Landlords urged to prepare for retaliatory eviction claims
Landlords are being warned to establish basic procedures to protect themselves against being accused of retaliatory evictions ahead of an expansion of the laws governing such issues next year.
Danielle Hughes, associate solicitor at Kirwans Solicitors, said that a number of landlords are potentially leaving themselves open to legal claims of retaliatory eviction and property disrepair by not putting in place processes to deal with any issues their tenants have.
Ms Hughes explained that the introduction of laws against retaliatory evictions - in which landlords are accused of evicting a tenant due to the fact they complained about the condition of the property - were brought in as part of the Deregulation Act 2015.
At present, the laws only apply to assured shorthold tenancy agreements (AST) entered into since October 1 2015. However, from October 1 2018, they will apply to all ASTs.
Landlords are now at greater risk of having their claims for possession defeated in court as tenants gain more understanding of the new retaliatory eviction legal defence, according to Ms Hughes.
She said: “Landlords may be shocked to discover that tenants could potentially successfully fight a claim for possession based on what has until recently been known as the ‘non-fault’ eviction process.
“This defence can not only invalidate a section 21 Housing Act notice and lead to the judge striking out a claim, but can also prevent a new section 21 notice being served for six months.”
Ms Hughes went on to say that there is a “particularly strong chance” of this happening when landlords have failed to deal effectively with complaints and the local authority has served them with an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice.
Landlords should therefore actively encourage their tenants to report any problems with the property to them in writing at the earliest opportunity in order to avoid the problem escalating to the point where the local authority becomes involved, Ms Hughes advised.
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