Landlord Action’s new head of legal Paul Sowerbutts fears the protracted delays around the eviction process are going to get worse before they get better.

paul sowerbutts landlordaction

The eviction service took 707 calls from landlords looking for advice in June, up from 439 calls in April, and Paul Sowerbutts predicts that once the furlough scheme ends in October there will be more job losses, leading to even more landlords needing to evict tenants who’ve built up large rent arrears.

Review hearings have created an extra hurdle that leads to delays too, which Landlord Action is petitioning to remove.

He tells LandlordZONE: “There’s a lot of frustration directed at local authorities who landlords feel aren’t supporting them because they want tenants to stay in properties for as long as possible.”

Loopholes can sometimes be found to expedite the process, says Sowerbutts, who cites the six-month notice period facing landlords in Wales.

Issuing a notice on the grounds of anti-social behaviour along with rent arrears means the courts should prioritise a case, he advises.

In England, relying on a county court bailiff is taking at least three or four months. Consequently, Landlord Action had been advising clients to apply directly to the high court to get a high court enforcement officer to carry out a much speedier eviction in a couple of weeks. However, this is proving less effective as an application now takes several months.

An experienced solicitor with many years working in local government, as well as with tenants using legal aid and social landlords, he believes the market will evolve once Section 21 is abolished, leading to fewer landlords in the PRS but with larger portfolios, where his expertise in housing management – maintaining relationships with tenants – will be useful.

Paul’s rounded knowledge of all aspects of housing law and the strategies needed to bring successful evictions will also be key. “I’m getting my sleeves rolled up and using my understanding of all sides in the process,” he adds.

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  1. Govt and Councils aren’t the slightest bit interested in whether the Courts are coping or not.

    It meets their exact interest if it takes years to evict.

    Most tenants to be evicted stop paying rent.

    Getting UC paid direct to LL while eviction processes occur is nigh on impossible.

    All this saves fortunes for Govt and Councils leaving LL as reluctant social housing providers mostly not being paid any rent.

    Preventing these feckless tenants from being evicted by a dysfunctional court process is a win-win situation as far as Govt and Councils are concerned.

    From the Govt perspective the more they can put the private LL under the cosh and force him out of business the better.

    It will take years for LL to recover from the mass rent defaulting and that is if they bother to remain.

    S24 LL face the final insult of having to pay tax on fictitious income without even some rent to cover the cost of that tax.

    Unfortunately all part of Govt strategy to force small mortgaged LL out of business.

    You have to say that Govt is being fairly successful in these objectives.

    Then CV19 just came along to give Govt an extra hand to put further pressure on those LL to quit.

    I’ve no idea how LL are managing to cope with all the rent defaulting.

    They must have substantial reserves and income to be able to in effect subsidise the housing costs of these feckless rent defaulting tenants.

    I’m certain as furlough ends many LL will realise the game just isn’t worth it anymore.

    Time to go!!

  2. Totally agree. When are NRLA going to do something to represent landlords more and fight for landlords rather than just reporting back how much more we are getting screwed every week. I don’t see enough action from the NRLA and that which is occasionally reported is far too little.

  3. It’s a ticking time bomb for councils. They are already under massive financial strain. At the moment LL’s are taking the burden, but eventually the finger will come out of the dyke.

  4. When reading Paul’s post, the sense of grievance, frustration and anger is palpable.

    Business in the UK for the most part is reliant on a sense of balance and fair play and the courts are always a last resort, however in the PRS that sense of balance has gone and the equation is all one sided now.

    What I just can’t figure out is why the govt are stoking up the potential for largescale homelessness because there is already evidence that investors are leaving the sector or putting everything on hold certainly no new entrants that I can see. Surely that issue is going to end up at their door sooner or later.

    I myself have reduced the portfolio over the last few years, getting rid of anything below D, and all but one of my properties are now C. In that process I worked with my best tenants to shuffle them around and got rid of anyone else.
    Result is that my remaining tenants are all long term and happy therefore I have zero vacancies for the foreseeable future.
    I have tried to reduce downside risk in the portfolio but there are no guarantees of course.

    At a time when govt will want / need a very flexible, mobile workforce to cope with the big changes on the high st, the end of cheap EU labour for farmers and new investment in the likes of Nissan etc the current actions of govt are seemingly doing everything to reduce that mobility by shrinking the PRS at the very moment it needs to be expanding.

    So many contradictory actions by govt suggests to me that there is no PRS “Master Plan” just ineptitude.

    Rather than a Cordon Bleu five star PRS offering to the nation the govt is serving up a complete dogs dinner.
    Unappetising to new investors & Unpalatable for tenants…

    Pass the sick bag!!!

  5. Govt naively imagines that if LL are forced to sell that magically all the tenants will be able to buy!!!!!!!???

    I do wonder whether Govt has had a real sitdown with lenders to ascertain if this could be a reality.

    As it stands currently few lenders would be willing to offer mortgages to tenants.

    It is irrelevant if rents could support a substantial mortgage debt.

    To attain that mortgage debt usually requires a hefty deposit which most tenants haven’t got……………………that is why they are TENANTS!!!!!!

    But the fundamental reason most LL are leaving the PRS is the inability to recover property quickly from rent defaulting tenants.

    Essentially we have a situation of State sponsored robbery due to the the dysfunctional repossession process.

    No business can survive theft of it’s services.

    Yet this is what is currently occurring and is the main reason I’m selling up.

    BTL when rent is being paid is invariably a great business.

    This changes abruptly the tenants stops paying for the service no natter what the reason.

    I can think of NO other service in the UK where the service provider is forced by law to continue to provide that service for FREE until a lengthy court process has been concluded.

    The stress of worrying whether a tenant will pay rent to enable a BTL mortgage to be paid is just too much.

    If not paid it could easily result in bankruptcy for the LL and probable homelessness………………… for what a potential net £200 pcm!!!??

    Just not worth the risk.

    I am removing my assets out of the PRS for tenants.

    I will be trying for a 3/4 bed house where I will live and take on a couple of lodgers.

    I will earn as much out of two lodgers net as I do with mortgaged rental properties.

    Yes I miss out on hoped for CG on multiple properties but that has to be tempered with possible bankruptcy!!

    The impossibility of quickly getting rid of feckless rent defaulting tenants makes hanging on for that potentially illusory CG just NOT worth the risk.

    My resources if I have any will be hidden away from any prying eyes.

    Firstly to beat any future Wealth Tax and secondly to prevent any bank bail-in of my monies.

    I haven’t forgotten what happened in Cyprus a few years ago.

    To date Govt hasn’t discovered any way of removing CASH from a private citizen if it isn’t in any account.

    The mattress is a far more efficacious solution to keeping cash resources away from prying eyes!!

    Until Govt substantially reforms the eviction process such that LL can have removed any rent defaulting tenant after 45 days then more LL will continue to leave the sector or reduce property numbers and leverage.

    The risks of being stuck with a feckless rent defaulting tenant are just too much if the LL is leveraged which is 50% of the PRS.

    Even with S21 it wasn’t really viable.
    The situation now is simply untenable.

    LL are just fed up with being effectively robbed with State support.

    As such these LL have determined enough is enough.

    CV19 has been the final straw.

    There are indeed many other straws coming!!

    I’m just amazed at seemingly how many are wishing to become new LL.

    Haven’t they noticed lots of LL leaving and asked themselves WHY!?

  6. Wow….

    I totally agree with everything that Paul has said….

    Without direct payments I will never go anywhere near benefit claimants.

    The current eviction ban and lack of interest in getting things sorted out is state sanctioned robbery.

    There will be more not less regulation on the way and I totally agree that eventually a housing crisis will develop as investors leave the PRS. Maybe shelter /Gen rent can start investing in property and become landlords…. Hummmmmm That’s not going to happen right.

    The current market is favourable for sellers so I imagine plenty landlords will sell up.

    If it aint broke don’t fix it…
    The set up pre-covid worked pretty well for both landlord and tenant, the current proposals are going to be to the detriment of tenants in the end.

    If there’s nowhere to rent (Because investors have walked away) then what’s the point of “Tough” regulations or any regulations….

    Laws only serve a purpose when there is activity that needs regulating.

  7. Agree with most of what Dave and Paul have said, but am unsure of this “Getting UC paid direct to LL while eviction processes occur is nigh on impossible.” why would that be?

    Also from Dave “Without direct payments I will never go anywhere near benefit claimants.”

    The first statement implies the tenant can retract direct payments, as rent is still due until the vacation of the property.

    The second statement implies the tenant cannot retract direct payments.

    Even with direct payments there are other downside risks with benefit tenants, as I have experienced – not topping up if rent is higher than the housing benefit element, drug taking, drunkenness, noise, property damage, attitude problems, indolence, littering, waste of metered services, shoplifting etc etc.

    I would advise against anyone even thinking about benefit tenants – I can assure you that any altruism you may have will a) not be appreciated one jot and b) will be comprehensively and utterly destroyed.


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