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Landlord Law Newsround #213 – The Landlord Law Blog

Some news items for you from the past week.  First, let’s consider politics

Landlords not keen on Michael Gove as housing minister

This is the conclusion of a survey from LettingaProperty.com which finds that just one in ten are happy with him.

Although the thing landlords are most unhappy about is the ‘revolving door’ of housing ministers who generally get moved on before they have had a chance to get a grip on their brief.

Top asks by landlords are:

  • to be treated fairly – recent years having brought punitive taxes and the inability to evict rogue tenants
  • for more action to be taken by rogue landlords, and
  • for Gove to bring back mortgage interest relief and avoid introducing too much more legislation – as they have a lot to deal with already.

There is also the change of name for the department which is now the ‘Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ with former Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldaneappointed as the new Head of the Levelling Up Taskforce.

Whether this will actually achieve anything, beyond the name change, remains to be seen.

Fears as renters and landlords face financial cliff edge

Furlough and the additional £20 to Universal Credit are due to be removed at the same time, giving real fears for both landlords and for tenants.  The NRLA has published a report Tackling the COVID Rent Debt Crisis (download here) which highlights growing concerns.

Bearing in mind that the Government has admitted that renters have been one of the hardest-hit groups by the pandemic.  And that most landlords rent out property as an individual and are highly vulnerable to rent arrears.

The report states that the longer the Chancellor goes without offering financial report the more he will have to do as a result of the consequences of failing to act which will include:

  • The cost deaing with tenants unable to afford to remain in their homes – bearing in mind that a financial package to help arrears would save the heavy costs of homelessness assistance
  • The damage done to tenant credit scores which will make it hard for them to find housing in future, and
  • The mental health problems for affected tenants

The Bank of England has also warned that all this could affect the wider economy.

The NRLA argue that landlrods cannot be expected to just accept continuing non payment of arrears, and is calling for a government guaranteed hardship loan to support the majority of tenants with COVID related rent debts who are not eligible for benefit support. This scheme would help these tenants to pay off their rent debts and would follow the introduction of similar schemes in Scotland and Wales.

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said:

Many tenants and landlords have struggled to cope during the pandemic leaving them exposed to the impact of rent debts which they are unlikely to ever pay off.

By ending furlough and cutting benefits in quick succession, and without the introduction of a targeted package to tackle COVID related rent debt, the Government is worsening an already critical situation. Without transitional support, and as the country gets back to normal, the Chancellor will be turning his back on those renters and landlords in desperate need of help.

Generation rent calls for lifetime deposits to be actioned

Although the Tenant Fees legislation has reduced the deposits tenants now have to pay, deposits still remain a barrier to moving.  Baroness Alicia Kennedy, who is director of the group, said

deposits remain a large barrier to moving, making it hard for tenants to move out of an unsuitable property and putting tenants who face eviction at risk of homelessness. Renters who lack savings need a way of transferring their deposit from their current tenancy to the next one without being ripped off with a poverty premium.

As the government finalises its Lifetime Deposit proposals it must standardise and speed up the deposit disputes process, which currently allows unscrupulous landlords to waste tenants’ time with spurious claims.

(Spoiler alert) Lifetime deposits is one of the topics discussed in the forthcoming Landlord and Lawyer Podcast with guest Steve Harriet of TDS, where he explains that although the lifetime deposits idea is apparently simple it is not a straightforward thing to set up.

So it will be interesting to see how the government tackles this in the promised Autumn White paper.

Eviction notices in England and Wales

The Minister for Climate Change in Wales has confirmed that the six months notice period in eviction notices will remain in respect of all tenancies, except where notices relate to anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.

In a stark difference to England where notice periods will revert to pre-pandemic levels from 1 October.

Ben Beadle said:

This announcement indicates that the Welsh Government lacks a coherent strategy to address the many issues affecting the private rented sector. The little publicised Tenancy Hardship Grant has helped less than half a dozen tenants and without a clear plan to exit emergency measures, the rent debt crisis will worsen, leaving many tenants with damaged credit scores, saddled with debt and local authorities unable to meet demand

In England, new forms of notice will also come into force from 1 October.  They are markedly different from the old notices as the notes, in particular on the section 8 notice, lack all detail.  I can’t help wondering whether someone at the Ministry has read my post here on the last notice change.

The new simpler notices are of course easier for people like me who provide them, but will be singularly less helpful for tenants who will now find it harder to check whether (for example) the notice period given is correct.

When my post asked for the forms to be simplified I did not mean that this should be done by removing all information!

Outspoken landlord hit by permanent injunction

Fergus Wilson, the notorious Kent landlord, has now been hit with a permanent injunction by the High Court in a case brought by Ashford Council.  Meaning that Wilson can now only contact staff or councillors through a named legal advisor.

Apparently, this is due to Wilsons treatment of Council staff, which includes apparently telling councillors to kill themselves.

Kent Online reports:

[The representative said] Mr Wilson’s behaviour had made workers feel harassed and intimidated, with some receiving emails from him on a daily basis. Officers, employees and councillors felt bullied and distressed, being unable to respond properly to allegations, some of them being reduced to tears.”

Nice!

During the hearing the council’s representative Adam Solomon QC handed over a staggering 454 pieces of correspondence sent by Mr Wilson to council officials in the space of just over four years, between February 2016 and July 2020.

The Judge, Daryl Allen QC said that he had “no hesitation” in making the ruling, saying

The defendant’s conduct repeatedly went far beyond merely irritating and annoying, it was deliberately offensive

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week

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