by | Mar 9, 2022 | Safer Renting

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Start with the basics. What normal people call a “Lodger” in law is called an “Excluded occupier” (s3A Protection from Eviction Act 1977).

Essentially a renter who’s landlord lives in the same property and with whom they share accommodation, usually kitchen, bathroom etc.

There are caveats:

·         The landlord must live there as their sole or principal home.

·         The must have been resident from the start and if they move out they lose resident landlord status and don’t recover it if the subsequently move back in (Not the same for regulated tenants)

Back pre-Housing Act 1988, lodgers were called “Restricted Contract Tenants”, where the landlord needed to get a possession order to evict, albeit a mandatory one, following service of a valid NTQ but they did have some protection.

Then the Housing Act 1988 kicked in with it’s social engineering to reduce security of tenure, making the PRS a more attractive financial opportunity to landlords.

Out went the need for a possession order and in came “Reasonable notice” of around 28 days (It was never legally defined) after which time the landlord could just change the locks.

In recent years, with the cutting of LHA to under 35’s, government recognized that maybe there was a market in lodger landlords, a financial opportunity,  that would make them look like they were addressing the housing crisis, by allowing resident landlords to earn £7,000 plus per annum from lodger rental income, without paying tax. This benefited landlord’s immensely but did Jack for renter’s rights.

Unlike their pre-Housing Act 88 counterparts, Lodger’s aren’t entitled to be evicted by possession order, that is what they are “Excluded” from, hence the term.

However, as “Residential occupiers”, they are still protected from harassment by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, except they aren’t really, only in theory.

I write this today in a mood of anger and frustration at helping our caseworker Hannah deal with a case where the lodger landlord has done the following to the renter:-

·         Took away the shower head so she cant wash.

·         Interfered with her room heating supply so she is freezing.

·         Gone to work and disconnected the cooker, microwave and kettle so she cant cook or even have a cup of tea until he comes back.

Harassment under the PFEA? You betcha but what to do about it?

Normally we look to injunctions to stop such behaviour but when the landlord can evict her after giving reasonable notice, any attempts to curtail his behaviour will simply result in her being made homeless.

You cant apply for an injunction without sending a “Letter before action” to the subject of the injunction application, giving them the opportunity to find God and repent. Like that is going to happen.

A PFEA prosecution? An RRO? Yeah looks good but how does that protect her right now? It doesn’t, because she is just a lodger. The PFEA is as much use as a one legged man at an arse kicking contest.

Any legislative attempts to protect the lodger will likely result in her being street homeless. No kids, no health problems means she wont be in priority need and the best she will get in homelessness assistance is a homelessness prevention duty, in the shape of rent in advance and deposit for an alternative, which to the council’s credit,  is already on the cards, except her income keeps her locked out by letting agents in a time where despite the pandemic and crippling energy bills, landlords are still happy to increase rents, proclaiming a buoyant market for them.

If our client manages to procure alternative accommodation with council assistance, she will still only be a lodger, with no more protection than she has now. It’s not even a case of from the frying pan to the fire, in reality she doesn’t even get out of the pan.

Theoretically a lodger is protected from harassment in the same way a tenant is but lodgers have hardly any genuine or effective protection. Exercising their rights makes things worse.

Down the years I have repeatedly had conversations with lodgers paying rent for accommodation, just like tenants but trying to explain why confronting their abuser and standing up for their rights will likely make them homeless because that is the way the law is constructed.

The same look of confusion crosses their face each time and I get a real sinking feeling in an interview when I know where the conversation is going. The law is there for you……but for God’s sake dont stand up for your rights.

Lodger status is an engineered economic structure that affords the landlord absolute power over their renter and it’s been in place for 33 years.

Only those in the most precarious of housing positions turn to renting from resident landlords. They see their meagre rooms as home but unlike tenants they have no real protection and can find themselves street homeless at a whim if they complain.

s21 is a bad enough moral outrage but dont forget about lodgers.

  By Ben Reeve Lewis

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About Cambridge House Safer Renting

The Cambridge House Safer Renting team present the ‘go-to’ blog on the world of the Shadow Private Rented Sector.

We monitor the world of rogue landlord and agent activity, publicise developments, circulate innovative ideas, keep readers abreast of changes in laws and regulations, raising awareness of criminal trends and scams, celebrate successful actions and interview people working in the field, connecting up anyone involved, from tenants and their advisers, to enforcement officers, lawyers and journalists.

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