What is Revenge Eviction?
A revenge eviction (sometimes known as a retaliatory eviction)is when a landlord evicts a tenant because they asked for repairs or complained about the state of their property, like broken heating or leaks.
Revenge evictions are most commonly experienced by assured shorthold tenants. This is because private landlords can use the section 21 eviction process (also known as no fault eviction) to get rid of a tenant. They are less common for regulated tenancy and assured tenants, who cannot be evicted using the no fault process. Instead, their landlords must have a reason, making it much harder.
That being said, many renters are unaware of the risk of revenge eviction. There have been some cases where landlords serve tenants with an eviction notice following a request for repairs without them realising that this could be classed as a revenge eviction. In some cases, section 21 notices can be successfully challenged on the grounds that the eviction is in retaliation to a repair request or complaint about disrepair.
For this reason, it is important for both landlords and tenants to be aware of the law’s view on revenge evictions and for tenant’s to understand their rights if they feel this is happening to them.
Do revenge evictions really happen?
A report by Citizens Advice called Redressing the Balance, found that a quarter of a million private renters across England and Wales don’t complain about disrepair because they are afraid of being evicted as a result.
And the statistics show these fears aren’t unfounded. In another report, Touch and Go, the charity found that tenants who had received a section 21 “no fault eviction” were not only twice as likely to have complained to their landlord but five times more likely to have taken their complaint to their local authority.
The case is clear: revenge evictions do happen and tenants are becoming increasingly aware of it. What they aren’t necessarily aware of are their rights when it comes to retaliatory eviction and what they can do if they face it.
Is revenge eviction legal?
The Deregulation Act 2015 says a tenant shouldn’t feel they can't make a legitimate complaint about the condition of their property because they are scared it will end with eviction. The same legislation also says that a section 21 notice will be invalid if:
The tenant has written to the landlord and reported the disrepair;
The landlord fails to respond to written notice within 14 days;
In the event of no response, the tenant refers the matter to Environmental Health;
The local council serves an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice.
If a landlord has received either an improvement notice or emergency works notice from the council, they cannot issue a section 21 notice for 6 months. The only time they can is if the council suspends or withdraws their notice, or gives a notice because of damage caused by the tenant.
There are other scenarios where a section 21 might still be valid, such as the property is on the market or if the notice has been given by a mortgage lender because they are repossessing it.
Whether a revenge eviction is legal or not is down to certain factors, such as who issued the section 21 and what steps a tenant has taken to flag repairs to the landlord and, in some cases, Environmental Health.
For that reason, whether you are a landlord or tenant dealing with revenge eviction, it is important to seek help from a specialist landlord and tenant lawyer, who will be able to provide advice based on your individual case.
How to prevent a revenge eviction
A report by Generation Rent found that just one in four tenants are protected from revenge eviction if their housing conditions are inadequate and warrant repair works.
Tenants who follow the correct procedure have the best chance of benefiting from the protection provided by the law and successfully challenging revenge evictions.
If your rental property is in need of repair but you are afraid to ask for them because you are scared of getting evicted, you should follow this process:
Tell your landlord about the disrepair in writing
As soon as a disrepair issue becomes apparent, let your landlord or letting agent know in writing. This gives them the opportunity to repair the problem.
Be sure to keep a copy of your request for your records, as you may need it later on.
Your landlord has 14 days to carry out the repairs or to provide you with a reply to your letter setting out a plan for repairs or a schedule of works.
If you are unsure of the process, check your tenancy agreement. Your agreement may outline the process and give you an address or email address to which to send a request to if you don’t know it already.
If your landlord doesn’t fix the problem, report it to Environmental Health at your local council
If your landlord doesn’t fix or address the problem within 14 days, you can report them to the Environmental Health department at your local council.
Usually, an Environmental Health Officer will carry out an inspection of your property in response to this and, if necessary, give your landlord either an Improvement Notice or an Emergency Remedial Action Notice which will tell them what they need to do and by when. You will also get a copy of this notice. Be sure to keep this safe, as you may need it later on.
Your landlord must carry out the necessary repairs to the property by the deadline on the notice. If they don’t and instead they serve a Section 21 notice, you may have grounds for revenge eviction.
How to stop a revenge eviction
Write to your landlord
In a letter or email to your landlord, make it clear that the section 21 notice was given because you complained about repairs and outline the notice given by the council along with the date it was issued. State in no uncertain terms that the section 21 notice is not valid and another cannot be given from 6 months of the council’s notice.
Submit the appropriate defence forms to the court within 2 weeks
If you believe the section 21 notice is evidence of revenge eviction, the next step is to fill in a defence form, explaining why you think the notice is invalid. Which form you need to fill in depends on which process your landlord is using: accelerated or standard.
If they are using the accelerated procedure (which means the court can make a decision without a hearing) you should submit the N11B defence form.
If they are using the standard procedure, submit the N11R defence form.
Include with your defence form a copy of the appropriate Improvement or Emergency Remedial Action Notice that was issued by the council.
Attend the court hearing
After you’ve submitted your defence, the court will set a date and time for the court hearing, which is usually around 4-8 weeks later. You should make it your priority to attend this hearing and get legal advice in good time from a specialist landlord and tenant law professional.
Potential outcomes of revenge eviction hearings
At the court hearing, the judge will look at all the information and evidence they have and make a decision. Either they will:
Rule that the section 21 notice is valid and give the landlord an outright possession order, which means that the property is given back to them;
Rule that the section 21 notice is not valid and dismiss the case
Ask the landlord for more information.
Can I sue my landlord for revenge eviction?
If the judge says the section 21 is invalid and dismisses the case, you may be able to claim compensation for harassment or illegal eviction.
Should I stop paying my rent if my landlord is evicting me because I asked for repairs?
It’s perfectly reasonable to think that you shouldn't continue paying rent when your landlord doesn’t bother to make repairs. But this is often not the best course of action, as it could actually work against you in the eviction process.
If you are considering it, please get specialist help and advice before taking action in order to fully understand the risks involved in withholding rent or using rent to pay for repairs.
How to avoid revenge eviction accusations as a landlord
The best way to avoid revenge eviction accusations is to follow through with your responsibilities as a landlord by:
Inspecting properties regularly (following the correct procedures set out in the tenancy agreement - for example, by providing the tenant with 24 hours’ notice before attending the property for an inspection);
Responding to notice from the tenant about disrepair at the property within 14 days, outlining proposed fixes and timelines in full;
Communicating in writing with the tenant and keeping records of any correspondence;
Actively encouraging tenants to raise any concerns or complaints in writing at the earliest possible opportunity.
Seeking legal advice quickly from a landlord lawyer in the event that you are unsure about what course of action to take next.
The better the relationship with the tenant, the more likely they will be to bring any repairs to your attention sooner rather than later, giving you the chance to address them quickly.
Following basic steps like this can prevent the problem from escalating to a stage where the local authority, or the courts, have to get involved.
How can we help with revenge evictions?
Whether you are a tenant facing revenge eviction or a landlord being accused of it, it is likely a very difficult time for you as you try to work out your next steps - particularly if you have a section 21 notice in the mix.
At Lawhive, we can help you find a landlord and tenant solicitor to support you in your case quickly and affordably, so you can get back to enjoying your property.
If you find yourself grappling with revenge eviction, please tell us about your case and we will give you a fixed fee quote in as a little as 5 minutes and get the very best specialist solicitor on your case as soon as possible.