Just one in 20 private tenants who complain to their council about poor living conditions gets protection from a revenge eviction by their landlord, according to figures released today.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the housing campaign group Generation Rent suggests that local authorities in England are failing to use their full powers to protect tenants.
Even when the most severe hazards, such as mould or broken stairs, is found in a rented home, tenants only get protection from eviction in one in every five cases, the group added.
The data is the latest example of councils being accused of failing to use all of their powers to clamp down on rogue landlords, following a Guardian and ITV News investigation last year which found that convicted landlords, who have been ruled unfit to rent out their properties, are continuing to operate by exploiting gaps in a law that is supposed to protect the most vulnerable tenants.
Landlords can legally evict their tenants without a reason – a so-called section 21 eviction in housing jargon.
But section 21 evictions are invalid for six months after a council has served an improvement notice on the property, as such moves by landlords are thought to constitute revenge evictions that are being sought in response to a tenant complaining about conditions in their home. There must normally be a severe “category 1” hazard in the property for the council to take this action.
According to Generation Rent, the 99 English councils that responded to its FOI request received a total of 67,026 complaints about housing in 2017-18. Those complaints resulted in 3,043 improvement notices on landlords, meaning that 5% of those tenants were protected from eviction.
The campaign group added that there were 12,592 category 1 hazards recorded by 78 councils in 2017-18. However, 2,545 improvement notices were served as a result, equating to 20% of cases and leaving the remaining tenants with no protection from eviction.
Dan Wilson Craw, the director of Generation Rent, said: “These figures demonstrate that despite powers and protections, tenants living in squalid homes are being let down by their councils. If landlords are free to evict tenants who complain about disrepair then we cannot expect the quality of private rented homes to improve.”