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LEGAL CLINIC: Renters What Are Your Rights

It is a fact of modern life – a vast majority of us rent our accommodation. This is the first in a series of articles dealing with your rights as a renter. This week we deal with retaliatory evictions.

One of the worst aspects of renting is the lack of stability – private landlords can evict you for no reason. All they have to do is give you two months’ notice (although there are strict rules as to the date on which the notice should expire).

Most people would agree that a landlord should be able to evict a tenant when there is unpaid rent, or where the tenant is trashing the property. However, some landlords will evict you on unreasonable grounds. They may try to evict you because you have complained about the property being in a poor state of disrepair. Or they may decide to do so because you are LGBT.

Complaining about the property

Some landlords may decide to evict a tenant if he or she complains about the state of the rented property. Here we are putting ups with dodgy boilers, out of date gas certificates and missing smoke alarms (which are now required by law in rented properties) because we are afraid we may be evicted if we complain. It also means that landlords evict tenants and get new ones in, rather than solving serious faults with the property.

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All that changed on 1st October 2015. Now, a landlord’s ability to evict you for making a complaint about a “hazard” at your rented property is restricted. In order to obtain this protection, you need to involve your local council. The first method is easy – complain to your local council, and if they tell the landlord to rectify the situation then the landlord cannot serve you with an eviction notice (called a section 21 notice) until six months later. That gives you the right to stay for at least eight months (the six month period plus the legally required two month notice period) in the property, from the day that the council complains to your landlord.

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However, you may think it makes more sense just to write to the landlord to complain. If you do this and the landlord attempts to evict you as a result, you will need to inform the local council who should, if they agree that the property is in need of repair, tell the landlord to rectify the issue. This then gives you protection against retaliatory eviction.

 

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LGBT tenants

It is disappointing for LGBT renters that there is no framework to prevent retaliatory eviction as a result of a landlord discovering that his renters are LGBT. It is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against someone for being LGBT when initially renting out property (unless it is a lodger in the landlord’s home), but this does not, it seems, apply once an LGBT tenant has moved in.

However, most landlords are far more concerned with getting regular rent payments than with gender identity, sexual orientation or ethnicity, so once you are in situ this is unlikely to be an issue. A landlord can still evict you if you fall into rent arrears and cannot repay them before he gets to court. But if you stay up to date with rent and comply with your tenancy agreement, the landlord will probably ignore any personal gripes he may have about your actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and leave you to enjoy your home in peace.

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David Peachey is a barrister at Enterprise Chambers. Charles Irvine is a barrister at 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers. They both undertake cases in property, probate and co-ownership. This article is for general information only and you should contact a property specialist if you require advice about your individual circumstances.

 

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