Are leading charitable organisations exaggerating claims about tenant evictions in order to bring about their desired changes to housing legislation?
The growth of the private letting market is focussing attention on private landlords and in particular the activities of those who operate in the twilight zone of renting to tenants who would traditionally have been housed in the social sector.
These, for obvious reasons, are the most difficult tenants to house and manage but they represent a small fraction of the private rental sector (PRS) as a whole.
Operating in this segment of the market requires a certain type of landlord; usually they fall into two camps: those with the tenacity and professionalism to run a good operation for these types of tenants, providing good accommodation and treating them with fairness and respect, despite putting up with more than their fair share hassle and problems.
The landlords in the second camp are invariably less than professional; the cowboy operators who are prepared to flout the law, bend the rules and generally operate in a cavalier fashion which sometimes not only puts lives at risk, they bully and intimidate rather than provide a courteous service.
Unfortunately for the vast majority of responsible landlords they become tarred with the same brush as the delinquents, and it would seem that between the charities and the media, this misconception is being deliberately sustained for public consumption.
It’s this latter group that most decent landlords wish the authorities would clamp down on, and it’s this latter group the charities tend to focus their attention on, because it’s the group they are regularly in contact with.
It’s perhaps understandable that these charities get a distorted view of landlords as a whole when all they come into contact with is the small minority of bad ones.
The National Landlords Association recently hit back strongly at claims by the Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) that it has experienced a 38 per cent increase in cases of PRS landlords threatening tenants, who have no rent arrears, with eviction.
These claims by CAB, and to a large extent these are mirrored by those of Shelter, appear to run completely counter to published government statistics which show that only around 9 per cent of all English tenancies are ended by the landlord, and of those brought to court, over 90 per cent of those are due to rent arrears.
Reporting a large increase in so called “revenge evictions” particularly in London and the South East, CAB and Shelter are arguing that landlords are taking advantage of a housing undersupply situation, where landlords simply replace tenants if they complain about living conditions or necessary repairs.
The practices may be used by those operating on the fringes of the law, but as the landlord organisations constantly argue, good landlords have an incentive to keep their properties in good repair and avoid vacant periods when no rent is coming in. In any case they would argue that evicting a tenant is no simple matter; it can take months, is very time consuming for the landlord and can be very expensive in legal costs.
MD of eviction specialist Landlord Action, Paul Shamplina, has recently commented that the media is picking up on these exaggerated claims about “revenge evictions” and misusing them to give all landlords a bad name.
The figures do show that there has been a rise in the number of landlord’s instigating eviction proceeding under the Section 21 process, but this is down to the fact that there are now thousands more tenancies in existence and growing, and the financial stress the recession has put many tenants and some landlords under. The overwhelming reason for eviction proceedings is rent arrears, not the so called “revenge eviction”.
The situation reflects the growth of the rental market and the fact that many tenants of private landlords should really be in social housing: in fact many tenants now request that their landlord evicts them so they can become a priority for councils to rehouse them.
As the law stands, any tenant that leaves accommodation voluntarily will not be considered for rehousing by a local council, but if they have been evicted by their landlord they automatically become the council’s responsibility for rehousing. This is a big incentive for some tenants to get themselves “evicted”.
In addition to these “revenge eviction” claims, the charities are arguing that tenants are still being cheated on deposits, with landlords refusing to pay them back, despite the operation of the tenancy statutory deposit protection schemes.
This is despite figures from the deposit protection agencies operating throughout the UK that show deposit disputes represent a very small proportion of all ending tenancies. So much so that some are now arguing that deposit protection has been a sledge “hammer to crack a nut”; that the size of the problem nowhere near warrants the cost of running these expensive schemes which is costing the taxpayer thousands. http://goo.gl/pSAQQ9
Landlords are not one of the most revered professional groups in the country; they could perhaps be compared to journalists and politicians in terms of popularity. But is it fair to exaggerate claims of wrongdoing on the part of a minority, when the vast majority, just like the other professionals mentioned, are trying to do a good honest job and provide a public service?