Landlords in the UK Private Rented Sector (PRS) face a new threat to their livelihood following a ruling by the Supreme Court.
UK landlords may be unable to pursue the eviction of tenants who have failed to pay their rent or who have committed anti-social behaviour as a result of the Supreme Court ruling.
Hounslow Council had tried to evict a tenant who owed more than £3,500 in arrears after the authority housed them in temporary accommodation after they became homeless in April 2007.
The tenant was entitled to £15,000 per annum in housing benefit, but had not applied for it properly.
Having begun legal proceedings for eviction, the Council was prevented from taking things further after the tenant lodged an appeal claiming that the move breached their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights to have respect for a person’s home.
The argument was heard last year by the Supreme Court and was consequently upheld by Lord Hope and Lord Phillips who ruled that the Council had not considered whether it was ‘proportionate’ to evict the tenant and ordered that the eviction be quashed.
The Court left open the question of whether the same principle applies in the Private rented Sector.
Now the RLA, one of the country’s leading bodies representing landlords in the private rented sector, has argued that the case itself could set a precedent for the private rented sector as well.
Outlining the concerns of the Residential Landlords Association, its policy director and solicitor, Richard Jones has said: “At present landlords in the private rented sector are able to begin eviction proceedings based on a tenant breaching the terms of their contract if they fall into arrears on their rent by 2 months. Once a tenancy is ended landlords can evict using Section 21 – the so called no fault notice only ground for possession. Recent rulings by the Supreme Court however raise the very real prospect now that it could become all but impossible to evict a tenant given the lack of clarity over what ‘proportionate’ action would look like. I am aware of at least one case where a private tenant is relying on Article 8 to try to avoid eviction which has gone to the Appeal Court. We are waiting to see what happens in this case. Even if this does not go ahead another is going to come along and the question is going to have to be dealt with sooner or later. If Article 8 does apply in the Private Rented Sector small scale landlords, renting just a couple of properties, would soon hit financial crisis point if they were unable to evict a tenant who simply failed to pay their rent for two months or longer. Given the supply crisis in the private rented sector everything needs to be done to support and encourage new landlords to enter the market. By making evictions so difficult, you are likely to scare many off altogether. We very much hope that the Courts will ultimately decide that Article 8 does not apply in the Private Rented Sector. This is the Government view. However, if it does we would then call on the Government to work with the judiciary and EU allies to establish a clear definition of ‘proportionate’ action in this case to provide much needed certainty to the housing sector as a whole.”
Legal 4 Landlords spokesman Sim Sekhon said: “The Supreme Court ruling apparently appears to undermine the current UK legislation that states that landlords can apply for a tenant’s eviction using a section 8 notice, if the tenant is more than 8 weeks in rental arrears. We recommend that all UK landlords use specialist eviction services such as those provided by Legal 4 Landlords to ensure that the eviction process is done correctly.”