Ministers delivered a new bombshell to the private rented sector yesterday with guidance explaining that tenants will be able to stave off eviction by complaining about repair issues without having to tell the landlord or agent of the problem.
The could instead go straight to the local authority, leaving the landlord or agent in the dark as to any complaint and giving them no opportunity to address the problem.
If the local authority decides to take up the grievance, the tenant cannot be served with a Section 21 notice for six months – and that could be the first that the agent or landlord knows of the repair issue.
The apparently flawed new guidance on so-called retaliatory evictions was last night described by one lettings expert as “ludicrous”.
He said the guidance issued yesterday contradicts the law itself.
The footnote to the new guidance says: “Where the local authority has served an improvement notice or notice of emergency remedial action, the tenant is protected from eviction for six months from the date of service of that notice, regardless of whether they raise the issue with the landlord first.”
However, according to the legislation, the emphasis is on tenants raising repair issues first with the landlord or agent, who must then give a timely response.
Only if there is no response, or an inadequate one, can the tenant then go to the local authority, which might then serve a notice.
Rajeev Nayyar, director of Fixflo – which specialises in repairs reporting – said he had had to read the footnote several times over before he could believe what he was seeing.
He said: “If the tenant does not have to tell the landlord or agent of a repair issue, how are they expected to remedy a problem they know nothing about?”
He described the new guidance as incorrect, “with the potential to lead tenants, landlords and agents, with severe consequences”.
He said the guidance bore all the hallmarks of having been rushed through.
He went on: “The provisions are premised on the fact that a landlord should not serve a Section 21 notice in retaliation for a tenant requesting a repair.
“As such, the notification of a repair request by the tenant to their landlord is both conceptually and factually a necessary part of any Section 21 process that could be considered retaliatory.
“The guidance states that if the local authority has served an enforcement notice or emergency remedial action notice then a tenant will be provided with protection from eviction for six months from the date of notice irrespective of whether they have first raised the issue with their landlord.
“This conflicts with the legislation, other sections of the guidance and common sense.
“If followed, it has the potential to mislead tenants as to their rights, and agents and landlords as to the necessary steps to better protect their position in light of the change in law.”
The footnote is footnote 9 on page 9 here