Free housing for rogue tenants – it’s okay landlords will pay!

Free housing for rogue tenants – it’s okay landlords will pay!

9:01 AM, 30th November 2015, About 6 years ago 40

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Landlords continue to be attacked by all sides in Parliament as various laws go through their stages in Parliament. This week Teresa Pearce, Labour, tried to get it made even more difficult for landlords to regain possession of our properties in cases of ‘abandonment.’ This is an excerpt from the comments made, followed by a reply from Dr Rosalind Beck, landlord at Property118:carry

Extract from the comments by Teresa Pearce, Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing)

‘These are probing amendments. Let me put it on record that I think the amendments we just agreed are actually quite good. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I still believe, however, that this whole part of the Bill is open to abuse. I hope that it will be reviewed at some point and that if such abuse occurs, regulations will be brought in. Clearly, I am not as optimistic as the Minister about the behaviour of some landlords, particularly the ones in my constituency who I have seen threaten and abuse tenants, and access properties at any time of the day or night. That sort of person will not look at the safeguards in this part of the Bill, but will see it as an opportunity to act in an even more irresponsible way than they already do.

Amendment 108 would extend the minimum period that would need to pass before a landlord is able to recover abandoned premises. Amendment 109 would extend the time period between the two letters—I believe it may now be three—that are needed to evict a tenant suspected of abandoning a premises. I am truly concerned about abuse of the provisions in this part of the Bill. Landlords could use the proposals to evict tenants simply by writing them letters. They could also use the measures to evict someone as an act of revenge. If a tenant moves into a property that is not fit to live in and asks for repairs, the landlord might think, “This tenant isn’t going to be easy, so I’ll use this process to try to get rid of them.”

We appreciate the need for landlords to be able to recover truly abandoned premises and the fact that tenancy agreements are a two-way street. I appreciate the Minister’s argument that if someone does not pay their rent, they have clearly already broken their tenancy agreement. I have seen instances of that: for example, someone in my area who had a property of her own got married and moved in with her husband. Rather than sell her property, she decided to let it out. For an entire year, the tenant paid no rent at all, but she still had to pay the mortgage on that property. I therefore completely understand that there are situations of that sort that need addressing. The measures in the Bill may make the situation easier for landlords in that sort of position, but my fear is they may also make it easier for rogue landlords.

I am pleased that the Minister has added a provision to the Bill that requires a third wave of letters for the process, but it is still important to safeguard against abuse. Extending the minimum amount of time that has to pass before a landlord is able to recover an abandoned premises will mean that those with legitimate reasons for absence will be able to respond. That will help to safeguard against potential abuse.

One concern about the proposals that has been raised with me is the possible pressure they will put on local housing authorities, which may have a duty to house tenants following eviction, even if only in emergency accommodation. Under the current system, when faced with someone who is about to be evicted, those local housing authorities have time to plan their resources, so that they know that if a resident is going to be evicted they will be able to house them adequately in emergency housing. Under the proposals in the Bill, residents could be evicted with haste, putting further pressure on already pressed local housing authorities. The amendments would insert a bit more time into the process for recovering abandoned premises, which would, I hope, ease the pressure on local housing authorities.

Amendment 109 would extend the time period between the letters. Currently it is two weeks and no more than four weeks; we propose extending it to four weeks and no more than eight. That would be advantageous for a number of reasons. It would safeguard against error. A landlord could use the measures to kick out a legitimate tenant who is away on business, in hospital or on holiday; extending the time period between the letters would mean that there was less chance of that happening. It would also safeguard against abuse. It would allow tenants more time to lodge a query with the landlord or seek housing advice. As there is no court involvement in the process, it would give the tenant more time to assess their options.

It is clear that the proposals in the Bill will have the power to affect all tenants in the private rental sector. All landlords will have these powers, open to abuse as they are, even though abandonment accounts for an estimated 1,750 occasions of tenancies ending a year. We hope that the rules will be got right, so that there are safeguards against abuse, and so that we allow landlords to recover abandoned premises where they need to, but do not allow them to evict tenants at their ease. That is the reason behind these probing amendments. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some reassurance that those who could be abused will be protected by the law.
(Hansard source: Citation: Housing and Planning Bill Deb, 26 November 2015, c326)

My response:

‘Dear Teresa.

As a portfolio landlord I read with dismay your comments this week regarding ‘abandonment,’ or what we know in the business as ‘doing a runner.’ I have had the misfortune to have had many such cases, and the usual pattern is that suddenly the tenant stops paying and does not answer any calls or texts, so we do not know what is going on. In the meantime we obviously have to continue paying the mortgage and we start to worry that we may have a ‘rogue tenant.’

We usually leave it a few weeks, writing then to ask what is happening and again getting no response. Finally, we give notice that we intend to visit the tenant and when we go there we see that they have indeed disappeared. They always take all of their valuables and often leave large old items like sofas and beds and usually lots of rubbish and full cupboards as well as a filthy and sometimes, damaged house. That is the usual pattern of the ‘runners.’

It seems that you are in favour of us then leaving such a house empty for 12 weeks, when we will invariably already be down in terms of rent and also face having to pay to have all the rubbish and furniture removed (this costs hundreds of pounds, in case you don’t know) and to fix anything they have broken – rogue tenants who don’t adhere to their tenancy agreements in terms of paying rent and giving notice don’t tend to look after other people’s property either.

You believe that only after waiting 12 weeks should we be allowed to re-enter our property to clear away all the mess, renovate the house once more and then be able to advertise it and wait for a suitable tenant. Naturally, that completely negates the purpose of tenants giving us a month’s notice so that we can find replacements without experiencing voids. Through no fault of our own, in such cases we face approximately 6 months with no rent coming in; a massive hit which it will take years to recoup as we often have a modest margin between rents and mortgage payments. That is how I experience this.

You seem to think that there is a very different thing going on, however; that in fact abandonment cases are about decent tenants going on holiday, having always paid their rent on time and having looked after the house and then these awful landlords come in, change the locks and re-let the houses while the tenants are on holiday. Why on earth would a landlord do this, risking breaking the law and losing decent tenants? You are very ill-informed, I’m afraid. As a landlord with 20 years experience I hope you can acknowledge I may know more about this than you? You may also acknowledge that if you have heard the odd story about a bad landlord, you should not base national policy on this.

The natural conclusion of the law you are supporting and which you wish to be amended to make it more extreme, is that landlords lose out even more. You say this is helpful to Local Authorities as they have more time – I don’t follow that logic. This is usually argued more in relation to tenants who are being evicted for non-payment of rent and who are in fact refusing to leave, the kind of rogue tenants whom your colleague, Siobhain McDonagh then advises to stay put as long as possible until the bailiffs are commissioned so that the private landlords can continue to be forced to provide them with free housing, thus saving the LAs money. As you say, this is ‘helpful’ to LAs (while being devastating financially to decent, honest landlords who have done nothing wrong).

As you seem intent on promoting even more extreme anti-landlord measures than the Government (and they have effectively declared war on us) why not suggest that we leave the houses empty with no rent coming in for 6 months before we can regain possession? Why the rather arbitrary 12 weeks?

In fact, it is completely over the top to wait 12 weeks to establish if someone has left or not. You can usually see it in an instant. You don’t have to be Columbo. One can, for example, ask neighbours to confirm if they have seen the person’s other possessions being taken away, the tenant may have even told them that they have moved out, the tenant may then not have been seen for weeks. Why can’t this be construed as sufficient evidence? Why is everything to be balanced in the rogue tenants’ favour, ‘just in case’ (with complete disregard to the interests of the landlord who more often than not took out a mortgage to buy the house, renovated it, maintained it, poured their own money and time and effort into it and has considerable ongoing costs attached to it? Why does none of this matter)?

I would add, that if the tenant is still paying the rent, it is a very different matter and would clearly indicate that the tenant has not given up the tenancy; but when they have stopped paying and are nowhere to be seen and cannot be contacted, this is a very different thing. It is the ongoing financial loss from the rent arrears when one has to keep the house available to a non-paying, absent tenant who has clearly and definitively ‘done a runner’ that is so crushing to a landlord’s business.

No doubt you also support Clause 24 of the Finance Bill, whereby we are to pay tax on mortgage interest as though it were ‘profit’ instead of the main cost of the business which has already left our bank account and gone to the mortgage lender. It maybe hasn’t occurred to you that it is rather a feat to have to pay mortgage interest and (bizarrely) tax on mortgage interest, when no rent is coming in for months on end (but I suspect you don’t care).

Maybe, like your colleague, Siobhain McDonagh, you would like the Government to go further on this too and make landlords pay even higher levels of tax? Maybe you think that this makes you a compassionate person. I think the idea is that if you attack landlords en masse (by saying you are targeting ‘rogue’ ones, but introducing blanket measures which attack all of the vast majority of decent landlords) that you are somehow helping tenants? This couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you indeed are compassionate, instead of suggesting landlords bear even more of the brunt and costs of dealing with rogue tenants who disappear owing money (landlords lose billions every year at the hands of rogue tenants), but whom you want us to keep our houses empty for, in case they return, perhaps you would like to donate a large amount of your income to keep some properties empty for these people? Or maybe you would like to make rooms available in your property for free in case they are needed? AS YOU EXPECT US TO DO.

It is always very easy to be generous with other people’s money (in case you don’t understand how it works, when no rent comes in to cover the mortgage, the landlord has to delve into any savings they have to subsidise this housing or may have to take out a loan to cover the loss from what we consider to be a criminal act of theft against us. We are not Housing Association or council staff, who suffer no personal financial loss when they have rogue tenants).

What is currently occurring is the biggest attack on the private rental sector in UK history. It is going to be catastrophically destructive. I have been trying to get your party to see this for what it is instead of behaving like some adjunct to the Conservative party.

Rather than repeat what I have written to your colleagues on this matter, I will paste the links here for you to read. This link contains correspondence with Rob Marris:

http://www.property118.com/why-does-labour-want-to-force-out-tenants-on-benefits-to-make-room-for-tory-owner-occupiers/82058/

This is my letter to Siobhain McDonagh, which she has still not answered:

http://www.property118.com/rob-marris-mp-and-sir-roger-gale-same-party/82156/

You may also be interested in my letter to Campbell Robb here:

http://www.property118.com/campbell-robb-ceo-shelter-open-letter/81625/

Suffice to say that the Labour Party is behaving in a shameful way, completely disregarding the fact that by attacking landlords you are also attacking the tenants of this country, particularly the low-paid and those on benefits who will be ‘phased out’ of their housing as Clause 24 is phased in.

You should be campaigning against these astonishing policies which will have terrible consequences for tenants as rents rise and they are evicted by landlords unable to pay tax on ‘fictitious income,’ instead of wasting your time supporting rogue tenants (not even doing that really – as leaving houses empty for longer periods benefits no-one as these houses could be providing essential housing to others far sooner).

I hope you will take some of this on board and refrain in the future from supporting the current misguided and disgraceful attempt to devastate the private rental sector. Or do you want this wanton destruction of a vibrant and well-run housing tenure, providing accommodation for millions of people to be part of your legacy?

Yours sincerely.

Dr Rosalind Beck



Comments

by MoodyMolls

20:24 PM, 1st December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ros ." at "01/12/2015 - 15:27":

Are we going to get the council payment for the 12 weeks we have to leave it empty just in case?
Generally they sign another tenancy elsewhere and are claiming on that so the council know.

The council will pay where the tenant say they are living , I think they should be made to pay for the house until abandonment confirmed.
Its only fair!

by MoodyMolls

20:29 PM, 1st December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gary Dully" at "01/12/2015 - 19:15":

Its not the property that was ‘abandoned’, it was the poor landlord by the Justice system.

I like this sentence good newspaper heading.

by Dr Rosalind Beck

20:53 PM, 2nd December 2015, About 6 years ago

I've just sent a reply to Teresa Pearce and copied in Rob Marris and Siobhain McDonagh. I didn't spend too long on it, as it gets on my nerves having to continually go through the whole thing.

'Dear Teresa
Thank you for your reply to my letter. Naturally, I am not reassured by you saying with regard to landlords that you support us as you are promoting policies diametrically opposed to our interests. I do not want to repeat myself - but if you look at the brief video below - I think it's about 2 minutes' long, you will see how houses are typically left after someone does a runner. They will already owe months in rent. they will have often caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and you want this house to then be kept empty for 12 more weeks in case the rogue tenants want to come back. Why wouldn't this kind of video suffice as evidence, along with evidence of the rent being two months in arrears?

Personally I would have no objection to the council also verifying this as long as they had the resources to come straight out and not delay the repossession of the property by one day longer. Already the work involved in re-renovating the house, commissioning workers and so on will run into further months (good tradespeople are not ready at the drop of a hat), and viewings to new potential tenants are never advisable before the work is completed and when a tenant is actually found (which is also not an instant process) they then have to give a month's notice to their current landlords. The financial loss and stress caused to landlords is devastating in these cases (and much worse if we also have to take people to court); I believe it takes its toll on our health also at being the victims of these crimes. We are then re-victimised by the approach taken by Government and the laws it passes which invariably are stacked against us.

The problem with the Labour Party at the moment is that it is generally very anti-landlord and with the Chancellor having gone to more extreme measures than even your party could have dreamt up, you have been wrong-footed. It's like a battle now for who hates landlords the most. Many journalists in the last week have finally woken up to this, with headlines suggesting the Chancellor is trying to annihilate our businesses. And I am not being melodramatic; astronomical tax rates which will be applied to many landlords with high gearing will tip many into losses and they will bizarrely be taxed on losses; something I don't believe has ever been seen in the UK before.

It is therefore imperative that you stop this nonsense now, that you get together as a Shadow Cabinet and reverse your support for George Osborne's lunatic tax move against landlords and tenants - it is going to have a terrible effect on the PRS. You will soon start seeing the data on rent rises, evictions and homelessness and remember, your stance as a party will have exacerbated this, and my correspondence and that of others to yourselves will show that you were fully informed about the dire consequences which would follow.

In addition to reversing your stance on Clause 24, you need to start devising a positive holistic approach to the PRS which incentivises landlords rather than penalises them. The housing shortage is only going to get worse - you will have seen the predictions on immigration - around a million more people expected in the next five years. Any child could see that this means that more rental property is needed; but instead of policies which would promote this, an incredibly and historically unprecedented destructive approach is being manically pursued against our sector. The collateral damage of this war against landlords will be tenants, and the poorest will be at the sharpest end, if you cannot as a party move away from your blind prejudice against us (remember: we provide housing and many of us provide very cheap housing to the poorest in society; we are not axe murderers).

I am copying in some of your colleagues who also have an interest in or duty with regard to housing. I hope that you all see sense with regard to this issue sooner rather than later.

Yours sincerely
Ros Beck
Tenants from Hell in Bulwell

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Tenants from Hell in Bulwell

by James Fraser

0:00 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ros ." at "01/12/2015 - 19:35":

Hi Ros.

I have to say the reply from TP was better than I was expecting - more reasonable than I had imagined, certainly, and I agree with her recognising that all types of housing should be encouraged.

But she's invited you to reply. So you should. Tell her why and how abandonment is already protected in law and then invite her to explain how she hates the attack on the PRS yet supports C24? That's an explanation Id like to hear.

And then - just for me - ask her why she keeps using an apostrophe of possession in 'landlords' when she's discussing an ordinary plural. It's almost as irritating as c24!

by Dr Rosalind Beck

0:16 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "James Fraser" at "03/12/2015 - 00:00":

Hi Jamie.
Our posts crossed. I finally got around to replying a couple of hours ago (I'd been procrastinating, as I am now am regarding replying to Kate Barker - there is always one more letter...). My reply is just above on this page.
I was thinking of doing a cut and paste and sending Gary's post, a bit up from this comment, as he covered a lot of the points, but I would prefer Gary to do it as it has more power coming from different people, definitely.
Yes, grammatical issues are trying. I didn't like the Government's Spending Review, which kept using a small 'g' for the current Government. That one Gets my Goat.

by Gary Dully

8:42 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ros ." at "01/12/2015 - 19:35":

Hello Ros,

Yes please feel free, I will send her something alright.

I will be doing repairs till Friday, so I should knock something out by the weekend.

by James Fraser

9:11 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

Hi guys.

This has just come in at an opportune moment.

I won't bore you with the details but I recently attended court with a client who had had 14 months of arrears at £1100 pcm. As you will see, I am not breaching any data issued by telling you the tenant was called Ahmed Mbacke. The landlord had been to court previously but even though he could prove the service of the correct notice, the tenant - with legal aid solicitor - claimed not to have received it. The judge agreed with the tenant, who also claimed racial harassment - odd considering the landlord was a fellow African. This so upset the landlord that he didn't try again until many months later when I arrived on the scene. Going back to court, I pointed out the terms of Section 8 and we won possession, at a total cost to the LL of £17,000.

Here's where it gets interesting, and infuriating. Ahmed Mbacke does not exist. The tenant was part of a criminal gang of illegal immigrants working false passports and documentation with the SPECIFIC INTENTION of conning landlords. The CCJ against him is meaningless.

British justice.

by Dr Rosalind Beck

9:34 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "James Fraser" at "03/12/2015 - 09:11":

How awful. That is an incredible amount of money to lose. The judge should of course be sued for the money as they make so many decisions which cost us a fortune (I don't know how you sue a judge - they have always accepted a proof of postage as evidence of service in my cases so I don't understand how they could 'believe' the tenant) when the landlord has the proof.
.
However, as we all now know the Government is going to con us out of massively higher amounts than this through the discriminatory, unfair and illogical disallowing of our finance costs and re-defining them as profit to be taxed. GO is therefore far worse to me, than an illegal, criminal gang. Indeed I was the victim of one of these earlier this year - when they nearly burnt my house down with their cannabis farm - the fake names of my tenant and guarantor were Shaun Noells and Brian Pang (luckily my insurance company paid out and it all turned out fine for me - just a little bit of stress which was caused by the insurance company trying to wriggle out of paying). This was nothing compared to what the Government is attempting to do to me and so many other landlords.

Of course, like others, I am not only not taking it sitting down in terms of telling them and everyone else what I think about it and trying to get it reversed; I am also working on sorting out my affairs so that for a certain time at least I may even be better off.

However, that doesn't change anything in terms of my fury about this criminal act against landlords en masse by the 'robbing, thieving b**stards'' (as Sean Bean might say).

by James Fraser

9:36 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

I have just had a text from that landlord. I have tried to copy and paste that doesn't work.

The text says: 'I am a victim. A victim of criminal activity that the police and courts are not interested in. My life virtually came to a standstill and was messed up for two years. If I had not been financially sound, I would have lost my property and everything I have worked for and built up over many years'.

by James Fraser

9:45 AM, 3rd December 2015, About 6 years ago

What was worse about this case is that the judge also accepted the legal aid solicitor's view that Section 8 should be subject to deposit rules, when of course it isn't. As my landlord couldn't find his proof of the prescribed information,
the judge was persuaded the tenant should stay, ignoring the months of arrears that had accrued. Luckily, we got them to see sense the second time, but not before there was £15k of lost rent and a variety of fees and losses.


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