Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, says the Tenancies (Reform) Bill will hurt good tenants and landlords.
“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”, so said Otto von Bismarck. When it comes to the Tenancies (Reform) Bill being debated in the Commons today he was right.
We agree with the Sarah Teather MP, whose Bill this is, that the practice of retaliatory evictions – being evicted because a tenant raises a complaint – is wrong. But this Bill won’t tackle the problem. It could make the situation worse for tenants.
The vast majority of landlords in the country are decent people, providing a good service and for whom evicting a tenant is a difficult and costly process.
The English Housing Survey shows that just 7% of tenancies are ended by a landlord, the majority of which will be because tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or not paying their rent.
Whilst Shelter has argued that 2% of private sector tenants have faced retaliatory evictions, at no point do they ask how many of this group were in rent arrears or breaching their contract. Likewise, their findings do not establish who is responsible for the problem such as tenants leaving damp washing in their houses – a frequent cause of black mould – despite being warned not to.
This Bill is being introduced not because of hard evidence of a problem, but because of a fear of fear. This cannot be the basis upon which laws are made The Housing Minister has himself admitted that the Government does not collect data on this issue.
More fundamentally still, this Bill would penalise good landlords. It would incentivise tenants with a problem to go straight to their local authority to complain. As soon as that happens the landlord would not be able to regain possession of their property and would be left in limbo for however long the local authority decides to take to inspect the property.
Furthermore, where a notice to improve the property is served on the landlord, they still would not be able to reclaim possession for a further six months. There would be no incentives for landlords to rectify a problem quickly. Tenants meanwhile would be stuck in a property that was deemed dangerous with councils fearful that they could not house those who do leave.
Last year, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, in its report on the private rented sector, warned against such legislation, arguing it could “stunt the market”. The Government, in its response agreed.
With Consumer Protection Regulations already making retaliatory evictions illegal, what is needed is not new tokenistic laws, but proper enforcement by hard pressed local authorities of existing regulations.
MPs and Peers can legislate until the cows come home, but what use is this if the laws they pass cannot be enforced?