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Complain and you’re out: Research confirms link between tenant complaints and revenge eviction

24 August 2018

Private renters in England who formally complain about issues such as damp and mould in their home have an almost one-in-two (46%) chance of being issued an eviction notice within 6 months, according to a new report 'Touch and go' released today by Citizens Advice.

The charity estimates this has affected about 141,000 tenants since laws attempting to ban revenge evictions were introduced in 2015.

It comes as the government's consultation on introducing minimum three-year tenancies in the private rented sector closes this Sunday.

The research found complaining dramatically increases a renter's chance of getting an eviction notice when compared to people who do not complain.

Tenants who had received a section 21 "no-fault eviction" notice were:

  • Twice as likely to have complained to their landlord
  • Five times more likely to have gone to their local authority
  • Eight times more likely to have complained to a redress scheme

The charity argues the figures prove 2015 laws designed to prevent families and other tenants in the private rented sector from being evicted after raising a complaint have not worked.

The research includes a unique survey of council Environmental Health Officers (EHO) that found 3 in every 4 EHOs saw tenants receive a no-fault eviction after complaining last year. Of the officers who had been in their role before the 2015 Act was passed, 90% said they have not seen a drop in revenge evictions.

With the private rented sector being the second most common tenure in England with 4.7 million households - including 1.7 million families with dependent children - Citizens Advice is calling for laws around tenant security to be significantly strengthened.

Advisers from the charity helped one mum who moved into a house with her husband and two children and went to her council because a leak in the home was causing her partner's health to deteriorate. One day before an Environmental Health inspection was due to take place, she was issued a section 21 eviction notice.

The charity backs the government's proposals for minimum 3-year tenancies, but is concerned that potential loopholes may undermine protections that longer tenancies provide.

Citizens Advice is calling for 3-year tenancies to be written into law, and for these tenancies to include limits on rent rises to prevent landlords from effectively evicting tenants through pricing them out, no break clause at six months, and allowing tenants to leave contracts early if the landlord doesn't uphold legal responsibilities.

The charity also believes if 3-year tenancies are agreed, the government should then review grounds for section 8 evictions - normally used when tenants are antisocial or fail to pay rent - to allow landlords to recover the property if they choose to sell up.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

"The chance of a family being evicted from their home for complaining about a problem shouldn't carry the same odds as the toss of a coin.

"Those living in substandard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain.

"Our report shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked, and a new fix is needed.

"There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason - known as section 21.

"While Government plans for minimum 3-year tenancies is a step in the right direction, these changes must be strong enough to genuinely prevent revenge evictions once and for all."

Notes to editors

  1. On behalf of Citizens Advice, ComRes surveyed 2,001 private renters between 16 March and 27 march 2018.

  2. We carried out an online survey of 97 Environmental Health Officers working across 59 local authorities in England in July 2018.

  3. Citizens Advice helped 62,000 private renters last year, with repairs and maintenance the single biggest issue, with 13,000 problems.

  4. Our report, Redressing the balance, released in March, found a quarter of a million people do not complain about disrepair through fear of being evicted.

  5. The MHCLG launched a consultation into the potential for minimum three-year tenancies on 2 July 2018. The consultation closes on 26 August.

  6. Citizens Advice is made up of a network of local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and the national charity Citizens Advice.

  7. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.

  8. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and postal markets. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.

  9. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free and independent support for both prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.

  10. Citizens Advice also offers Pension Wise appointments at 500 locations across England and Wales.

  11. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

  12. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk

  13. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.

  14. Last year we helped over 2.7 million people face to face, by phone, email or web chat. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  15. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.