Yesterday, on the 9th February 2017, I noticed several news sites, radio shows and websites declaring various headlines about ‘Revenge Evictions’ with comments from prominent MPs, Housing Lawyers and the Housing Law Practitioners Association (HLPA) in the UK stating they felt that the changes brought in via the Deregulation Act 2015 to stop an apparent rise of ‘revenge evictions’ were not working. They claim that since the act was brought in, local councils have entirely failed to use their powers and more tenants are being evicted wrongly from their homes. Radio 1’s newsbeat even ran a 30-minute programme about it, stating that many tenants were terrified to report maintenance in fear that their landlords would evict them and they would be left destitute and homeless.
As a bit of background, the De-regulation act 2015 came into force in October of that year and meant that tenants that had reported a complaint about a maintenance issue to their landlord or agent and not received an adequate response within 14 days could then report the issue to their local council who could issue an improvement notice on the landlord forcing repairs to take place. At this point the landlord would be unable to issue a section 21 notice to their tenants requesting they vacate the property for at least six months from the date the improvement notice was issued.
As an individual that works in the letting industry and someone who is very passionate about lettings in general, it is saddening and disappointing to listen to the press continually demonising private landlords and letting agents on a regular basis. Throughout Radio 1’s 30-minute newsbeat programme and listed in their online article about the same subject, are several distressing reports from tenants who feel they were wrongly treated by their landlords. It is not surprising that there is a lack of corresponding reports from landlords who feel they have been badly treated by their tenants, who have been left out of pocket due to significant rent arrears or extreme damage to their property and are able to do very little about it.
It is undeniable that there is a small proportion of landlords out there who will treat their tenants unfairly, and I agree that these ‘rogue’ landlords should be reprimanded. However, I strongly believe that the vast majority of private landlords are caring, normal individuals who want their tenants to be comfortable in their home throughout their tenancy, and are concerned that the value of their property does not decrease due to maintenance issues not being rectified. These landlords are renting out properties as either their main source of income (if they are portfolio landlords) or they have either one or a small amount of properties they let out as a way to make a small amount of extra income. Neither of these landlord ‘types’ would willingly allow longstanding damage to occur to their investments and most would be unhappy to learn that their tenants were uncomfortable whilst renting out their property. Further to this, as someone who has worked in Property Management for several years (and through several harsh winters!) I believe it is completely incorrect that tenants are ‘afraid’ to report maintenance issues. I personally have evidenced an increase in the amount of maintenance issues reported by tenants’ year on year. If anything, it is my view that due to the letting industry being in the public eye so prominently of late, tenants have become more vocal about their problems and are demanding quicker results.
I am not disagreeing that rogue landlords exist, I would just like to know where in the public eye, are the horror stories from landlords? Where are the tales of landlords who took on tenants that paid only their first months’ rent and then failed to pay another penny resulting in the landlord defaulting on their mortgage repayments and having to spend hundreds of pounds through the courts just to get possession of their own property back, let alone ever receiving the thousands of pounds worth of rent arrears the tenants had accrued? Where are the tales of landlords having their entire investments ruined through a lack of care from their tenants? These instances happen more often than not and they are simply not talked about in the press.
It is unfortunate that the government campaign to impose more regulations on private landlords by adding (almost daily it seems) more and more hoops to jump through has started to make what should be a simple process of finding a tenant, putting them in a property and looking after them whilst they live there become more and more like a legislation mine-field. Make one miss-step and a landlord could find themselves in court slapped with a hefty fine for just about anything. My fear is that this legislation overload coupled with the vilification from the press could start to scare away 'hobby' landlords from the private rental sector which would be a terrible thing.
However, before you all run screaming for the hills declaring never to rent out your property again, the good news is that this is where specialist letting agents can help. Letting agents like CGT understand and are trained on how to navigate these mine-fields and can give many smaller landlords the peace of mind that things are being taken care of. We have ARLA qualified staff that regularly keep up to date on all legislation changes and attend refresher training courses regularly. If you are a private landlord and would just like some advice on navigating the lettings tundra, or you are thinking of moving to having your properties managed to take away the stress of worrying if you are compliant, please get in touch with us asap.
Angharad Trueman MARLA - Operations Manager