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Vulnerable tenants could be unfairly evicted under rule change plans

Changes to tenancy rules, aimed at helping renters, could unintentionally leave vulnerable groups at continued risk of being unfairly evicted, according to the charity Citizens Advice.

It wants to see an end to section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices. They’re blamed for so called revenge evictions where tenants are forced out because they’ve complained about issues such as poor maintenance.

But proposals being considered by the Government include a six month break clause, enabling landlords to evict tenants who have paid their rent and not broken any of the terms of their contract.

As the Government starts to evaluate the responses to its consultation on the issues, Citizens Advice says that unless legislation is watertight and issues such as these are resolved, there’s a chance this could lead to section 21 ‘by the backdoor’.

Its research has found that 57% of tenants who have received a section 21 eviction notice had made some kind of complaint or request for repairs in the six months before receiving it.
Citizens Advice believes this means some of the most vulnerable people, who are already disproportionately likely to have problems with their rented accommodation, will continue to face an increased risk of losing their home.

The charity helped 57,854 people with problems connected to the private rental sector in the last year. Of these some 24% were disabled or had a long term health condition compared to 18% of the general population.

Some 25% of those also had a mental health problem, 22% were Black, Asian or minority ethnic, compared to 14% of the general population, and 61% were women.
The proposals also include provision for landlords to evict tenants if they have one month of rent arrears at the time of a possession hearing in court. Currently it’s two months of arrears.

Citizens Advice says this would affect people who have even small and short term rent arrears, leading to further and more serious problems with debt. Just under half, some 46%, the debt issues people ask Citizens Advice for help with are related to paying household bills, such as rent, council tax and energy.

‘Tenants in private rented accommodation come from all walks of life. They need to feel secure in their homes. Like anyone else, they want to put down roots, give their children a consistent education and get on with their careers, without the constant stress of wondering when they might be forced to look for a new place to live,’ said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

‘We’re fully behind the government’s plan to end to section 21. At the same time, we’re deeply concerned that some of the proposals to scrap it contain loopholes. This risks the unintended consequence that tenants who complain about disrepair, or struggle to make ends meet, remain just as vulnerable to losing their home at short notice,’ she added.

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