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Touch and go: how to protect private renters from retaliatory eviction in England

26 September 2018

Touch and go: how to protect private renters from retaliatory eviction in England [ 0.75 mb] 

In 2015, the government passed a law aimed at banning retaliatory eviction when a tenant raises complaints. Despite these efforts, this research finds that retaliation for raising complaints still occurs.

Tenants who made a formal complaint to either their local authority or to a redress scheme had a 46% chance of being issued with a section 21 eviction notice within 6 months of doing so. And compared to those who have not, tenants who have received a Section 21 notice are:

  • Over twice as likely to have complained to their landlord in the previous 6 months.

  • 5 times more likely to have complained to their local authority prior to their notice being issued.

  • 8 times more likely to have complained to an independent redress scheme.  

Recent attempts to protect tenants from retaliatory eviction have failed:

  • Only 10% of Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) report a reduction in the number of retaliatory evictions since 2015. And last year, 7 in 10 of our advisers helped tenants who were facing a retaliatory eviction

  • Local authorities rarely serve the notices required to protect tenants due to the lack of resources and a preference for informal negotiation.

  • The threshold for protection is unreasonably high, and the process to get protection is long and complicated.

In most consumer markets, transactions come with customer guarantees. Consumers know that businesses will provide a remedy, reduction or refund for poor practice or sub-par products. But in the private rented sector (PRS), this often isn’t the case. The ease of eviction enables landlords to move unwanted tenants on rather than fixing problems.


It’s impossible to balance the rights of tenants and landlords without giving tenants meaningful protection from retaliatory eviction. The government should:

1. Protect tenants from retaliatory eviction when they complain to independent redress or ombudsman schemes. Tenants should be protected from the point of complaint regardless of its outcome.

2. Enable tenants to leave a fixed-term contract early, without penalty, if their landlord fails to uphold their legal responsibilities.

3. Introduce mandatory 3 year tenancies for all private rented sector tenancies. Government proposals for 3 year tenancies are positive. To make sure these tenancies are a success, they must be mandatory for all landlords. Flexibility for tenants to move at short notice is also essential, particularly if the landlord is in breach of contract. Less ambitious approaches, such as promoting tenant awareness of longer tenancies or supplying tax incentives, are unlikely to succeed.