JUSTICE FOR LANDLORDS!

by Dr Rosalind Beck

19:05 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

JUSTICE FOR LANDLORDS!

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JUSTICE FOR LANDLORDS!

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:

  1. Justice delayed is justice denied, but even more so for landlords who perhaps uniquely face accruing debts for each month the legal process denies us possession of our own property.

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.

  1. Where is the legal and moral justification for legislating that one party in a dispute should have an in-depth knowledge of another’s affairs and circumstances?

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.

  1. Who is the implied victim according to these measures?

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.

  1. This is one-sided legislation which will lead some landlords to lose their property.

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).

  1. What about impartiality in the law?

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.

  1. The Government is now proposing tenants can remain for a longer period, not paying rent, if their particular landlord is less dependent on the rental income than another landlord.

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.

  1. Further attempts to undermine justice.

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.


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Comments

Gromit

19:40 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

Excellent article.
Sadly none of the Landlord or Letting Agent associations who are suppose to represent us and fight our corner don't have the b**ls to take on the Government with Judicial Review.

MoodyMolls

19:56 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

Yes It is disgusting how a government can result to this level.
Conservative motto use to be
'ITS ONLY FAIR"
They have been anything but remotely fair to landlords since 2015.
NRLA need to explain to members why they are not prepare to challenge the government in court .
They are weak and useless
I have 3 properties to let and now want the additional security of a guarantor.
I know landlords who are to scared to let their properties in this climate.

John McKay

20:21 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

If ever there was an argument for human cloning it was Maggie. She was a proper Conservative, the likes we've not seen since. She understood the issues around the rental market and addressed them. What we have now is the most pathetic administration of any colour I've seen in my lifetime. This particular bunch of idiots are completely clueless and I'd rather see Labour get it next time around than this crowd. They are completely taking the **** but what better can we expect with a corrupt Housing Minister? As for the NRLA I quit the organisation in June as they have no stomach for a fight and a fight is what we need. Why the hell are they not launching a JR???

Dr Rosalind Beck

20:30 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by MoodyMolls at 21/09/2020 - 19:56
Yes, the latest moves which force us to accept non-paying tenants for lengthy periods has led me to also now only accept people who have rock-solid guarantors. It is very sad to have to turn down so many people.

Foreign workers and students mostly can't get a guarantor; neither can working class people in general - eg a young apprentice engineer earning £14,000 but with no homeowner in the family can be turned down while someone working in hospitality, which is quite insecure employment at the moment can be accepted if they have a well-off parent.

Everyone talks about racism and sexism but this is classism and is really hurting the would-be tenants in the most need - many of whom won't be able to move for work as they won't be able to rely on the PRS, which has always been the only sector which can help them.

This will have knock-on effects for the economy as well, as businesses won't be able to find the workers. The organisations like Shelter and Generation Rent which celebrate eviction extensions are helping to wreck the prospects of all these people.

This is in addition of course to the huge injustices being committed against landlords, as I have pointed out.

I am really flabbergasted that landlord and letting agent associations which wouldn't exist without landlords, are not jumping at the chance to help landlords and working day and night to stop this Government onslaught by all means necessary, not least legal means as that is the only language the Government will understand.

Chris @ Possession Friend

23:11 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

But How MANY landlords would be prepared to contribute to a legal action ?

TheBiggerPicture

8:29 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

How about a just giving page set up an find out how much landlords would be willing to pay.

If landlords won't even invest in saving themselves, then we can't expect the associations to do so.

One more point, this is a very good article by Rosalind, but it is only the start. Landlords are not treated like other businesses, they can't claim interest as a legitimate business expenses.
Then there is the progressive taxation which punishes them further. This is not an initial injustice, but one layered on many others.
The government will only change their tune when they have an incentive to do so.

Elisabeth Beckett

8:42 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

Dr Rosalind Beck - every time I read a post by you I admire the measured, considered, intelligent remarks you make. As a member of the NRL a I would like to vote for you to be a chief representative for landlords intervening with the government. No other business has kept owners on their toes through constant legislation change that undermines any business plan a landlord might have had. For example if the government changes CGT in the near future, my whole exit strategy will be in jeopardy. Personally I now ask for a guarantor for every tenant and rents have had to increase over the last few years to allow for the punitive impact of licensing, section 24, and to make up for voids during COVID. The latest directive encourages tenants to be irresponsible and to deliberately avoid paying rent. If the supermarket said you could either pay at the till or walk out of the shop with your goods free of charge, what percentage will opt for which option?
I believe it’s time to create a forum of people with logic and reasoning to discuss issues with relevant housing ministers and the government. My vote for the person to do that is Dr Rosalind Beck!!
There is no doubt in my mind that housing stock will diminish as HMOs for tenants with responsible landlords and the likelihood is the black market rogue landlords will increase in number.
I recently had a council official give me a schedule of works for incredibly good property because the stock I was cracked outside the front door and I said I must get somebody in to repair it. It was doing no harm and was on my plan to do next spring. Also having put wired in smoke alarms in every bedroom (which is over and above legislation) they have said I must get somebody in annually to certificate the smoke alarms are working despite the fact I check them quarterly and tenants have it as part of their responsibility within their ASTs. Nonsense and costly.

David Price

8:46 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

In the middle of a housing crisis I have empty properties which I dare not let to the people who most need them. 90% of the housing problems would be solved if UC paid directly to the landlord, not just the housing benefit but the whole rent, from the outset and for the duration of the tenancy - I can dream.

Peter

8:49 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

Could somebody enlighten me please? What is a Judicial Review and if successful, would it force the government to alter things?

If so, then I would I would make a contribution.

Elisabeth Beckett

8:49 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

My apologies a couple of typos were edited but didn’t save .... I meant NRLA and ‘stucco’ outside the front door
The joy of writing on your telephone!

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