Nine out of 10 tenants say they are unaware of a new law intended to protect them from so-called "revenge evictions" by their landlords if they complain about the state of their property.
The law, passed as part of the Deregulation Bill, was approved by the House of Lords in March and comes into place today (1 October). The legislation means landlords will no longer be able to carry out revenge evictions or "no fault" notices if they have not sufficiently responded to tenants' complaints about housing conditions.
Research released by homeless charity Shelter in 2014 revealed more than 200,000 people were at risk of this type of eviction. According to the survey, 8% of those asked said they had avoided asking their landlord to fix a problem or improve the living conditions over fears they would be evicted for doing so.
However, according to findings from the National Landlord Association (NLA), 88% of tenants are still unaware that the new law bans such evictions. A survey of nearly 1,000 people found that 9% of tenants felt they had been asked to leave a private rented property after requesting for repairs or maintenance to be carried out. After realising the new law was coming into place, 82% of tenants said they felt assured about complaining about a property to their local council.
The NLA is now calling on councils to provide a clear framework for how they plan to deal with complaints in order to ensure legitimate ones are taken seriously over those that "unnecessarily prolong the possession process".
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA, said: "These kinds of evictions are extremely rare but we have to make sure that complaints by tenants don't just get lost in the system, regardless of whether they're legitimate or not. The majority of landlords only choose to end a tenancy if it's absolutely necessary, so we have to make sure that the system isn't abused by those simply trying to prolong the evictions process.
"We all know that local councils are under-resourced but housing problems must take priority. If a tenant complains about a potentially hazardous issue then both they and their landlord should have a clear expectation of how and when the council will deal with it. If councils fail to act on complaints then it will undermine the law and tenants' confidence in a system that's supposed to protect them."