

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London.
You can find him on Linkedin and on
Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.

Posted in Assured Shorthold tenancy, Homeless, Housing law - All, Possession.

16 Comments

  1. Well done on BBC appearance Giles! Job Ads – not something we use but presumably helpful to firms and some readers – you could shorten the listings if you think its too obtrusive, and then link to the full ad elsewhere on the site (a new JobAds tab perhaps). Would at least keep all recent ads in the same place.

  2. Job adverts could be combined into a single weekly email, this email should only have job adverts and always have the same subject line. This would reduce the number of emails and make it easy for anyone that is not interested in a job just to delete the email, while at the same time still providing a service to the people who are interested. (Don’t try to have a separate email list, as it gets too complex very quickly.)

  3. Thanks both – good ideas, which I’ll consider. Requests for ads come in a different times and usually with impending closing dates, but a once a week policy is a good thought, as is a separate page.

  4. I still think that housing standard departments should arrange an inspection a few months after every eviction case.

    As I landlord I would not object to a compulsory housing health and safety inspection after every eviction before a property can be marketed for rental with the landlord having to pay the costs of the inspection. Any company that has approved environmental health officers should be able to do the inspection; this would control the local council charges. It would not be hard to have a database of properties that the court system updates whenever an eviction is granted and a legal requirement that all property websites (RightMove etc) checks the database before listing a property for rent (the same check before housing benefit is paid).

    Even better a system when the landlord has to pay to register a S21 notice before sending to the tenant and the inspection being required before any property that has had a S21 notice issued on it before it is re-let.

  5. Re the Ads, I don’t think its a problem for the reader who isn’t looking for a job that they are there. Charging for them would make the advertiser think a bit more carefully about whether to advertise, and would help to defray your costs.

  6. Job ads could be limited to organisations with less than 100 employees. Those organisations with larger numbers of employees are more likely to be able to pay for advertising. In terms of policing this, the only way is likely to be by self declaration. Also you could charge large organisations.

  7. I don’t agree that the issue with Retalatory evictions being so low, is because only 19 councils carried out Inspections. The Reason Retalatory evictions are so low, – is, wait for it – Because there aren’t nowhere nearly as many as Shelter managed to to persuade Sarah Tidlesley that there were. The claim / allegation and political action was Not evidenced based. As for Ian or any landlord suggesting that we should be open to even more inspection and regulation, its like asking Turkeys to vote for Xmas !

    • Ah Chris, would that that were true. I’ve heard from three this week alone in my small patch of South London. And it doesn’t explain why one particularly energetic but not very large council in the FOI survey had managed to prevent 50 retaliatory evictions. (By the way, it was 19% of councils that had prevented at least 1 – it helps if you get the figures straight).

      The evidence is hard to come by, because, of course, use of the s,21 procedure stops evidence being gathered… But anyone actually involved can tell you anecdotally that it happens often in their area.

    • Ah Nick, how can one tell you are landlord-side ;-) We won’t charge for ads. Frankly not worth the trouble.. And Chris’ view on retaliatory evictions is – sadly, I must say – rather inaccurate.

  8. A word from the anecdotal side. I work across 4 London boroughs on rogue landlord stuff, including preventing retaliatory eviction. The problem is rife gentlemen, as is tenants too scared to raise complaints on anything, let alone disrepair. Illegal overcrowding of properties is a massive problem and when licensing and enforcement teams intervene the usual response is a load of illegal evictions..

    On the section 33 issues bear in mind that for statutory retaliatory eviction can only block section 21 being served where only 3 types of works notice are served by EHOs, so other types of notice dont work.

    Also, and I wonder how a court would view this, the trigger must be the tenant notifying the landlord of the problem, ‘in writing’. This isnt always the case so on a strict interpretation of the legislation s33 hasnt been invoked if the flag up from the tenant is verbal. I wonder how a court would a view a text message?

  9. on the frequency of retaliatory eviction my (anecdotal 2 pennorth) is that a sizeable proportion of my s21 cases are issued when a tenant has had the temerity to complain about standards; and it isn’t just issuing possession proceedings, it’s unlawful evictions in many cases too. to (mis)quote giles above ‘how can one tell i am tenant-side’.
    there are lots of good landlords out there (some of whom i have had the pleasure to represent – not just tenant-side you see!) but some are truly dreadful and use unlawful eviction as a standard technique; when they are unlucky and the tenant gets representation, they let the case drag on long enough to see that the tenant isn’t going to go away (or sometimes be threatened into dropping the matter) and view any resulting pay-off as a business expense.

  10. “only 19% of councils had recorded stopping even 1 retaliatory eviction”.

    I don’t doubt that retaliatory evictions occur (a friend of mine was a victim before the law changed).

    However, we do not have sufficient information to determine if 19% is good or bad.

    It could be that the phenomenon is concentrated in certain areas and those areas represent the 19% of councils, whilst other areas might have a lower incidence (eg rural areas) and they, due to random distribution, have not yet thrown up a case.

    • Let’s be careful how we define “retaliatory eviction”.

      Say I am renting out a property to a family with children who damage the internal walls etc due to being a bit out of control. They always pay the rent on time and give me no problems, but the rent level I can reasonably request is limited by housing benefit levels.

      I could use a S21, complete the expensive legal process, remove them, and spend £xxxx putting in a new kitchen and bathroom, then rent the property out for £200 more pcm. The maths says I should do so! (Return on investment of under 3 years.) But they are nice people who give me no problems etc; therefore I cannot be bothered to have the hassle for a small profit increase. (I also don’t wish to mess up the children schooling etc.)

      But what if the family started drying washing on the radiators, therefore there is mold on the walls. The health visitor reports the property to the council housing standards department. Assuming housing standards decides the problem is mostly due to the tenants but asks me (not requires me) to installed two extractor fan, but the tenants now due to the actions of the health visitor think I am a bad landlord, so are no longer nice and easy tenants to deal with.

      I have had lots of hassle and can expect it to continue, therefore if I decide I am no longer willing to except a below market rent and give them a S21 is that “retaliatory eviction”.

    • The meaning of retaliatory eviction has always been clear. It is where a landlord evicts in response to tenant complaints about the condition of the property.

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