Retaliatory eviction often refers to the practice of removing a tenant using a Section 21 notice rather than responding to their requests or complaints about the state of the property. One can see why critics of the private rented sector in its present form like to see this as a sign of unscrupulous landlord activity and use the term accordingly. These critics forget that the majority of landlords prefer to keep good tenants happy and often have a good reason for ‘retaliatory evictions’, namely that it is the tenant who is causing problems. Rentify do not wish to sweep problems under the carpet – a small minority of landlords do abuse the Section 21 powers – but there are two sides to every story, and too often the landlords’ side goes unheard.
Take a recent survey by The Tenants’ Voice web-site. They found that 32% of tenants have experienced the threat of eviction after complaining to their landlord about the state of the property or repairs. The suggestion is that these are all instances of threats of unfair ‘retaliatory evictions’. But, quite simply, the figures cannot support such an analysis as no-one knows any of the details behind the so-called ‘threats’. What if the tenant was the one who made the repairs necessary? What if they have completely unreasonable expectations about the property?
71% of those surveyed also said they had paid for repairs themselves rather than ask the landlord. But if the tenant is the one who causes the damage then they must pay for it anyway, as most tenants will know. Some others will not have bothered to contact the landlord if the repairs were small and inexpensive. Again, we cannot see all, or even necessarily the majority of these cases as the landlords’ fault.
The survey did illuminate one issue: 61% said they would be wary about complaining to their landlord, which is a clear and worrying statistic. We would encourage all landlords to foster an open and professional relationship with their tenants to make life easier for everyone. But we would also encourage more balance and care when it comes to analysing data from the private rented sector.