by | Feb 12, 2021 | Safer Renting

Follow on Social Media

As you all probably know, at the moment warrants of evictions are stayed until the 21st February 2021 for all possession orders, except those granted for domestic violence, serious anti-social behaviour and rent arrears of more than 6 months.

Nobody knows if government will extend this beyond Sunday the 21st February and with their track record on this it is unlikely that anyone will know anything about their plans whatsoever until an announcement at 3pm on the Friday before.

Whilst driving home from being vaccinated on Wednesday I was listening to a Radio 4 programme, reporting that when asked directly during PMQs, whether he would or wouldn’t extend the ban the Prime Minister replied that we could all rest assured that nobody would lose their home for no good reason.

Call me old fashioned but I didn’t see that being in 6 month’s worth of rent arrears through no fault of your own, as a result of income drops and job losses caused by the pandemic, qualifies as “A good reason” to lose your home.

So far government have kicked the can down the road 4 times without seriously grasping the nettle. The last moratorium tried to set tenant’s minds at rest to a certain extent in protecting most from eviction for a few more weeks, just to give them a relaxed Christmas but also threw a bone to landlords, by reducing the rent arrears level from 9 months to 6 and getting rid of the previous moratorium requirement, to discount arrears that accrued since March 23rd 2020.

In a week’s time they are going to have to decide how to play it again.

If they lift the stay then tenant lobbyists, (Like me) will be up in arms and there is also a very significant chance that homelessness units will be overwhelmed trying to relocate all those evicted by court order, for rent arrears that aren’t their fault, bearing in mind that such applications wouldn’t be subject to intentional homelessness decisions, so the council would need to secure accommodation for them and from private landlords to boot. Not forgetting that the tax payer funds these activities in the end.

This week also gave us debates on the cladding scandal and whether it was appropriate for the tax payer to fork out for the private sector’s problem. It’s the same logical argument with homelessness but nobody is talking about that just yet. Give it a few months.

In the alternative, if government continues the stay then landlord lobbyists will be up in arms, even if government adds some softening clauses, as mentioned above, although it is difficult to see what further safety valves they could build in that would keep either landlord or tenant groups satisfied. Government options are narrowing with each stay.

This week Housemark, a data analysing service revealed that according to their figures rent arrears are currently running at over £1 billion.

The article doesn’t make it clear but given that Housemark is run jointly by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation, this probably refers only to social housing not the PRS, so the overall picture for renters is likely to be a lot higher. Again meaning that no further stay is likely to lead to a lot of homelessness applications.

On the other hand though, if they continue the stay, there are going to be a lot of PRS landlords with some serious holes in their rental income and no way to stop the slide.

Even back before the third stay on evictions industry commentators from the landlord’s side, such as Solicitor David Smith and TV pundit Paul Shamplina wrote articles online predicting that many landlords who do not consider themselves rogues, would likely be chancing their arm to get their property back through nefarious means.

I agree with those predictions but still find it unusual that where the landlord lobby are always at such pains to distance themselves from the sorts of rogue and criminals Safer Renting deals with, even they acknowledge that rogue landlords are not necessarily born but created by circumstance.

So who can you trust?

My attention was drawn this week to several articles, tweets and emails coming my way covering comments made by landlords and industry commentators that make me really concerned for the immediate future of renters if the stay is extended again.

A colleague who attended a webinar on the current state of play on evictions sent me these 2 comments by landlord attendees:-

“The whole cycle of eviction and money must continue for society to function”

And my favourite:-

“The level of complication and unfairness will lead to more heavy handed illegal evictions. Ones the tenants wouldn’t dare speak out about. There is simply no balance or fairness within this process and cornered animals lash out”.

Take into account that these comments were made by the sorts of landlords who attend webinars to improve their knowledge, not the criminal roughnecks in the Shadow private rented sector, so if these are the voices of the reasonable end of renting god help us all.

Renter and journalist Jon Patience, who has for some time been monitoring and exposing such comments made by landlords and agents, talked this week to the Huff Post about an article on property management company Landlord Vision, which they subsequently removed and apologised for, giving advice for landlords renting to family members and how to get rid of them. Referring to them as “Feckless, Entitled freeloaders” by which they mean the landlord’s own family members.

This sagacious advice extending to making up mental health problems of tenants as a way to avoid having to get a possession order :-

“You get on the phone to Wayne’s mother, your dearly beloved sister. You try and explain why Wayne and Chantelle can’t stay in your rental property, but she doesn’t want him back.

“‘So sorry about this but poor Wayne is having problems right now. I’m very worried about him and his mental health. You can’t ask him to leave, he might have a breakdown!’

Even the NRLA condemned that one but the Genie was already out of the bottle. You can apologise for publishing such views but that doesn’t mean you don’t hold them.

As Homer Simpson says in the episode where Marge finds out he is having an affair and he attempts to defend himself “Marge I swear to god I never thought I’d get caught”.

Am I sympathetic to government’s quandary? Not at all. As is the case with developers and cladding they have been trying to pretend the problem doesn’t exist for fear of having to make a decision that wouldn’t go down well but the longer this goes on, the fudging of issues and hoping that the Oxford Vax will cure all their problems, they are just stacking them up, like the person with the pile of unopened letters waiting for the bailiffs to turn up.

They have got to make a decision and not just rely on guidance for landlords and tenants to be reasonable with each other, especially given comments by “Reasonable” landlords reported above, even though whatever decision they make will create mayhem.

  by Ben Reeve Lewis

Back to the Safer Renting Blog.

About Cambridge House Safer Renting

The Cambridge House Safer Renting team present the ‘go-to’ blog on the world of the Shadow Private Rented Sector.

We monitor the world of rogue landlord and agent activity, publicise developments, circulate innovative ideas, keep readers abreast of changes in laws and regulations, raising awareness of criminal trends and scams, celebrate successful actions and interview people working in the field, connecting up anyone involved, from tenants and their advisers, to enforcement officers, lawyers and journalists.

Related Posts

Share This