Homeless Homeowner – the law supports lawlessness

by Readers Question

7:33 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Homeless Homeowner – the law supports lawlessness

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Homeless Homeowner – the law supports lawlessness

In an attempt to keep this brief, I have been renting my flat to my current tenants for almost 4 years. Last year I informed them that I will be needing the property. Their tenancy agreement was renewed but only for 6 months to which they agreed was enough time to sort out accommodation. The lines of communication have always been good and open with my tenants so you can imagine my shock and horror when on the day they were supposed to vacate the property and I move back in, they refuse to go. The irony is, they actually called the police and were told to leave the property and their tenancy was up. They then produced a council doc and the police informed me that I will need to legally evict them. Homeless Homeowner - the law supports lawlessness

Now, I’m not a property mogul, this was my home that was rented due to personal reasons. I had no idea of the procedure or how long the process will take. So here’s my dilemma; they are refusing to go, as they did not communicate with me and lead me to believe all is well, I now have no accommodation. I am 6 months pregnant and sleeping on my brothers sofa until I get advice as I’m told I can’t actually do anything.

I’m perplexed as I’m told these 2 young, able bodied individuals in full time employment do not have to pay me rent and theres nothing I can do about it. I’ve asked the council if they can help me since they are the ones advising people to stay on in other people’s properties..but as expected they don’t really care, it’s my problem.

Can anyone offer any advice? Paying rent and a mortgage while my tenants sit in my property rent free leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m so worried as I’m effectively homeless and see no resolution by the time my baby arrives! Just doesn’t make any sense to me…being a homeless homeowner is like being a starving baker, makes no sense at all.

All I’ve found is advice and guidance for tenants, where is the advice and help for gullible landlords like me??


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Comments

Mark Alexander

8:06 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

You are in the right place to get some useful guidance but there isn't a magic wand which will get you back into your property quickly I'm afraid. It could take as long as three to six months, depending upon your circumstances, hence I have some questions for you please before I can offer any suggestions:-

1) When did the latest tenancy agreement start?

2) Did you protect or re-protect the tenants deposit within 30 days of the tenancy start date and did you also serve the prescribed information at that time to your tenant?

3) Is the property managed by an agent? If so, does the agent belong to any professional bodies and if so, which ones?

4) Is your tenant in arrears and if so, by how many weeks?

5) Has a section 8 notice or a section 21 notice been served and if so, when was it served? Also, how was it served and who served it, e.g. your letting agent?

Once you have answered these questions I will be able to offer you further advice.

In the meantime you should note that your tenant is still liable for the rent, whether he/she is actually paying it or not. This leads to some further questions:-

A) Was you tenant professionally referenced?

B) Did you purchase Rent Guarantee Insurance?

C) Did your tenant have a guarantor and if so has the guarantor been made aware of the situation?

D) What is your tenants personal financial position like? For example, are they working and if so what do they do and how much do they earn? The same applies to the guarantors if they have any. I appreciate that your first priority is to get back into your home but at some stage you are going to want to recover any rent arrears and your legal costs associated with the eviction.

I hate to tell you this but it could take up to six months to recover legal possession of your property. You may feel like crushing some skills in the meantime but PLEASE do not do anything illegal to get them out. The penalties for harassment and illegal eviction for a tenant who is in rent arrears or staying in your property until they are legally evicted are for more strict than for everything your tenant has done.

Yes I know the law is an ass but if you don't respect it you could find yourself in prison or with a fine running into 5 figures.

I suggest you approach your local Council and the CAB for advice as they may be able to help you, especially as you are pregnant. Sleeping on your brothers couch whilst you are pregnant and possible even after you baby arrives is simply not practical.

I'm sure you must be at your wits end but you can and will get through this.

If you have not done so already you need to get the possession process and also the debt recovery process started ASAP. The following link will explain where you need to start >>> http://www.property118.com/tenant-eviction/39099/

I also suggest you take a look at the following link, not so much the question as that's not directly related but some of the answers will be incredibly useful >>> https://www.property118.com/good-debt-recovery-agent/44679/

The sooner you can start the recovery process, the sooner your tenant will realise how serious nature you are. If I were you I would begin with a "no win no fee" debt collection agency. This is not considered to be harrassement in the eyes of the law but it will feel that way to your tenants, they will certainly be a lot less comfortable than if you do nothing. The link above will put you in touch with some good ones.

I look forward to reading your reply.

All the best

Mark
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Mark Alexander

8:24 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

UPDATE

I have just spoken to one of my journalist friends at a National newspaper and asked her if they would help to pay your legal costs in return for your story.

I have left a message on the mobile phone you submitted with your article and I have given you my personal mobile telephone number so if this would be of interest please call me.
.

Neil HEWITT

8:27 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

The overriding issue here is that of lack of security for private rented tenants, yes I agree emotionally with the landlady, however, how many of the readers have actually been tenants? And in a situation where they have been served a section 21?
I am a property professional, and I have twice been served with a section 21. It is absolutely impossible for a private tenant to create a home, as the fear of being evicted always exists. The law is more on the landlord's side, and landlords and letting agents treat many tenants as 'peasants', who have to comply. This is a growing problem nowadays, and leaving aside the issue of supply of housing, agents and landlords can do a lot more to encourage secure tenancies, establish a good line of face to face communications, pick up the phone to make appointments, letters for routine maintenance appointments appear threatening, and listen to your tenant.
The only other solution is that legislation is changed to either revoke section 21, or to extend the period to say six months.
I am a good professional tenant who takes very good care of the rented place that I live in, I cannot call it home, as I fear eviction continually, and yet the agent treats me as a 'serf'.
I never call this place home.
Tenants will look after a place better, when they are respected, and they are secure.
My profession by the way for credibility, trained as an EHO in Housing, and now a professional property surveyor, therefore I can view the problem professionally, from many angles.
Last idea for this lady, could she try a financial incentive to encourage the tenants to move amicably, it may be lower cost, and less stressful than formal action.

Neil HEWITT

8:47 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Additional comment, this article has been created with an emotional bias 'heavily pregnant...'.

This is like a newspaper headline from a tabloid, are the tenants involved allowed a comment, they could be pregnant, disabled, elderly etc.
In other words only one side of the argument is presented.

(moderated)

This expose another problem in The UK, we have a largely amateur private property market of accidental landlords, who rent out properties, typically an inheritance, thereby helping homelessness figures, improving local and central government statistics, but they are as much victims, as the tenants. They are not, and can never be property professionals. The market is too segmented to allow efficient economies of scale, and policy making.
The continental model often has large scale private landlords, with economy of scale, and low rents, and yet still make a profit.
The private rented sector as it is now is not sustainable, and much of it is sustained by mortgaging, and when interest rates rise many landlords' business models will be affected.
Houses should be seen as homes, not investments.

Mark Alexander

9:14 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil HEWITT" at "14/02/2014 - 08:27":

To an extent I have much sympathy for your points of view Neil and that is why I employed top professionals to solve the problem for me. It worked!

My tenants can treat their rented properties as their homes and they do respect me for it.

I am not a soft touch by any means and if they don't pay the rent, they don't respect the property or don't respect the neighbours I'm hard as nails on them. That said, it's been several years since I had a problem.

I don't offer long term tenancies HOWEVER, I do offer a Deed of Assurance and it is that which my tenants respect me for. Please take a look and give me your feedback >>> https://www.property118.com/the-private-rented-sector-evolution-deed-of-assurance/40949/

My business partner has moderated your second comment as some parts were totally unnecessary and could cause distress. If you have a problem with this please email npatterson@property118.com
.

Industry Observer

9:28 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Shall we all get back to the actual case?

Mark I can answer all of your questions as the lady refers to "I let out" and "I told them I would need the property" etc etc. So on the assumption that she is not using the most incompetent agent ever, I would suggest:-

No agent
No deposit protection (if deposit held)
No PI served
No proper notices served

etc etc

Two comments in this story realy interest me, and as you have a good line of communication open perhaps you can get me the answers to these three comments:-

1. The Police would never tell someone they had to leave unless they had a bailiff with them

2. Why would tenants in full time employment have a letter from the Council?

3. Who has told her the tenants don't have to pay rent while in occupancy - the tenants, the Council?

I think much of Neil's comments is harsh, but he is right there are always two sides to every story.

Mandy Thomson

9:32 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

I think this lady's story is a lesson to all landlords.

If you let out any form of property, under any type of agreement - whether this is your spare room to a mate for a few weeks, or like this lady you "just" let your own home on a temporary basis, you are a landlord. Although HMRC doesn't regard property letting as a business - it is a de facto business. As such, all landlords have a duty to educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities, as well as those of their tenant or licensee.

This means do your due diligence before you let - thorough, proper tenant referencing, the right agreement (and know exactly what your rights are and how to end that agreement should you need to).

I started out by letting out my former home - when I found myself needing somewhere to live, I didn't try to get my flat back, I rented my friend's spare room. After that, I spent some time as a tenant myself. I have since bought more property and rent that out and hope to further extend my portfolio this year.

My experience as a lodger (although it wasn't really awful) did leave me feeling as Neil describes - I certainly didn't feel at home and it was made patently clear to me that I wasn't at liberty to treat it as home - in other words, I was only a guest paying a 70% rent. The flat I rented for a time after that was managed by a large letting agent - they were efficient but largely impersonal in their dealings - I didn't completely see the place as home as I only intended to live there short term, but I certainly felt much more at home than in my friend's room - the place was very much mine while I lived there. However, with a large impersonal management company I can see how Neil might feel that he's simply served directives from the landlord that he must obey.
As a small landlord, I treat my tenants on a more friendly informal basis - if I need to visit, I always make sure it's convenient for my tenants, I involve them in decisions about the properties (if they don't want something, I'm not going to impose it on them unless it's absolutely essential or a legal requirement) - in short, it might be my investment, but it's their home first.

Industry Observer

9:58 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Mandy

One of the most sensible posts packed with very good advice that I have seen in ages.

Very well said

Neil HEWITT

10:01 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "14/02/2014 - 09:14":

Mark,

My apologies as regards earlier comment and need for moderation.

The Deed of Assurance is an excellent idea, we just need a far greater uptake. Has there been an initiative through ARLA, Eastern Landlords Association etc. to promote this?
It would certainly be a bonus for some landlords and properties, though letting agents may not be so keen, as they earn a fee for each new tenant. Which I suspect is a separate issue, and possibly does irritate some landlords, as some letting agents, indirectly, seem to add to the turnover of tenants.
I work in the social sector, clearly with regulated secure tenancies, and leaving aside evictions etc., tenants are offered compensation to leave a property, perhaps if it is being sold, or major works are required. In addition to people downgrading the size of property.
Money, of course, can work miracles!

Mark Alexander

10:17 AM, 14th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil HEWITT" at "14/02/2014 - 10:01":

Hi Neil

There are just over 100 landlords and letting agents currently using the Deed of Assurance and whilst that it somewhat disappointing it is also understandable.

If the likes of Shelter were to give it a bit more backing it could take off. Whilst they have officially recognised it as an alternative to their Stable Rental Contract, it's not the Eutopia they were hoping for so they don't promote it. See http://blog.shelter.org.uk/2012/09/we-need-to-talk-solutions-as-well-as-problems-with-renting/

The DCLG have been looking at the Deed of Assurance and discussing it for several months so there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have also heard that the "Boris Badge" team have been taking an interest but I've not heard from them directly.

Once the Deed of Assurance gets some official endorsement I think the likes of the Landlords Associations and the professional bodies such as ARLA, RICS, Law Society, NALS etc. will take a far greater interest in promoting it. They are fearful of it at the moment, in part because it's not been tested in Court and partially because they don't want to invest in high level due diligence to have it professionally checked out. Meanwhile, the numbers are slow but the landlords who are using it have all provided incredibly positive feedback. As you will have seen on the thread I linked you too (assuming you read all of the comments) you will see that a handful of the larger franchise agencies do use the Deed of assurance very occasionally too.

The Deed of Assurance and the use of it are far more akin to using a carrot than a stick. The people using it are doing so for the right reasons and are probably doing nothing different to anything they did before. It is the perception of the additional security that makes the difference between a property and a home. I am not aware of anybody using the deed of assurance wanting to take possession of their property yet for anything other than a default of the tenants part, hence there has never been a requirement for a landlord to pay out any compensation yet.

I would like to think The GOOD Landlords Campaign badge is something that tenants eventually learn to look out for and that a Deed of Assurance will become something they learn to ask for. This could take years to achieve and I am prepared for that. Meanwhile my tenants and I enjoy the benefits of additional mutual respect and that good enough for me, FOR NOW!
.

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