How to avoid a claim that an eviction was retaliatory

How to avoid a claim that an eviction was retaliatory

Back in July, I posted a blog about retaliatory evictions – landlords who evict tenants (or put up their rent) because the tenant has complained about something or asked for repairs to be carried out.

In that post, I outlined the current protection available to tenants as well as some basic steps that landlords should take to ensure they don’t fall foul of the law.

However, according to recent research, there has been a rise in claims against landlords for retaliatory evictions, some of which have been found to be spurious – a retaliatory claim of retaliatory eviction if you like. So, in this post, I thought it would be helpful to expand on my recommendations for what you should do as a landlord to safeguard yourself against such a claim.

A quick recap of the law

The Deregulation Act 2015 introduced protection against retaliatory eviction for tenants who have assured shorthold tenancy agreements entered into after the 1st October 2015. However, the protection will be extended to all assured shorthold tenancies from the 1st October 2018.

Under current provisions, landlords should provide an “adequate response” to a complaint within 14 days. Failure to respond and / or repair can result in a number of sanctions including the court refusing a claim for eviction, a court order to carry out the repairs / or the service of a notice of improvement and the possibility of hefty fines.

Protecting your position

  1. Make sure you have a written policy and procedure in respect of complaints and repairs. I would suggest that this records that you actively encourage tenants to report any issues and includes a system for making sure your tenants are asked on a reasonably regular basis, whether or not there are any repairs required or other issues. This is likely to include regular inspections by you as a landlord or by your agent.

Tenancy agreement advice- EweMove DorkingYour policy should also, of course, include what your intentions are in respect of both responding and ensuring the necessary work is carried out.

As a minimal requirement, I would suggest that your policy includes that you will provide a response to the complaint within 14 days at the very latest. If this is an issue, then you really ought to consider engaging the services of a managing agent to do it for you.

Of course, getting works carried out may take longer. However, always make sure you:

  • keep a written record to show what you’ve done and that you have done everything you could have done in order to get the works carried out as quickly as possible.
  • keep the tenants informed (preferably with a paper trail), every step of the way.

If, for any reason, the tenant is obstructive, ensure you also keep a written record of this too.

  1. Make sure your tenant knows about your approach and attitude towards reporting repairs as early as possible. It would be a good idea for tenants to sign your policy to indicate that they are aware of it but you also need to make sure it’s easy for your tenant to report a problem. Make sure they know how to do so, and continue, throughout the tenancy, to remind them that you take a positive attitude towards repairs.
  2. Make sure you know your legal repair obligations (both in respect of the exterior structure and the internal installations such as water, gas, electricity and sanitation) under Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985. If you’re not clear about any aspect, please get in touch.
  3. Make sure any agent you choose is both reliable and shares your positive and encouraging approach in respect of repairs.
  4. Keep a written record of works carried out and when.
  5. If you are thinking of evicting a tenant, for whatever reason, check that there is nothing outstanding before you issue your claim.

It’s a common-sense approach

Being positive and proactive in respect of complaints and repairs shouldn’t be an additional burden. In fact, it’s both essential and obvious, if you want to attract good, long-term tenants who treat your property well and keep it well maintained. Failure to be positive in your approach, not only opens you up to the possibility of a claim, it also means you are neglecting your own asset.

Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.

Multi-award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.

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