Landlords Evict as a Last Resort

Landlords are reluctant to evict tenants – and when they do it’s for significant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, according to a major new survey.

The research for the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) counters persistent claims that private landlords are choosing to evict their tenants when they ask for repairs, in so-called retaliatory evictions.

According to the survey of more than 1,760 landlords, some 56% had had to evict tenants from their properties. Almost 90% reported that they had carried out evictions for rent arrears, with another 43% for anti-social behaviour, nearly 40% for damage to the property and 20% for drug-related activity.

Just under 30% wanted to regain possession of the property, for example because they needed to sell it for personal reasons.

The RLA says its survey demonstrates that the vast majority of landlords only seek to evict when they really need to.

RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “We have been very concerned about claims that retaliatory eviction is a widespread practice, when there is very little hard evidence to back up those claims. As our survey underlines, the vast majority of evictions are down to rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. Landlords are being threatened with more regulation which would simply make it harder for them to evict bad tenants when they need to.”

Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather has proposed introducing a private members’ bill to prevent ‘retaliatory evictions’. But landlords who responded to the RLA’s survey overwhelmingly rejected claims that they would evict if a tenant asked for repairs. Many said eviction was truly a last resort and called for a more balanced debate. Among their comments were:

“I would only ever evict a tenant if they were not paying rent and behaving badly/breaching their tenancy agreement.”

“The system is heavily biased against landlords. More consideration and emphasis should be placed on providing support for, not demonising, landlords.”

“We seem to be easy and popular targets. This is disappointing for those of us who provide good quality housing and ethical treatment.”

“It’s not all good tenant, bad landlord.”

“We positively encourage our tenants to tell us about repairs that need doing so that we can leap on top of maintenance and prevent small repairs from turning into major repairs.”

The RLA is particularly worried about calls for Section 21 notices, which allow landlords to gain possession of homes at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, to be overhauled.

“If landlords see Section 21 under threat they will withdraw from the sector,” said Ward. “Landlords are frightened that they cannot evict tenants who are in rent arrears or who are guilty of anti-social behaviour easily and cheaply. We still have complaints that even under Section 21 there are costs and delays involved in obtaining possession.”

There are also concerns that if moves to stop tenants being evicted for a period of time after they had requested repairs were implemented, then tenants in rent arrears, for example, could put in spurious repair claims to prevent eviction.

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