For years the landlord community have been insisting that rogue and criminal landlords are small in number, just a few rotten apples.
Government opinion a year or so ago put the figure at 5% of all landlords but how they came up with that number is a mystery, given how clandestine much of the activity is in an environment where nobody, including the police is really counting.
Safer Renting does count though and our staffing levels have grown in two years from three of us to ten, in order to cope with those few rotten apples and even if government’s 5% is accurate, with the size of the PRS these days that still represents several thousand landlords and agents, with many more thousands of renters unfortunate enough to have to live under them.
So I thought I would come up with a chart in no particular order, for the reasons these people harass and illegally evict their tenants based on what we see day in, day out.
The perennial old favourite. I once had a stand up row with a landlord at a property that lasted an hour and half where he put forward the oft heard mantra that if they didn’t pay the rent, he couldn’t pay the mortgage, regardless of the fact that he had already told me about his 60 other properties and we were standing beside his Bentley. If his business model and acumen were so perilous that it teeters on the brink with one set of rent arrears you cant help thinking/hoping he wont last long.
Rent arrears is only part of the picture, the real motivator for harassment and illegal eviction is they either cant be bothered, or are too tight to pay to obtain a possession order.
SELLING THE PROPERTY
Landlords sell for a variety of reasons. They might have inherited the property and never wanted to be a landlord. They might be going through a divorce and are dividing up the assets. Nobody would criticise their reasons for sale but where the wheels come off is in just serving notice and expecting the tenant to move out whilst they proceed with sale and then, as it gets closer to completion day, finding the tenant still there, posing a distinct threat to the sale going through.
Just because they need to sell, it doesn’t mean that the renter is able to simply relocate to suit them. Sourcing accommodation is not always easy and it costs money, not just in deposit and rent in advance but removal costs. It might push up their travel costs if the property is further from work or their children need to change schools.
These kinds of incidents can get very heated when the TRO calls them up and suggest that their sale might not be able to go ahead.
Just as common is the situation where the outgoing landlord sells and the new owner doesn’t know that anyone is living there and starts to harass them out because they want the property for their own purposes.
In either instance, toys get thrown out of the pram and the poor renter is landed with the blame for single handedly creating everyone else’s problems without drawing breath..
RENTER COMPLAINS TO THE COUNCIL ABOUT CONDITIONS.
Back in 2014 Shelter managed to get traction on the idea that I think it was 150,000 families a year suffer what would become known as “Retaliatory eviction”. Despite the usual protests from the landlord lobby that Shelter were making it up, government were sufficiently concerned enough to create a new law against it, s33 of the Deregulation At 2015.
The trouble was, in order to not upset the landlord community, government drafted the section in such a restrictive way that it hardly ever applies. I cant recall a single case where s33 has been any use and landlords still illegally evict when the tenant complains to the council.
The main reason being that s33 only applies if the council serve one of three different notices, relating to some serious conditions. No other notices are relevant.
Non housing professionals refer to this as “Revenge evictions” but that is not “Retaliatory eviction” which has a tight definition and strict procedure. Retaliatory eviction hardly ever occurs but revenge eviction goes on all the time.
RENTER LOSING THEIR JOB AND NEEDING TO CLAIM BENEFITS
Contrary to popular belief, renters on benefits aren’t the most likely to be exposed to rogue and criminal landlords. This used to be the case prior to 2009.
Rogue and criminal operators avoid renters on benefits as often as they can, because rogue and criminal landlord activities are usually just part of wider criminal activities, not least of which is not paying tax on the rental income.
Renters claiming benefits means a paper trail that can lead authorities to their door and expose what they are up to. The most prized type of renter for rogues and criminals are workers on low pay, who cant afford anything other than an overcrowded HMO and who have no choice but to move in without a tenancy agreement and accept the fact that they wont get receipts for rent paid.
When these people lose employment and need to claim benefits, they need the landlord to step forward and provide the evidence of renting, the harassment and illegal evictions start at that point.
What always makes me laugh is the landlord will scream in outrage about their tenant owing them rent when they wont provide the documentation that would allow them to pay. As with all these things, it’s the tenants fault for upsetting the landlord’s peace of mind.
LANDLORD NEEDING TO MOVE IN.
Relationship breakdown happens, even to landlords but once again the notion of property ownership holds sway and the tenants are expected to move at short to no notice to accommodate the landlord’s sudden change in lifestyle.
In the less aggressive versions the landlord moves in with the renter family, completely oblivious that they are illegally evicting the tenant from part of the premises in doing so. The renter having taken on a three bed house to find they are suddenly just renting rooms in their own home
PROPERTY IDENTIFIED BY LOCAL AUTHORITY LICENSING.
By far and away this is number 1. The accommodation affordability crisis has seen a massive growth in HMOs. The criminals have embraced this market, where they can cram 15 people into a three bed house, often installing stud walls to create more tiny renting units.
All of this goes smoothly until the council’s licensing and enforcement teams identify the overcrowded, unlicensed death trap, at which point the landlords and agents jump into action to get rid of the witnesses and in many cases, reduce the number of occupants to below five, so the mandatory licensing requirements will not be triggered.
Rent to Rent scamming is the biggest driver for this.
That’s how it works. There are other sub-sets that crop up but that’s the broad picture.
Underpinning all of the above is the ever-pervasive mindset that property ownership is all and that renters are just the means to the landlord’s income. Like cows provide milk for farmers, tenants of rogue and criminal landlords are seen as just a herd to be milked.
If you read many of the appalling comments on blogs such as Property 118 and Landlordzone, you will see ample evidence of the mindset from which so much rogue and criminal activity flow. Comments can be truly shocking.
It’s a fair leap from being a normal landlord to being a rogue or criminal but the completely erroneous notion that ownership rights trump occupancy rights is certainly the frame in which the picture sits.
Its a completely topsy turvy way of understanding landlord and tenant la. In truth, many ownership rights are actually trumped by tenant’s rights in occupation.
By Ben Reeve Lewis