How tenants can fight back against 'no-fault' evictions as thousands face losing homes

MORE than 850,000 Brits might lose their homes now that a ban on tenant evictions has come to an end.

But renters can get evictions overturned if their landlord didn't provide the right paperwork at the beginning of the tenancy or has made mistakes with the process.

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In fact, tenant's rights firm Generation Rent estimates that up to three-quarters of renters facing eviction could be protected by some of the common landlord errors.

The eviction ban was put in place to help make sure people weren't forced to leave their homes in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

Now that it has lifted, landlords only have to give four months' notice before starting eviction proceedings – during the ban it was six.

The change also means bailiffs can be used to enforce evictions again.

From August 1 the notice period will drop to two months, making it far easier for landlords to evict their tenants quickly.

If your landlord issues you with a Section 21 "no fault" eviction – there are things you can do. Here's how to fight back:

Check you got the right documents when you moved in

There are lots of rules around the documentation that your landlord has to give you when you first move into your home.

Failure to provide all of these documents makes a no-fault Section 21 eviction notice invalid.

The documents to check for are:

  • An Energy Performance Certificate
  • A gas safety certificate
  • A Government How to Rent guide

You need to be sure that you haven't been given the documents, rather than that you've lost or misplaced them.

Eddie Hooker, CEO of mydeposits says: “It is true that without all aspects of tenancy deposit protection being adhered correctly by a landlord or their agent, tenants have protection against being evicted until any shortcomings are fully rectified.

"This includes the correct serving of the Prescribed Information. However, landlords only need to evidence that they did serve the relevant information to their tenant within the initial 30 day window and not if the tenant remembers receiving it or not."

Many landlords include the information in your tenancy agreement or added onto it, so that's a good place to look.

What is the section 21 rule and what are your rights as a renter?

THE law – known as Section 21 – means a landlord can ask you to move out without needing a particular reason.

  • The first step of every procedure is the section 21 notice – a letter of notification that the landlord must serve to the tenant, prior to the eviction. The notice to quit is purely informational and doesn’t carry any legal power.
  • If you’ve got a good relationship with your landlord, it might be worth asking them if you can stay in your home for longer. Send a letter to your landlord explaining your situation and keep a copy of any reply you get.
  • Your landlord can’t make you leave your home unless they’ve gone to court to get a possession order and a warrant for eviction.
  • You might be able to challenge your eviction and stay in your home.
  • A section 8 notice can require you to move sooner, but can only be served if the landlord has a reason, such as you breaking the terms of your tenancy.
  • New rules introduced in October 2015 have made it harder to evict you for reporting problems with the property.
  • If you’re asked to leave because you’ve asked for repairs then you should see advice immediately.
  • You can find more tips on how to challenge your eviction on Citizens Advice.

Check your deposit is protected

Your eviction could also be invalid if your deposit isn't being looked after in the right way.

When you moved in, you should have been sent information about where your deposit is being held.

If your landlord didn't provide you with this, your eviction will be invalid.

Even if you did get the right paperwork, a section 21 notice is also invalid if the deposit isn't protected in a government-approved scheme.

It's well worth checking, because if your cash isn't protected, you might also be entitled to compensation worth up to three times the deposit's value.

A spokesperson for Generation Rent said: "Renting is so complicated, it’s easy for tenants to get mistreated by landlords and letting agents who may have no interest in having well-informed customers.

"Tenancy deposits alone can involve a range of problems and it is not obvious when you should go to court, a protection scheme, a tribunal or the council to get yours resolved."

What to do if you can’t pay your rent

FOR private renters, speak to your landlord as soon as you can.

They may be able to defer your payment, or to allow you to pay a smaller amount – but they don't have to do this.

Social renters should speak to their housing association or local council.

If you've tried speaking to your housing association or landlord and they aren't being sympathetic, contact Shelter for advice and support. They'll be able to guide you about what to do next.

If you're finding it difficult to manage your payments because you're in debt, here are some tips for you to curb it:

Check your bank balance on a regular basis – knowing your spending patterns is the first step to managing your money

Work out your budget – by writing down your income and taking away your essential bills such as food and transport
If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs

Pay off more than the minimum – If you’ve got credit card debts aim to pay off more than the minimum amount on your credit card each month to bring down your bill quicker

Pay your most expensive credit card sooner – If you have more than one credit card and can’t pay them off in full each month, prioritise the most expensive card (the one with the highest interest rate)

Prioritise your debts – If you’ve got several debts and you can’t afford to pay them all it’s important to prioritise them. Your rent, mortgage, council tax and energy bills should be paid first because the consequences can be more serious if you don't pay

Get advice – If you’re struggling to pay your debts month after month it’s important you get advice as soon as possible, before they build up even further.

Groups like Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust or StepChange can also help you prioritise and negotiate with your creditors to offer you more affordable repayment plans.

Check what type of tenancy you have

Your landlord doesn't have to give a reason if they evict you under a Section 21 notice.

However, you can only get one if you have an assured shorthold tenancy.If you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have, use Shelter’s tenancy checker to find out.

If you don't meet the criteria for an assured shorthold tenancy – your eviction will be invalid, and you can stay in your home.

Check the notice rules

While the tenant eviction ban has come to an end, there are still restrictions on what your landlord can do.

For instance, at the moment you need to be given at least four months' notice for a Section 21 "no fault" eviction.

If your landlord gave you notice before May 31, you needed to be given six months' notice.

From August 1, you'll only need to get two months' notice.

If your landlord hasn’t followed the correct procedure and given you enough notice then you can invalidate the eviction.

You can't be evicted by bailiffs if you are self-isolating because one of the household has Covid-19.

Check for mistakes in your eviction notice

Your Section 21 notice might not be valid if your landlord has made mistakes on it, for example if they’ve spelled your name wrong or put the wrong date.

You should also check the names and contact details of your landlord and letting agent are correct.

If any of these details contain errors, you can challenge the eviction.

If your tenancy started after October 1, 2015, your landlord also has to issue you with a form 6a or a letter with the same information.

You can check which form your landlord was supposed to use on the government website.

If you're not sure whether your landlord has used the correct form, contact your nearest Citizens Advice as they will be able to help.

There are several other mistakes that can mean that your eviction notice is invalid that it is worth checking for. The box below gives a checklist of everything you should consider.

Mistakes that can mean your eviction is invalid

IF you’re served an eviction notice, run through this checklist to make sure that it isn’t invalid due to a landlord mistake

  • If your deposit wasn't protected or was protected late
  • If you weren't given information about your deposit
  • If there's a mistake on the notice such as names or addresses
  • If you live in a house that needs a license, such as shared houses, bedsits or hostels and your landlord doesn't have the license
  • If you started renting after October 1, 2015 and you didn't get a form 6a with your eviction
  • If your landlord doesn't start court proceedings within six months of issuing your notice
  • If you have a fixed term tenancy and you're given notice within the first four months (you can stay till the end of the term)
  • If you have a contractual periodic tenancy and are given notice in the first four months
  • If you weren't given the right documents at the beginning of your tenancy
  • If you're being evicted because you have complained
  • If your landlord charged you fees while you were there (not including rent and allowed bills)
  • If your landlord asked for a deposit of more than five months (or six months if your rent is over £50,000 per year).

You can find out more about all of these reasons from Citizen's Advice

Speak to your landlord

If you think you're likely to be evicted, or you start falling behind on rent, you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible.

You may be able to negotiate reduced payments, or pay off your arrears at an affordable rate, before you landlord starts the eviction process.

You should also check whether you are eligible for any benefits that could help you to make ends meet.

Use the Turn2us online benefit calculator to see what's available.

You may also be eligible for the government's new 60-day breathing space scheme if you are in rent arrears.

The scheme allows you to freeze certain debts, meaning creditors can't add interest to it during this time.

Challenge an eviction in court

If you are given a Section 21 notice, your landlord doesn't need to give a reason why you are being evicted.

But you could also be evicted with Section 8 notice if you break the terms of your tenancy agreement including:

  • Falling into rent arrears by more than two months
  • Antisocial behaviour and being a nuisance to your neighbours
  • Breaching your tenancy agreement
  • Using your home for illegal purposes, such as drug dealing
  • If your landlord thinks you've moved out

Both kinds of eviction can be challenged in court.

When your landlord starts proceedings you'll be sent a court date. You can challenge your landlord’s eviction claim when you get the court papers.

You need to fill in a Defence Form to explain why you want to stay in your house – contact an adviser or Citizen's Advice who can help you.

You should give as much detail as possible – the court will look at what you say to decide whether you can stay in your home.

For a Section 8 eviction you’ll usually need to:

  • give reasons for your problems
  • explain how you’re making the situation better
  • check the papers you get from the court
  • explain why you should be allowed more time in your home
  • respond to every claim your landlord makes against you

Gather any evidence you have to support your case. For example, a doctor’s note if you couldn’t pay your rent because you were ill.

For a Section 21 notice you'll also need to provide evidence,

You can challenge your Section 21 notice for all the reasons outlined above including:

  • if you weren’t given enough notice
  • if your deposit wasn’t protected

Citizen's Advice have a thorough guide to challenging a Section 8 eviction here. There's a further guide on challenging Section 21 notices here.

You should also tell the courts if you are struggling due to coronavirus, for instance if you were furloughed, lost work, were hospitalised or had to self-isolate.

You must send the defence form to the court and your landlord within 14 days – the address will be on the form.

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