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UK laws covering the issue of retaliatory evictions are due to be expanded from next year, which means landlords need to have basic procedures in place to protect themselves against any allegations or accusations. It is feared that many landlords are exposing themselves to legal claims of retaliatory eviction and properties not being repaired, because they do not have clear processes in place for any issues with tenants.

Under the Deregulation Act 2015, further measures were put in place to protect tenants against unfair eviction because they have complained about the condition of their rented property. Landlords also have to give tenants information about their rights and responsibilities as tenants. The provisions also say a landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice until certain legal responsibilities have been complied with. The Act also introduced a standard form for landlords to use when evicting a tenant under this procedure. These measures apply to all new assured shorthold tenancies which came into force after October 1, 2015. However, from October 1 next year, the laws will apply to all assured shorthold tenancy agreements.

Solicitor, Danielle Hughes, of Kirwans law firm, believes landlords face an increased risk of having their claims for repossession defeated in court, as tenants get to grips with the new retaliation eviction legal defence. This could invalidate a Section 21 notice and lead to the judge dismissing a claim, as well as preventing a new Section 21 notice being served for another six months. She is urging landlords to actively encourage tenants to report any problems in writing as soon as they occur. This will avoid the problem building up to the point where the local authority is involved. Landlords need to respond to complaints within 14 days of receiving them.

It is important to make sure everything is in writing, so it can be used as evidence. It is also a useful way for landlords to check that they are responding within the timeframe and that any problems do not fall through the net. Software and apps are good ways to keep on top of this administration work, with alerts built in to remind landlords of correspondence that needs dealing with, as well as reminders about check-outs, contracts, payments and any other business relating to the duties of a professional landlord. That way, landlords can prove they have been acting responsibly at all times with their tenants.

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