A private tenant who twice beat his landlord’s attempts to evict him has been notified of a 70 per cent increase in rent this week in what he believes is a further attempt to force him out after he reported dangerous conditions to the council last year.
For the first time in nearly a year Michael James, who’s lived at Chapman House, a 19-flat block in Shadwell, for more than 25-years, began to feel secure in his home again after his solicitor informed him of a little known law that meant he was an assured tenant and could not be evicted.
However, in February Michael received formal notice from the landlord’s solicitor that his rent would be increased from £650 to £1,100 a month from April.
Mr James said he believes it’s a vindictive move to force him out through alternative means after the landlord twice failed to evict him in 2014 with a Section 21 (two-month notice to quit). He said it has brought back the desperate sense of insecurity and fear for the future he thought he’d put behind him.
He said: “It’s depressing that after failing to evict me on two occasions they are seeking to attack me again like this. The past year has been extremely stressful and my health has suffered as a result. Knowing they can’t evict me with a Section 21 they are resorting to other measures to get me out of the property, so yet again I’m living in limbo.
“I used to have an amenable relationship with the landlord, however, for the past seven years maintenance of the property has all but stopped while rents continued to rise, which is what led me to report the poor conditions first to the agent, and then when they were ignored, to the council.
“Despite all I’ve gone through and whatever happens to me now, my actions will have been justified when the council finally forces the landlord to bring the property up to some sort of livable standard.”
The owners of the block, Lepex Holdings Ltd, are expected to carry out what could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of work to deal with illegal and unsafe conditions after the council’s environmental health team inspected the property.
When the council’s head of public health, Dr Somen Banerjee, visited the block in 2014 he expressed shock at what he saw, which included serious mould and damp, illegal electrics, serious fire hazards, poor security and a bathroom ceiling that had collapsed due to a leaking roof.
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Renters said: “Michael’s treatment over the last 12-months has been nothing less than disgraceful. The landlord should be thanking him for highlighting life-threatening and illegal conditions at the property. He’s possibly saved him hundreds of thousands of pounds had he been sued following an accident. But rather than take responsibility for their poor management, they have sought to punish Michael by first attempting to evict him and now by pricing him out.
“There couldn’t be a clearer example as to why central government must bring in longer and more secure tenancies, ban retaliatory evictions and limit rent increases, and Tower Hamlets Council must forge ahead with its plans to implement a landlord licensing scheme that could ban landlords such as Michael’s from operating in the borough as Newham is successfully doing.”
Why the landlord failed to evict Michael with a S21
The law that protected Michael was enacted in 1989 after statutory assured tenancies (lifelong contracts) were replaced with six-month contracts as standard. It required landlords to inform new tenants that they were on a shorthold tenancy and not an assured one. This was done in the form of a Section 20 signed by both parties.
Failure to administer a S20 meant the tenant was an assured tenant. Michael has no recollection of ever signing one while his landlord failed to present his solicitor with one after twice seeking a claim for possession through the courts. As long as he fails to produce one Michael is an assured tenant. The requirement to provide a S20 ended in 1997.