19:05 PM, 21st September 2020, About 3 years ago 84
The sustained attack on private landlords has intensified during the Covid-19 epidemic and is now off the scale in terms of the injustice being perpetuated against landlords.
Some of the key injustices are identified below. These merit a decisive response from the bodies representing landlords and letting agents. They need to urgently investigate every conceivable legal action against the Government:
In my article last week I estimated a minimum of 14 months to evict non-paying tenants: Click here
However, although the Government had made a point of ‘conceding’ 4 weeks’ notice would be sufficient when the tenant is 6 months in arrears, it is now clear this was a false promise. In fact, in another directive to the courts, it was stated that only when arrears reach 12 months, should the court prioritise the case. In other words, cases will be put at the bottom of the pile until that point.
This means landlords will lose at least a further 6 months’ rent, making a total of 20 months, or £16,000 arrears. This is an outrage, especially as in most cases landlords will never recover this money that the Government is forcing us to lose.
The Government now expects landlords to have an in-depth knowledge of their tenants’ experience of Covid-19. Interestingly, knowledge of other illnesses such as terminal cancer is not required – and never has been. It is not clear if the landlord is to be punished with an adjournment if they are unable to obtain this knowledge; which is highly likely as it is completely against the interests of the other party to comply if it means they are more likely to get evicted.
The implication is also there that if a tenant has had any misfortune related to Covid-19 (something it would be unlikely for someone to NOT have) they may be given a stay of execution of a possession order, regardless of the level of their arrears. This introduces the idea that non-payment of the contracted rent is no longer a ground for possession. Given this, why would a tenant who already has a poor credit rating ever pay rent again, when they might be able to get at least 2 years rent-free accommodation? (see the case below)
The Government hasn’t legislated for the same rule to apply to landlords’ mortgage payments, where contractual arrangements will not be undermined by Government edict. Indeed, in the retail sector it has been pointed out that, ‘while landlords are constrained from collecting what is owed to them, there is nothing to stop banks becoming more aggressive.’ Click here
For both residential and commercial sectors the Government seems to be acting on the principle that if a tenant is experiencing difficulty of any kind, they no longer have to pay their bills, possibly indefinitely.
So now one party in a dispute (tenants) can have their ‘illnesses’ and other misfortunes (real or lied about) taken into consideration, whilst there is no consideration of the other party’s (landlords’) experience of covid-19.
Is the victim the one who owes thousands of pounds and in many cases is wrecking the property they live in which doesn’t belong to them or is it the person who is owed thousands and has to wait, helpless, losing hundreds or thousands more every month?
To take a real example, landlord, Bansi Soni explained the predicament she is now in:
‘So I have the tenant from hell. She hasn’t paid any rent for 5 months (totalling over £8k) and refuses to tell me what benefits she’s on. She says she doesn’t care if she gets a CCJ as she has bad credit anyway. She says it’s no skin off her nose and she’ll stay put till she’s thrown out. I offered to forgive her her rent arrears and return her full deposit if she leaves but she’s refused.’
Bansi goes on to say that she is unwell and on dialysis. At the time of writing, she had a fever of 40 degrees but was unable to sleep it off because of the worry.
Another landlord on social media said her tenant hadn’t paid a penny in 16 months and that as a consequence she has nearly lost her home. This landlord said the worry – along with nursing a sick child during the pandemic has nearly killed her.
Similar stories are to be found all over social media and comments sections under newspaper articles.
The Government is fixated on tenants – quite likely for purely political motives – and is not giving landlords’ concerns one iota of consideration, not even acknowledging the intolerable strain many landlords are under. Instead, it is introducing actual communist policies, as an assault on private property rights is. This is no exaggeration as a landlord effectively has their property expropriated when they lose all power over it. In this situation, the landlord can’t earn an income from their property, they can’t move into it and they can’t sell it. They have lost all power over it. At the same time, they must pay the bills on it and follow all the legislation, even repairing responsibilities in cases where tenants are not paying and may even be wrecking the property.
As has been seen, some landlords face also losing their own home as they struggle to pay their personal outgoings and also foot the bill for others. Finally, they may have to sell losing all their previous equity because of the huge losses from unpaid rent and damage, combined with the effects of Section 24 (often paying tax on an imaginary profit).
How can the Government get away with this knee-jerk, one-sided legislation, unchallenged? Where has the principle of impartiality gone? Unfortunately though, even if these laws had to go through parliament – which they don’t at the moment – the politicians would still wave them through as they pathetically chase the tenant vote.
The Government, however, needs to be reminded that impartiality is a principle of justice, holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons.
The Government has clearly abandoned that idea, showing no consideration for how many landlords will be ruined by its actions. It is also working in tandem with Shelter, Generation Rent and even Momentum, with its attack on the basic premise of protecting private property rights; behaving like a bastardised version of Robin Hood – bastardised, because many landlords are far from wealthy and some tenants are very well-off indeed.
In addition, as has been pointed out elsewhere in the context of the retail sector, ‘there is concern that extending the [eviction] moratorium until the end of the year undermines the concept of rent as a contractual obligation.’ Landlords quake as the roof falls in on values So the Government is undermining property rights as well as contractual rights and responsibilities.
We now have the idea that the length of arrears needed before a landlord can take action depends on the landlord’s income. How is that relevant? Why should rogue tenants get longer in properties (12 months minimum) if their landlord is a bit better off, but be out more quickly (with 9 months’ rent arrears) if the landlord is worse off? That the Government thinks it is okay for landlords to go without rent for 9-12 months before starting possession proceedings is already unprecedented. Supermarkets aren’t being told they must supply their services for 12-24 months, free of charge, so where is the legal and moral justification for forcing landlords to do this? Means-testing landlords in order to make a decision about how much their rogue tenant is allowed to rip them off really demonstrates how off-the-scale the Government has gone with its lunacy.
As if this is not enough, it is almost laughable to see that an SNP MP, Chris Stephens is trying with a private members bill to prevent evictions of anyone on Universal Credit for rent arrears. In other words, if a landlord has a tenant on benefits they could look forward to never being paid, indefinitely.
Rather amusingly this somewhat clashes with Shelter’s campaign to force landlords to accept people on benefits, with the argument they present no greater risk than working tenants. They will do if Chris Stephens gets his way and although such a law would be absurd, this offers no comfort to landlords as we are now used to Alice in Wonderland legislation, that one would expect from a ‘lunatic dictator.’ Click here
With new, inscrutable procedures added, including delaying tactics of ‘review hearings’, and a new demand that landlords ‘reactivate’ cases they never deactivated (many will be caught out by this), do they not realise this will most hurt the worst-off tenants as landlords will be completely paranoid about whom they are able to trust with the keys to their property?
To conclude, with injustice piled upon injustice and thoroughly biased legislation being brought in with an almost frenetic frequency, it is time to act. I already have a name for this campaign – ‘Justice for Landlords.’ And I now call upon the landlord and letting agent bodies of the UK, both national and local to challenge the legality of these measures. All landlords and letting agents should be calling on their representative bodies to do this.
I would add that there is no point in these associations asking their members to write to their MPs – which seems to be a stock response. This has got us absolutely nowhere. It is also not enough to ask for funds to compensate some landlords for unjust legal measures applied to them. We need to force the Government into a u-turn, using the full force of the law.