Protest on Saturday 21 October outside Keatons on Mile End Road about poor housing conditions and section 21 eviction notices. Image credit: London Renters Union.
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Tower Hamlets renters receive a shock section 21 eviction notice 

After complaining of rent and damp in their rental property, Tower Hamlets tenants were served a section 21 eviction notice, leaving them ‘powerless’. 

More than 20 protesters gathered outside the Mile End branch of Keatons estate agents on Saturday 21 October to show support for a group of private renters who had complained about unsafe housing conditions and were later chucked out by their landlord.

Members from London Renters Union (LRU) held placards and banners which read ‘hold landlords accountable’ and ‘safe homes now’ as they stood outside Keatons estate agents in Mile End in support of four tenants who were served a Section 21 notice in May of this year.

A Section 21 notice, also known as a ‘no-fault’ eviction, currently allows landlords to evict tenants without having to give a reason why. Tenants have two months to leave before their landlord can go to the courts and apply for a court order to evict them.

No-fault evictions were set to be banned in the upcoming Renters Reform Bill, however, the government recently announced an indefinite delay to this part of the bill following ‘extensive lobbying’ from the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

Mariam, who was one of the tenants living in the flat let out by Keatons, claims the group was evicted because they had continuously complained to the estate agents about problems with damp and mould.

She told the LDRS: 

‘We began to experience problems with mould and damp from the start of our tenancy and alerted [Keatons] from the beginning but they were always blaming us and saying the mould is normal, that it’s our fault we have it and that we were not putting the heating on enough.

‘Even though we were following all of the guidelines [from Shelter], we bought a dehumidifier out of our own pocket, we were having the heating on and yet we got no compensation for it. We were just being blamed.’

At one point Mariam said the toilet was leaking ‘half a litre of water’ every time they flushed it however no action was taken to fix it until three months later.

Then four months before their tenancy was set to end, Keatons handed Mariam and her flatmates a Section 21 notice on behalf of the landlord.

During this time, Mariam said Keatons had been ‘very unsupportive’ of their living conditions and ‘instead of dealing with all these problems or being on board and on our side as renters they served us this no-fault eviction’.

Mariam said: 

‘[Keatons] said it was because they needed to do structural changes to the flat and we couldn’t be in the flat at the time.

‘Bearing in mind there was no discussion about the works they needed to do, there was no discussion about how they can work around us, it was just that we had to leave without discussion.’

Mariam claims the flat was put back on the market by Keatons just a month after she and her flatmates had been evicted and according to LRU, an extra £1,000 had been slapped on the monthly rent.

The group are also trying to get the rest of their deposit back from Keatons and claim compensation.

Mariam said:

‘[Keatons] insisted we had to do a professional clean of the flat which was illegal, we didn’t know our rights, we just felt like we had to pay for a professional clean which we weren’t responsible for.

‘The flat was already in a bad state when we moved in and [Keatons] are trying to put those damages on us when we have proof it was already in a bad state.’

Mariam added: ‘I’ve been renting for five years in London but I’d say this is by far the worst experience I’ve ever had. 

‘We felt it was so important to challenge them no matter what the outcome, we just really wanted to challenge them because throughout the process we felt so powerless.’

The group had hoped to engage with Keatons in talks on Saturday however no one from the estate agents came out to speak with them. Another protest has been planned for the future.

A spokesperson for Keatons estate agents said Keatons Directors would ‘happily meet the previous tenants in person to discuss any concerns they may have around our actions or indeed our obligations’.

They added: ‘Keatons can confirm that a Section 21 notice was served in May this year on the instruction of our client, the landlord.

‘Subsequent to the tenants vacating, substantial remedial works were undertaken to the property to resolve as many of the property’s shortcomings as possible. Those improvements would not be deemed appropriate to undertake with tenants in situ.’

The spokesperson said after the repair works had finished, the flat was put back on the market and Keatons provided the landlord with a revised lettings valuation.

They added: ‘We subsequently found new tenants and they continue to happily reside at this property. Keatons are acutely aware of the supply and demand issues that the private rental sector faces.

‘However, the fact that the rent had increased since the last tenancy was agreed upon, is neither the fault or responsibility of the landlord or the agent representing them.’

The spokesperson said the estate agents had ‘followed all the correct processes’ that met the landlord’s ‘clear instructions’.

They added: ‘We have received no official or written complaint from the outgoing tenants, and we have included our complaints procedure for your perusal.

‘We are a long standing and dedicated member of the Property Ombudsman scheme and will of comply with any of their directions or findings.’

If you found this article interesting, read Harder than ever for local private renters in Tower Hamlets to afford rent and deposit.

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