Landlords are being urged to protect themselves against accusations of retaliatory evictions as UK laws are due to be changed next year.

Laws against retaliatory evictions in which landlords are accused of evicting a tenant solely because they have made a complaint about the condition of the property were brought in as part of the Deregulation Act 2015.

The laws currently only apply to assured shorthold tenancy agreements (ASTs) begun since October 2015, but will apply to all ASTs from October 2018.

Danielle Hughes, a solicitor at Kirwans law firm, said: “Landlords may be shocked to discover that tenants could potentially successfully fight a claim for possession based on what has until recently been known as the non-fault eviction process.

“This defence can not only invalidate a section 21 Housing Act notice and lead to the judge striking out a claim, but can also prevent a new section 21 notice being served for six months.

“There is a particularly strong chance of this happening in cases where landlords have failed to deal effectively with complaints and have had an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice served on them by the local authority.”

Tenants should be encouraged to report any problems with the property to the landlords promptly and in writing to avoid the problem escalating, as the law demands that landlords must provide an adequate response to complaints within 14 days of receipt.

Hughes also says that landlords should ensure they’re not accused of a retaliation eviction in the first place, by being aware of their repair obligations as set out in the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement and under Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.

She also suggests that landlords respond to any written complaint within 14 days of receiving it and if they are away they should arrange for someone to monitor the situation.

If a letting agent manages the property the landlord should make sure the agent responds in a timely manner, as ‘ultimately the landlord bears the overarching responsibility for repairs and responses.’

Hughes advises landlords to keep records of their responses to the tenants in case the details are ever needed in court and to keep a log of any repair work undertaken.

At the same time she recommends that landlords retain any evidence if tenants have refused to allow access to the property for inspections or for repair work.

Alex Huntley, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance, added: “This is not a problem for most good landlords with good systems in place - but it does go to show just how important those systems are. Logging your interactions and evidencing repairs is an increasingly important part of landlord life. If you are worried about your tenants, you can always look into legal expenses cover as part of your landlords insurance.”