60% of tenants fear landlord 'retaliation'

Fed up with a damp rented flat? You might well be. But a new survey claims at least 60% of UK tenants may be wary about complaining for fear of landlord retaliation, be it future rent rises or eviction.

Tenant evictions are now at their highest level for five years. Why is the figure so high - and what can you do about it?

Landlord fear

According to online tenant community The Tenant's Voice, a third of tenants (32%) who've been kicked out of their homes or threatened with eviction have been put in this position because they complained about the grim condition of their rented property.

A growing number of tenants, claims The Tenant's Voice, have been affected by a practice tagged 'Retaliatory Evictions', where landlords evict a tenant under section 21 of the UK Housing Act - that is, after the statutory minimum tenancy period.

However, you can check Shelter's Section 21 fact sheet here. Seek advice, urges Shelter, especially if you moved into your privately rented property before 28 February 1997.

"While 86% of tenants have never heard of retaliatory evictions according to our poll," says Glenn Nickols, director of The Tenant's Voice, "a third of the tenants we surveyed who have been evicted or threatened with eviction have actually fallen foul of this practice."

Rising evictions

Legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell recently said tenant evictions for landlord repossession soared to 36,177 for to the year to the end of June, compared with 33,199 in the 2011-12.

Part of the problem is rising rents due to supply shortages, while working wages remain stubbornly flat for many making it harder to meet rent climbs. In reality, many workers have taken wage cuts because of soaring inflation (today SSE announced a further 8% hike in energy bills from mid November).

Many buy-to-let landlords meanwhile have been spurred on by low interest rates. For those landlords who are highly leveraged, getting rid of unreliable tenants will be a clear priority.

Bedroom tax

Sweet & Maxwell suggest also that the "bedroom tax" earlier in the year may be contributing to the situation with some tenants on benefits struggling to make the rent.

Mark Rogers, boss of Circle Housing Group which manages 65,000 homes, recently said he was not surprised many tenants were struggling to pay their accommodation costs - around 4,000 of Circle's tenants are vulnerable to the new rules it's thought.