Today the long-awaited Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act comes into force, pioneered by Labour MP Karen Buck and giving people on new tenancies the ability to take court action directly against landlords rather than relying on the council.
But pressure group Generation Rent says this is not enough, as it claims that tenants who successfully use this new law to get the court to order the landlord to make their home safe, “will still not be protected from revenge eviction without their council taking action.”
It claims that only one in every 20 renters who complains to the council about poor conditions gets protection from a revenge eviction.
The Deregulation Act 2015 prevents landlords from evicting tenants using Section 21 for six months when the council has served an improvement notice after finding a serious ‘Category 1’ hazard in the property.
But Generation Rent claims that private renters are losing this protection because local authorities don’t have the resources to inspect properties and pursue formal enforcement action when appropriate.
As a result, the pressure group now wants the government to scrap S21 evictions completely.
It cites as evidence to support its call the results of Freedom of Information requests to 102 councils covering more than two-thirds of England’s private renter population.
The 99 councils that responded received 67,026 complaints about housing in 2017-18, but served only 3,043 improvement notices on landlords.
“That means just five per cent of people who complained to their council about health and safety in their homes ended up being protected from eviction” complains the group.
It says just 78 councils actually record the number of Category 1 hazards they find, and reported 12,592 hazards in 2017-18.
“Yet just 2,545 improvement notices were served as a result - 21 per cent of cases. Many of these cases may have been resolved by informal dialogue between the council and the landlord, yet a tenant receives no vital protection from revenge eviction in this situation” it says.
And it adds: “Ultimately, the best way to stop revenge evictions and truly empower tenants to be able to ask for safe homes is to scrap Section 21.”
Meanwhile David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, says: “We’re pleased the Homes Act is coming into force tomorrow and congratulate Karen Buck MP on her work to provide a better private rented sector for all.
“This new legislation will give renters greater protection against criminal operators, and means they will now be able to take direct legal action if their agent or landlord does not comply.”