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Tessa Shepperson Newsround #196 – The Landlord Law Blog

A bit of news before the bank holiday.  What do we have for you?

Possession Notice periods to change on 1 June

The eviction ban is coming to an end.

To the relief of landlords who need their properties back who should now (if they have obtained an order) be able to instruct bailiffs.

However, tenants at risk of eviction and the services that support them are understandably extremely worried.

If you are considering eviction then you need to know that the new notice periods are as follows (taken  from the announcement here):

From 1 June, notice periods that are currently 6 months will reduce to at least 4 months. Notice periods for the most serious cases that present the most strain on landlords will remain lower:

  • anti-social behaviour (immediate to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse in the social sector (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • 4 months’ or more accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (2 weeks’ notice)
  • death of a tenant (2 months’ notice)

Notice periods for cases where there is less than 4 months’ of unpaid rent, will reduce again to 2 months’ notice from 1 August. This is to support both landlords and tenants and responds to the greater difference between COVID and pre COVID notice periods for rent arrears.

However be aware that all court proceedings, including eviction claims, will be horribly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and so you are advised to try to resolve issues with your tenants by mediation if you can.

Unlike Wales, in England, there is no specific grant or loan scheme, but many tenants will for the moment still be supported by furlough, or by benefit such as Universal Credit.

However …

No significant arrears claims?

The government has produced figures to show that contrary to what rental sector activists have been claiming, there is no massive build-up of arrears cases and that there will be no ‘tsunami’ of claims coming.

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh – a minister of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said during a house of Lords debate:

Although we have seen an increase, according to the survey, in the number of renters in arrears, the vast majority of them—some two-thirds—have arrears of no greater than two months …

… My Lords, we are aware of the exhortations from many organisations, but we consider that the increase in rent arrears is not statistically significant between the two surveys. It went from seven per cent to nine per cent. We also recognise that we have provided a substantial package of support for renters during the pandemic, including legislative protections and unprecedented financial support.

If this is in fact that case, it is probably due to the forbearance of very many landlords who have given tenants rent breaks and reductions to help them through the pandemic.

So far as court claims are concerned, Lord Greenhalgh said:

My Lords, I am not aware of a pile-up in the courts. Indeed, we have actually seen a massive drop in the number of repossession cases. It decreased to 262 repossessions in January to March 2021—a reduction of some 96 per cent—and 214 local authorities had no landlord repossessions at all.

Of course, that could be because landlords delayed issuing proceedings until the courts opened up properly and the notice periods reduced.  We shall have to see.

As regards requests for covid arrears loans, Lord Greenhalgh said:

My officials carefully studied the Scottish and Welsh schemes to support tenants with rent arrears. I understand that a relatively small number of loans have been made by these schemes. Indeed, the government continue to believe that it is right to provide non-repayable financial support rather than encouraging further debt.

Interesting!  Despite this, there are still many calls for the government to do more to help renters.

The NRLA figures on arrears

Data compiled for the National Residential Landlords Association, from a survey of over 2,000 renters, indicates that 7% of renters have built up arrears since March 2020, with the average amount of rent owed being £900.

The point being made by the NRLA is that claims by landlords through the courts will seriously damage these tenants credit rating making it very difficult for them to find accommodation in future.

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

As the private rented sector moves out of lockdown measures, the Chancellor has failed to provide tenants with the support they need. This is especially the case for the majority of those in rent arrears who do not qualify for benefit support.

Without urgent assistance, many tenants face the prospect of losing their home needlessly as landlords struggle to shoulder the cost of arrears. Affected tenants also potentially face the negative impact of damage to their credit scores.

The Government needs to develop a financial package which ensures that benefits cover the rents of those in receipt of them. For those who do not qualify for benefit support, an interest free, government guaranteed tenant hardship loan should be established, similar to those in Wales and Scotland.

Banning orders in Camden

There has been a lot of criticism of the fact that since the introduction of Banning Orders several years ago until now few if any orders have been made.  However, we now have FOUR banning orders made in London, three of which have been obtained by Camden council.

One of the orders was made against Simple Properties Management Ltd and you will find a detailed report on this from Nearly Legal here.

Cllr Meric Apak, cabinet member for Better Homes, said:

Around a third of Camden residents rent from private landlords and they deserve to live in properly regulated and safe homes. The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of this and the right to a safe and secure home.

Most landlords are decent law-abiding people however for too long a minority have been able to let housing that may be unfit for human habitation, is overcrowded and in which fire and general safety are both woefully disregarded.

Our HMO licensing scheme continues to improve the standards in Camden’s private housing, empowering renters to take action and helping good landlords to run successful businesses.

The prosecution and banning orders we have seen given in this case is a necessary last resort. Our message to landlords and letting agents is that we are here to work with you; to provide advice and assistance first of all and to ensure you can meet your obligations.

Giles Peaker of Nearly Legal has a slightly different message to landlords:

The track record of all these setups – sham licenses, defrauded property owners, properties converted for more bedrooms without permission, unlicensed HMOs, illegal evictions and harassment and all – will doubtless keep going in some form. They usually prey on foreign students or others unlikely to be even slightly aware of English tenancy law.

But they rely on a supply of properties from naive, or greedy, or lazy property owners and managing agents for their wholly unlawful rent to rent activities.

Until property owners realise that they are quite likely to be the ones facing licensing prosecutions and rent repayment order applications, while ‘London Simple Properties Lifestyle’ vanishes with the rent unpaid and a voluntary liquidation, and stop entering these arrangements, there will always be some shyster or crook of a ‘property entrepeneur’ happy to try it on.

Or – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

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