Revenge eviction if you ask for repairs

New rules might help protect you from eviction if you complain to a private landlord about repairs or bad conditions.

Risk of revenge eviction

Revenge eviction is when a landlord tries to evict you after you ask for repairs or complain about conditions in your home. It's also called retaliatory eviction. 

This might affect you if you're a private tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy. That's because it's relatively easy to evict tenants with this type of contract.

A change in the law could make it harder for some landlords to do this. The change affects assured shorthold tenancies that started or were renewed on or after 1 October 2015.

If you're a private tenant with a less common assured tenancy or regulated tenancy, you already have more protection from revenge eviction. You can't be evicted unless your landlord proves to a court that you are at fault, for example because you didn't pay the rent.

Assured shorthold tenancies starting before 1 Oct 2015

If your tenancy started before 1 October 2015, there's no special protection that prevents your landlord evicting you if you complain about repairs.

Rules that could protect you from retaliatory eviction won't apply unless you start a new tenancy or sign a renewal contract from 1 October 2015. 

Otherwise, you'll have to wait until 1 October 2018 to benefit from the new rules.

Your landlord can use the section 21 eviction process to evict you when any fixed period ends, for example after 6 or 12 months. Your landlord needs to get a court order, but won't have to prove you're at fault in any way. 

Section 21 notices can be invalid if a landlord doesn't follow certain rules about tenancy deposits, so it's worth checking if you can defend the case.

Your landlord might be able evict you during a fixed term tenancy if you break certain terms and conditions.

Find out more about eviction from an assured shorthold tenancy.

Assured shorthold tenancies starting from 1 Oct 2015

New rules could help if you complain about repairs or conditions in your home and your landlord responds by giving you a section 21 notice. 

The rules apply if your new assured shorthold tenancy started on or after 1 October 2015 or you signed a renewal contract on or after that date.

Section 21 served after you complain to your landlord

The new rules mean a court can refuse to order your eviction if all these apply:

  • you complained to your landlord or letting agent in writing (by letter or email) 
  • your landlord issued a section 21 notice after you complained
  • you complained to the local council because your landlord didn't take steps to fix the problem
  • the council sent your landlord a notice telling them to make improvements or that the council will carry out emergency work

The new rules may also apply if you first complained about the repairs to the council because you didn't have a postal or email address for your landlord

Once the council serves your landlord with an improvement notice or notice requiring remedial action, the section 21 notice becomes invalid.

If the improvement notice is served before the court hearing, your landlord's case will fail and the court won't order you to leave.

If the council doesn't serve your landlord with an improvement notice before the court hearing, the court can make an order for you to leave. The court can't overturn an order to evict you if the council's notice comes later. 

Section 21 served after the council sends your landlord a notice

If the council send your landlord an improvement notice or notice requiring improvement and your landlord later gives you a section 21 notice, it won't be valid if it's served within 6 months.

A section 21 notice served after 6 months have passed will be valid.

When the new rules won't help

The new rules won't help if you:

  • complain verbally or your landlord serves a section 21 notice before you complained to them in writing
  • complain to the council but it takes no action or serves your landlord with a 'hazard notice'

The new rules won't help if your landlord can prove to the court that:

  • you caused the problem you're complaining about
  • they've genuinely put the property up for sale – sales to friends, family or business partners might not count 
  • the property has been repossessed by the landlord's lender and the property must be vacant so it can be sold (detailed rules apply)

A section 21 notice is valid if your landlord gives it to you after the council serves your landlord an improvement notice but suspends enforcement action. The council may decide not to enforce the notice if there aren't any young children or anyone over the age of 60 in your home.

The new rules don't help you if your landlord uses the section 8 court procedure for eviction if you haven't paid the rent.

Other legal changes from 1 October 2015

Tenancies that started or were renewed on or after 1 October 2015 have more protection following other changes in the law.

Section 21 notices can be invalid if a landlord doesn't follow certain rules about tenancy deposits, gas safety and providing you with information about your tenancy.

Assured and pre-1989 regulated tenants

It's difficult for landlords to evict tenants from assured tenancies and pre-15 January1989 regulated tenancies. Landlords have to prove to a court that there is a legal reason to evict you.

Your landlord could try to evict you if you have damaged your home or allowed its condition to deteriorate, so tell your landlord if repairs are needed. It's worth taking action to get repairs done.

Why you should report repairs

Your landlord must make sure your home meets certain standards, but it's your responsibility to report repair problems.

It's important to report problems because:

How to deal with repairs problems

Your first step should always be to report repair problems to your landlord.

If your landlord doesn't take action, you can complain to your local council. The council may take action that results in your landlord doing the repairs or could do emergency repairs itself.

You can take your landlord to court but this can be expensive. Legal aid is available for legal action over disrepair if there is a serious risk of harm to the health or safety of you or your family.

You may qualify for legal aid if you claim benefits or have a low income.

Find out more about legal aid and free legal advice.

Harassment and illegal eviction

Unlawful eviction and harassment are serious criminal offences.

Your landlord might be guilty of illegal eviction or harassment if they:

  • send workers around at unsociable times or without giving you notice 
  • start repairs and leave them unfinished
  • change the locks while you are out

They can be taken to court and, if guilty, can be fined or sent to prison.

Get advice from Shelter

If your home needs repairs but you're worried about your landlord's response, call Shelter's free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 .

Fill out my online form.

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