Monday, 03 August 2015

Charities seek law to stop retaliatory evictions

Private rented tenants need legal protection from retaliatory evictions for complaining about problems, two major Welsh charities say.

Shelter Cymru and Citizens Advice Cymru said tenants are right to fear being booted out of their homes for asking landlords to address disrepair or other issues.

They are calling on the Welsh Government to include protection from such evictions in its reform of tenancy law.

The Welsh Government said it will give the research ‘serious consideration’.

The report, Making rights real, published this week, said Shelter regularly comes across clients who are too afraid to raise issues with their landlord.

Among other case studies, they said a single mother living in south east Wales was threatened with eviction after complaining about unsafe wiring which had blown several appliances.

A family in south Wales were issued with possession proceedings after complaining to Environmental Health about damp, the report said.

The report will be presented to housing minister Carl Sergeant at a Shelter Cymru conference in Swansea.

The charities will be calling on the Welsh Government to introduce protection from retaliatory evictions in the Renting Homes Bill, which will introduce standard tenancy contracts.  

John Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru, said: ‘Currently, there is no protection in law for tenants against this kind of action as there is in other countries with a similar private rented sector.

‘For instance, 39 of the 50 US states have some form of retaliatory eviction statute, as do New Zealand and all six states in Australia.’

He said the bedroom tax would push more tenants into the PRS, giving a greater need for proper protection.

The research included a survey of environmental health and tenancy support officers, receiving responses from 29 officers in 20 authorities.

Every respondent said they had encountered tenants who were unwilling to enforce their rights to repair due to fears of eviction and 85 per cent were in favour of legislation to prevent a landlord serving eviction proceedings if the tenant had taken steps to exercise a statutory right.

Fran Targett, director of Citizens Advice Cymru, said: ‘The problem needs to be considered in the context of a growing reliance on the private rented sector, due to reduced access to mortgages, shortages in social housing and the impacts of the economic downturn and welfare reform.’

In a statement, the Welsh Government said: ‘Through our renting homes white paper we are currently consulting on fairer and more effective arrangements for renting a home.

‘We therefore welcome the research carried out by Shelter Cymru as a valuable contribution to the consultation and we will give it serious consideration, together with all other responses received.’

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