This is one of a number of provisions in the Deregulation Act 2015 which came into force on October 1st 2015 which is designed to protect tenants against unfair eviction.
It applies to all new Assured Shorthold Tenancies that started on or after October 1st 2015 but is it not retrospective so it does not apply to tenancies created before this date.
Retaliatory eviction is where a tenant makes a legitimate complaint to their landlord about the condition of their property, and instead of making the repair, the landlord serves them with an eviction notice.
As unbelievable as this sounds that this could happen, the law is now there to protect tenants as no-one should fear becoming homeless just because they asked for a necessary repair.
These new rules allow tenants greater security than before and allows them to make reasonable complaints about the property they are living in to their landlord without fear they will be evicted as a result.
However, I know that this could lead to landlords becoming almost paranoid about repairs and what is deemed to be “necessary”. It cannot for example be a request for a dripping tap or a lightbulb that needs changing. The kind of complaints to which these rules apply concern serious issues that may cause a potential risk of harm to the health or safety of the tenant, or a family member.
Where a tenant makes a genuine complaint about the condition of their property that has not been addressed by their landlord, their complaint has to be verified by a local authority inspection, and the local authority has to serve either an improvement notice or a notice of emergency remedial action. If this happens the landlord cannot evict the tenant for 6 months using the ‘no fault’ eviction procedure (a Section 21 eviction). The landlord is also required to ensure that the repairs are completed. The type of repairs that are covered by these rules would include for example a leak in the property or a problem with the heating, especially in cold weather.
Landlords must respond to a tenant’s complaint within 14 days and it should set out what they intend to do to remedy the problem and include a reasonable timeframe for carrying out the works. The tenant’s complaint should be in writing and should detail the problem as soon as possible. In order to rely on protection against retaliatory eviction that the Deregulation Act 2015 provides, a tenant must approach the landlord in the first instance. If however the Local Authority has served an improvement notice or notice of emergency remedial action, the tenant is protected from eviction regardless of whether they raised the issue with the landlord first. If after 14 days the Landlord does not respond, or if the reply is inadequate, or if the response is a Section 21 Notice, the tenant should then contact their Local Authority and ask them to step in and carry out an inspection to verify the need for a repair. The Local Authority has a number of enforcement options but in all cases, would contact the Landlord first in order to try and resolve the problem informally.