Revenge evictions: 'We were evicted for complaining about a roof leak'

By Almara Abgarian
Newsbeat reporter

Image source, Alicia Powell
Image caption,
Alicia and her boyfriend complained about water damage in their home

Alicia Powell, 24, was renting a flat in north London with her boyfriend when she noticed a wet patch on the ceiling.

They complained to their property manager but nothing was done so they said they were going to report it to their local council.

That's when they were served with a section 21 notice - which allows landlords in England and Wales to evict renters without a reason once their tenancy has come to an end.

Housing campaign group Generation Rent wants section 21s to be scrapped.

It claims it allows landlords to take "revenge evictions" against renters who complain about problems in their homes.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Generation Rent says renters risk getting evicted if they complain about repairs

Councils have the power to inspect private properties and if they find a serious hazard they can take enforcement action against a landlord - which legally protects the tenant from being evicted for six months.

But Generation Rent claims that many local authorities don't have the resources to get out and inspect a property and it's leaving renters vulnerable.

Alicia says she complained to the council about her home and it carried out an inspection - but it said the problems weren't serious enough for it to intervene.

"It's quite a depressing situation, because a lot of us are faced with the prospect of at least a good few years of renting. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

"Rather than focusing on buying initiatives like Help To Buy, there needs to be more concentration on the renting situation and how best to support people who are vulnerable."

'I just wanted out of that house'

Image source, Lucy Bates
Image caption,
Lucy says her landlord would let herself into the house when no-one was there

Last year the charity Citizens Advice found that tenants who complained about issues in their home were statistically more likely to get evicted.

Lucy Bates, 21, also had problems getting repairs done by her landlord after complaining of mould in her bedroom.

"The landlord said the mould was my fault and that I was going to have to clean it myself," she tells Newsbeat.

"She also said that if the mould damaged the paint, I'd have to pay for that."

Lucy's solicitor sent a letter to her landlord to try to get something done.

But the landlord refused to fix the issue and instead asked the tenants to move out four months before the end of their lease agreement.

"At that point it had created such a strain on my mental health that I didn't care, I just wanted out of that house," Lucy said.

'Stop this sort of bullying'

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A section 21 can be used once an assured shorthold tenancy comes to an end

Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, wants section 21s to be abolished so that tenants can feel secure when renting.

"Getting rid of section 21 would stop this sort of bullying and the practice of revenge evictions," he said.

"Another thing we want to see alongside that is limits on rent increases, because that's another tactic that landlords can use to intimidate tenants into not complaining.

"There are people who are putting up with really bad conditions because they are scared of an eviction notice or the rent going up."

The National Landlords Association says many local authorities lack the funds needed to help tenants.

Chris Norris, director of policy and practice, said: "We all want a private rented sector rid of the kind of rogue operators who would rather evict someone than make a repair.

"Local authorities are responsible for enforcing against these landlords, however they often don't have the funding in place to effectively do so."

He also says some landlords rely on section 21s because it's harder to get their properties back through a section 8 possession notice.

A section 8 means the renter has broken the terms of their tenancy - for example not paying rent - and sometimes involves landlords spending money taking action in court if the tenants refuse to leave.

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