Retaliatory eviction occurs when a landlord uses an eviction notice in response to a tenant complaint. Assured Shorthold Tenants (ASTs) are at greatest risk from retaliatory eviction as a notice seeking possession served under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 does not require a landlord to give a reason for requiring possession. The law changed in 2015 and prevents retaliatory eviction if the Council have served certain legal notices.
What is retaliatory eviction?
Retaliatory eviction occurs when a tenant complains to their landlord or agent about unsatisfactory conditions in their home (for example damp or it being too cold). Instead of carrying out the repair, the landlord serves a Section 21 notice (sometimes called a "no fault eviction notice"). This is not acceptable practice and tenants should not be placed at risk of losing their home simply because they reported a repair. If the Council are involved and have served certain notices, we can help. Please read the tabs below to find out more. For more information about rights and responsibilities concerning repairs please visit our repairs page.
What is a retaliatory rent increase?
This is an increase in rental price after complaining to a landlord/agent about conditions in your home (rental increases can only happen after a fixed term period has expired, and/or is a clause within your tenancy agreement). A landlord/agent may carry out the necessary works, and then increase the rental cost. Or, not do the works, and increase rental cost, effectively pressuring tenants to leave the property due to affordability. In the absence of a clause in your tenancy agreement which permits a review of the rental cost, a landlord will need to serve a notice under Section 13 of the Housing Act 1988. This must be done in a prescribed way or otherwise the notice will have no effect. Further details about what to do if you are facing a rent increase can be found through on the Citizens Advice website.
Am I at risk?
Assured Shorthold Tenancies are the most common form of tenancies in the private rented sector. This type of tenancy has a lower degree of protection from eviction than assured or regulated tenancies for example. For tenants with an assured or regulated tenancy, your landlord will need to provide a reason or reason(s) that are specifically provided for in law in order to evict you. Requesting repair is not one of the circumstances provided for by the legislation. Critically a landlord is able to use a Section 21 notice served under the Housing Act 1988 for AST tenants and this type of notice can be served without the landlord having to give reason(s) as to why (s)he is seeking possession. There is therefore nothing to stop the landlord starting eviction proceedings simply because you have requested repairs (unless certain conditions provided by the Retaliatory Eviction and Deregulation Act 2015 are met - please see below). Section 21 notices can only be served after the fixed term of your contract has ended (typically 6 or 12 months after you signed the contract) when the tenancy enters the "statutory", "rolling" or "periodic" phase. It is called statutory as the tenancy exists automatically (despite the fixed term ending) under statute implied by Section 5 of the Housing Act 1988, which created this type of tenancy. If you are an AST tenant, you should remember that it's only a minority of landlords who would seek possession simply because you have asked for necessary repairs to take place. It's also possible that your tenancy agreement requires you to report repairs to your landlord when they arise.
If you are a lodger unfortunately you have very little protection from eviction and your landlord simply needs to give you "reasonable notice" that they wish you to leave. There is no requirement for eviction notices and no protection from retaliatory eviction.
When should I contact the Council about my housing conditions?
Please refer to our repairs page for advice about how to report an issue to your landlord and what their legal obligations are. If after all informal requests to your landlord/agent to undertake a repair have failed, we have the power to serve notices to require your landlord to carry out works in order to make your home safe. These particular notices place a duty on the landlord/agent to address the complaint within a stipulated amount of time. Some of these notices block the landlord's ability to use Section 21 eviction notices.
If you have complained (preferably in writing or recordable electronic correspondence) about conditions/defects within your property, and have not had a response from your landlord/agent within 14 days, please contact the Council. We aim to work with landlords, agents and tenants to resolve issues through practical advice and guidance.
I have been served with a Section 21 notice for complaining about my housing conditions. What should I do?
Firstly, check your tenancy agreement - is there a clause requiring you to report repairs to your landlord? If there is, put this in writing stating that you were required under contract to make the landlord aware of the issue. To be protected from retaliatory eviction the following conditions must be met:
You must have complained to your landlord and they failed to respond within 14 days.
You have reported the matter to the Council and we have surveyed the property.
The Council has then served either of the following notices; an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice under the Housing Act 2004.
If all of these apply, the Section 21 notice is likely to be invalid.
You should have been provided with copies of these notices at the time they were served by the Council. If you weren't or cannot find them, we are happy to re-send them to you. Please contact us at email@example.com. If the landlord goes ahead with possession proceedings following the service of an invalid Section 21 notice, you may need to make the Court aware of why it is invalid (and possibly supply them with copies of these notices). The Homeless Reduction Act places a duty the Council to provide all residents in Tower Hamlets with information if they are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless (for example having being served with an eviction notice). If you have been served with a Section 21 notice which you believe maybe invalid, please use our Housing Options Finder tool for further help. To find out more about how to challenge a Section 21 notice, please visit Shelter.
You should be aware that there are some circumstances through which the landlord can still gain possession through a Section 21 notice where the conditions described above have been met. These are:
The Council makes a decision to suspend the notice (you will receive a copy of a "variation notice" under these circumstances)
The landlord is intent on selling the property. Should this happen, when the possession proceedings come to Court, the landlord will need to prove that the property is genuinely for sale to a judge's satisfaction.
The landlord hasn't paid the mortgage and the lender takes steps to repossess the property.