Section 21 – The Bigger Picture not seen by Citizens Advice

by Paul Shamplina

9:04 AM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Section 21 – The Bigger Picture not seen by Citizens Advice

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Section 21 – The Bigger Picture not seen by Citizens Advice

A recent report published by Citizens Advice suggests tenants who complain to their landlords are more likely to be served a section 21 eviction notice as a result of their actions.

The report called ‘Touch and Go’ claimed that tenants who complain about issues like damp or mould have a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice within six months. The charity claims this has affected about 141,000 tenants since 2015.

The research says complaining “dramatically increases a renter’s chance of getting an eviction notice when compared to people who do not complain”.

My first concern with this report is how these figures have been sourced and their accuracy. Many tenants do not know why a section 21 notice has been served, it is a no-fault eviction notice, therefore landlords are not obliged to give a reason. It’s possible that many of the tenants surveyed by Citizens Advice did have a maintenance complaint, but it is not necessarily the reason they were evicted. It would be impossible to have such detail without surveying every landlord that has served a section 21 notice on their tenants.

Our experience of serving section 21 notices

At Landlord Action, we know from experience that the vast majority of section 21 notices are served as a result of rent arrears, breaches of tenancy, or tenants staying in the property often because they are awaiting a court order to be re-housed. The court systems are still too slow to keep up with the number of possession cases. Therefore, many landlords choose to use accelerated possession procedure, even though they forfeit the opportunity to recover outstanding rental money. This is because it can be a faster way of recovering the property so that it can be re-let.

My second concern is that the charity argues the figures show that recent laws (provisions for retaliatory eviction in the Deregulation Act 2015) designed to prevent families and other tenants in the private rented sector from being evicted after raising a complaint, have not worked. I would dispute this.

Figures released earlier this year by The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) showed that the number of accelerated possession cases (section 21 no-fault eviction) are in fact on a downward trend, with nearly 5,000 fewer cases in 2017 than in 2016. Previous figures had followed a modest upward trend since 2010.

This, in my opinion, demonstrates that the measures introduced are working and fewer landlords are using the section 21 accelerated procedure. Since the introduction of the Deregulation Act 2015, tenants have an opportunity to make a complaint in writing to the landlord (or to the landlord’s agent) regarding the condition of the property. The landlord then has 14 days to respond to the complaint. If the matter is not dealt with, the tenant can then make a complaint to the relevant local housing authority who has the power to issue an improvement notice or hazard awareness notice.

If a tenant has taken these steps and a landlord has not complied, a section 21 notice served in England would be invalid and any possession claim struck out. In addition, under the Deregulation Act 2015, a section 21 has a 6-month life span from the date the notice is dated. It is a case of ‘use it or lose it’. If a landlord lets the notice run out without starting Court proceedings, it is no longer effective and must be re-served if the landlord wishes to subsequently take Court action. Previously, we were being instructed to act on notices which were up to four years old!

Issues surrounding property disrepair

One of the other issues we come across is tenants not following recommendations on ventilation to prevent the buildup of damp and mould, and then not granting landlords, or their agents, access to make the reported repairs.

What would be most interesting to see is figures from local authorities on how many hazard awareness/improvement notices have been issued which would give a truer indication of disrepair issues. If as many tenants as reported by Citizens Advice are being evicted for raising issues over damp and mould, then clearly the issue over education and enforcement is far worse than we thought.

My advice to all tenants is, if you feel your landlord is not taking your complaint seriously, put a formal request for repairs in writing as soon as possible. Under the Deregulation Act 2015, a landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice until the issues are dealt with. If the landlord ignores the outstanding repair issues, then it should be reported to the local council.

My final thoughts

We have no room in our industry for rogue landlords making tenants’ lives miserable and everyone should have the right to live in a pleasant and safe environment. However, I do believe there are far more honest and professional landlords out there than rogues, which are in the minority. The constant war/ bad press against good landlords will eventually drive some out of the market leaving tenants with far less choice of accommodation. Any legislative changes should provide a good balance between protecting the interests of tenants but also the investments of landlords.

I think that changes the government has already implemented are making a difference, but with plans to dilute the use of Section 21 even further, I think we need to give the market time to adjust before stripping away everything that gives landlords an ounce of control.

Contact Landlord Action

Specialists in tenant eviction and debt collection. Regulated by The Law Society.



Comments

Gromit

9:24 AM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

"The constant war/ bad press against good landlords will eventually drive some out of the market leaving tenants with far less choice of accommodation. "
Should read: "The constant war/ bad press against good landlords will eventually drive good Landlords out of the market leaving tenants with just rogue Landlords and far less choice of decent accommodation. "

Simon Williams

9:53 AM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Yes, unless CAB interviewed the landlord to get their side of the story as to why notice was served, it's potty to say that a causal link between alleged complaint and eviction is established.
Presumably on CAB's analysis, even when the repair complaint was actually actioned by the landlord quite correctly, but an eviction followed within 6 months under section 21 for any number of completely unrelated reasons, it would still count in their reports' statistics?
I think it is likely to be very rare indeed that a landlord evicts just because a tenant raised a legitimate repair issue. So, you evict that tenant and then a new one is eventually recruited. Guess what? The new tenant raises exactly the same repair issue as the last one. Landlord wastes huge amount of time and effort (and probably some rent) evicting and still has a repair complaint on their hands.
At the heart of this is the extraordinarily flawed view of some non-landlords that evicting a tenant under section 21 against their will and recruiting a new tenant in place is "easy". Not only is such a process often hugely time-consuming, it is also risky. Is this really to be preferred as an "alternative" to dealing with a leaking roof, or a few sundry plumbing issues? Total nonsense.

Dr Rosalind Beck

10:42 AM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Excellent contribution Paul. Given your high public profile this could be a useful article to share. Unfortunately, CAB is and has been for years, very biased against landlords. I had to deal with a rogue/criminal tenant years ago when I first became a landlord. Despite me being a taxpayer and my tenant not being one and despite me being the innocent party, as soon as I said I was a landlord they said 'we don't talk to landlords.'

Luke P

10:54 AM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 05/09/2018 - 10:42
Are CAB a charity or a government provided public service?

Andy Bell

12:34 PM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

If CAB also state how many of these complaints are valid and the responsibility of the LL it would be much more compelling. Or would their report just fall apart ?

Dr Rosalind Beck

12:38 PM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 05/09/2018 - 10:54
Hi Luke. I don't know, but I did see on a news report yesterday about local councils struggling to balance their budgets, that one particular council has had to reduce or scrap its grant to CAB (lol).

Neil Patterson

13:40 PM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Please see article with information supplied by Barry:

>> https://www.property118.com/citizens-advice-charity/

As a follow up to the article by Paul Shamplina ‘Section 21 – The Bigger Picture not seen by Citizens Advice’ and the subsequent comments concerning this article raising the point that Citizens Advice are a charity.

One of our members Barry has supplied the confirmation and documentation below:

Charity Registered charity number 279057

Recardo Knights

16:34 PM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

Has a report been done on tenants that moved into a newly refurbished and decorated property that has never suffered from damp and mould tha suffer from this problem after a few months, and then expecto the lL to cure the problem.
Any other landlord had tenants that turn of rads to unused rooms, don't open windows ( can't afford the gas bill ) or even use a tumble dryer in the dining room that is not vented through the wall or window.
Best way to fix that problem is S21.
I plan to sell in the new year.

Chris Clare

16:40 PM, 5th September 2018
About a month ago

INHO this data is flawed, let me explain.
Around 1,000 were surveyed which is considered a minimum sample for a viable conclusion to a hypothosis.
However, only 148 surveyed had received a S21 notice 849 did not.
This therefore means only 148 people were really sampled for the reports results, which is far short of a figure needed to make a proper worthy conclusion.
Finally the survey focussed on the issuance of the S21 and not the incidents of tenant complaints. I would imaging that far more than the 148 respondents would have raised an issue with the LL about something, and going by their own statistics received no consequential backlash in doing so.
Due to the small number of respondents experiencing S21 the better question would have been how many of you have reported an issue with the property, this is likely to be more than the 148. Of those respondents how many of you have experienced an S21 as a result, this would have created a far smaller and less alarming percentage figure and more inline with Paul's summation and experience of the real market place.
That's just my ten penneth worth!

Mike D

12:49 PM, 6th September 2018
About a month ago

In my corporate world its surprising how people use only half the facts and quote them as facts......we live in a world of making a mountain of a mole hill these days, where the full facts are ignored to allow for sensation & drama to exist.
What the press and the politicians started with tainted minimal facts, has become come place, hence the new world of Fake News!

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