UK landlords to ban tenants from having sex with new no-sex tenancy clauses

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Feb 26, 2024 at 01:28 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Finding a home in London can be an incredibly daunting task, and for many, the challenges don’t end once you’ve somehow finally managed to secure a half-decent place. In fact, while you might think that you’ve scored a good deal, in reality, you could end up being subjected to a new tenancy trend sweeping the nation: no-sex clauses. Yep, you read that right.

Lucy, a 23-year-old tenant sharing a house with three other girls, discovered her landlord’s peculiar rule against loud sex through explicit signs placed in communal areas. While initially perceiving it as some kind of a twisted joke, she shared during an interview with VICE: “I thought, how are they even going to police that? But the landlord does inspections himself and he actually mentions it when he visits.” Lucy then realised the gravity of the situation when her landlord personally lectured them about the “youths of today” being hyper-sexual and actually urged them to save themselves for marriage.

Alarmingly, a similar issue happened to Chris, a 24-year-old occupant of an attic room in London, cohabiting with two siblings who double as his live-in landlords. In one instance, when Chris’ intimate moment with his girlfriend was overheard by the landlord’s mum, a note was discreetly slid under his bedroom door, clearly laying down the law: “No more intimate activities or hosting overnight guests.” Confronting his flatmates in the shared kitchen, Chris found himself in the midst of a heated exchange where they asserted their belief that engaging in intimate acts was “wrong” because it was “their house.”

The lack of well-defined legal standards for no-sex tenancy clauses in the UK is a conversation that’s been going on for some time.

In fact, a staggering one-third of Conservative Members of Parliament are attempting to water down a bill designed to strengthen tenant protections in the country. Moreover, 14 out of the 47 backbenchers who have supported amendments, are actually landlords themselves. Notable figures like Bob Blackman, Nick Fletcher, Marco Longhi, and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown are actively pushing for changes to the long-awaited Renters’ Reform bill, set to outlaw no-fault evictions. Their proposed alterations aim to simplify the process for landlords to evict tenants, particularly in instances of antisocial behaviour.

According to The Guardian, 2023 witnessed a concerning 49 per cent surge in the number of families forcibly removed from their homes by bailiffs following section 21 no-fault eviction notices. Numerous other households received such notices but vacated before bailiffs were involved. Housing charities emphasise that these no-fault evictions significantly contribute to the UK’s homelessness crisis.

Despite the Conservative government‘s proposed commitment almost five years ago and its inclusion in the 2019 general election manifesto, the ban on no-fault evictions has yet to materialise. Advocates for private renting households vehemently oppose any further weakening of the Renters Reform Bill. In response, the Labour Party has pledged to promptly ban Section 21 evictions if it secures power.

Nonetheless, tenancy laws encounter difficulties in effectively protecting essential tenant rights, granting live-in landlords, and leaving individuals like Lucy and Chris to find themselves in a vulnerable and, let’s be honest pretty dodgy position.

Speaking to VICE, Qarrar Somji, director of Witan Solicitors, emphasised that the law does provide some protection to tenants, requiring landlords to obtain a court order for eviction based on a breach like having sex in the house. However, the prevalence of no-fault evictions in the UK also allows landlords to remove tenants without specifying a reason, making it near-impossible for tenants to contest such infringements on their privacy.

Meanwhile, Nick Ballard, head organiser at ACORN, highlighted the broader issue of landlords wielding control over tenants’ lives and connected it to the lack of protections renters have in the current housing market. Rising anti-sex sentiment and a deficiency in housing protection are seen as byproducts of a failing capitalist system, creating an environment where landlords can exploit their power to dictate tenants’ behaviour.

Ballard points out that tenants have a legal right to the “quiet enjoyment” of their homes, and while sex isn’t explicitly written into this right, it could be considered a breach, as it falls under the category of daily enjoyment. Despite this, the existence of no-fault evictions allows landlords to potentially evict tenants based on disapproval of their sex lives.

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