The eviction ban may have made life less stressful for tenants but a housing lawyer claims otherwise.
David Renton, writing in the right-of-centre political magazine The Spectator, says some landlords have become less tolerant of tenant behaviour, and quicker to brand acts as anti-social in order to seek possession.
“Since the start of lockdown, there has been an extraordinary increase in the number of tenants facing applications from landlords to control the terms under which people live in their homes” he writes.
“Sometimes the playing of loud music is given as the reason. Other times it's because the TV is left on when neighbours are trying to sleep. Perhaps they have had visitors who slammed the front door of their block. But while the circumstances are often mundane, the effect on those who find themselves kicked out can be devastating” Renton adds.
Citing a case which sounds like a dispute involving a social housing landlord, he continues: “In my work as a housing lawyer, I represented Gaspar, a tenant who suffers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after he was attacked in his home. Gaspar’s illness causes him to cry out. The shouts are quiet, but they are strange. They disturb those who hear them.
“A judge had already tried to deal with Gaspar by evicting him from his home for 30 days, presumably as a warning. He survived that month by sleeping in parks or on buses. The day before the order expired, he went back to his home, only to collect the medication which blocks the worst of the symptoms. On his way out of the building the police stopped him: a neighbour had seen him and complained.
“When, finally, Gaspar managed to obtain a lawyer it was no particular challenge to show that none of the orders affecting him should ever have been made. A psychiatrist’s report made it clear that Gaspar knew whether he took his pills or not; but what he could not control was his behaviour.
“He wasn’t aware of the noises he made, and couldn’t restrain them. Expecting him to obey a court order was a waste of everyone’s time.”
Renton writes that under pressure from a case like that, possibly with neighbours complaining, it’s easy to see why landlords seek possession or other controls over tenant behaviour.
He goes on: “Gaspar’s is not an unusual case: I have represented clients in so much distress they wouldn’t leave their home to go to court, tenants who suffered much worse illnesses but which had been in apparent remission for more than a decade.
“In the pandemic, housing law has become both more 'social democratic' (where tenants have been unable to afford their rent, they have been shielded for some time from the consequences of their arrears) and more 'authoritarian' (much more of it is about neighbours complaining about their fellow tenants).
“The good and the bad co-exist, side-by-side.”
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