Safer Renting have often found that what is most important to a landlord wanting vacant possession is speed and cost.
A lot of landlords at the moment are selling up to take advantage of the stamp duty window or to just get out of a business that they feel has become too stressful and onerous in it’s government regulation.
Even at the best of times, evicting a tenant through the courts can take 5 or 6 months and for the past year, an indeterminate time, given the backlog and the chaos that the courts are in, not to mention the complexity of gaining possession.
There are for instance roughly around 20 different things that will invalidate a s21 notice and an invalid notice can mean that the landlord spends months getting the case before a judge, only to find themselves playing snakes and ladders and sliding all the way back to the start.
Irrespective of court proceedings, landlords can often find themselves in the cross hairs of local authority licensing and enforcement teams, serving a variety of notices on them, where failure to comply will become very costly indeed.
Many of Safer Renting’s landlords try to circumvent this process with a swift illegal eviction, to which we respond with an expensive rent repayment order application on top of the council’s action.
All of this has meant that over the past couple of years, our case workers have been finding themselves working with landlords and tenants to find a mutually satisfactory agreement, namely, where the landlord provides sufficient money for the tenant to relocate.
It is usually the case that by the time matters have gotten as far as local authority enforcement and intended possession action, that the tenant has had enough and just wants to move out but lacks the funds to do so.
Many landlords we speak to about this solution express outrage, complaining that they are being blackmailed but it is a perfectly routine legal process, more commonly known as an “Out of court settlement”, which is even encouraged by courts as something to be thoroughly explored before either party resorts to litigation.
Something else you hear from landlords quite a bit is “It’s just business’, well indeed and isn’t it good business practice to look at profits and loss? For many years the buzz phrase among local authorities was “Spend to save”. Of course that was before austerity measures. These days spend to save, whilst a sound principle, is as relevant and achievable to public services as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe but negotiating buy outs for tenants could also just as easily be called “Spend to save”.
In learning these new negotiation skills we have picked up a few key pointers.
From a landlord’s perspective, one of the things that can backfire is where they provide relocation funds for their tenant to vacate on a set date, only to find things backfire when late in the day they fail a reference check with a letting agent or the new landlord simply pulls out.
In one case we were dealing with in December the landlord had provided the agreed funds but because the expected move out date was between Xmas and New Year the tenant couldn’t find a landlord or agent who was willing to make arrangements in the middle of the festive season.
The landlord created merry hell, feeling that they had been stitched up, which wasn’t the case, it was just poor timing. Something we should have spotted as well but there you go, its an art not a science.
Landlord’s also need to check how the tenant intends to relocate. If they intend to approach the local authority homelessness unit for assistance, then this could come unstuck, because unless there are affordability problems with the property, under s175 of the Housing Act 1996 the tenant is unlikely to be considered “Homeless” within the meaning of the Act, if they still have a legal right to remain, indeed to give up property that it is reasonable to occupy, can find the applicants found intentionally homeless.
For tenants there are 2 considerations.
The first being how much money do you actually need to relocate to solve the landlord’s problem?
Obviously you need your deposit back, you will also need rent in advance as well as relocation costs, hiring a van etc. then if you are really looking to move as a convenience to the landlord, you also need to factor in your own costs for inconvenience.
If there are rent arrears then it’s a good idea to get them thrown into the mix as well.
In short, don’t just think of it in terms of deposit and rent in advance. Moving costs you a hell of a lot more than just that.
One suggested calculation is to think of the highest number you can without laughing and then double it.
I jest……….of course!
The second consideration is to ensure that the arrangement is set up to guarantee that you will get the money. If it’s in the form of a cheque or bank transfer, make sure the funds are cleared before handing over the keys.
A few of our cases have involved the landlord lodging the money with a solicitor who then releases the funds when assured by their client that they have the keys back. This has worked very well for all concerned.
Some landlords have even been happy to go to the property and pay cash in return for the keys but be warned on this.
My attention was drawn this week to a forum thread on Landlordzone posted by “Crafty”, which ran thus:-
“Well something made me laugh today, a Bristol landlord I know offered a tenant 10k to leave which they accepted. He got them to sign a surrender deed outside the house after showing them the cash which he put back in his bag.
As soon as they signed it a locksmith was changing the locks and a security guard was moved inside and the landlord grabbed the surrender deed and went without handing over the cash. The tenants called the police and as there was nothing in writing about the 10k they weren’t interested. Very cunning”
Most of the comments below it supported the anecdote:-
“One nil to landlords, well done” and “I don’t think he cheated them. They were trying to cheat the landlord our of his money and it didn’t work” and my particular favourite, from “Perce” ‘ I wish I had a friend like this landlord to help me get rid of my “Vulnerable” tenant’.
Don’t worry Perce, with friends like Crafty, etc etc.
I’m not saying all landlords are like Crafty there but where money is concerned, everyone should exercise diligence and common sense.
Don’t rely on trust alone, even if a landlord turns up with ten grand in a holdall. Get your ducks in a row first.
by Ben Reeve Lewis