Why do landlords carry the blame for intentionally homeless tenants?

by Readers Question

9:12 AM, 9th April 2019
About 5 months ago

Why do landlords carry the blame for intentionally homeless tenants?

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Why do landlords carry the blame for intentionally homeless tenants?

Hi Phoebe, If I may introduce myself, I run a Possession company for Landlords who are struggling to get their properties back from bad tenants.

The story you wrote for KentLive was an interesting one – ‘Dirty, disgusting and isolating’ Mums describe grim reality of Ashford’s temporary housing B&B’s’

“Two mums have welcomed plans to convert shipping containers into emergency accommodation for the homeless after they both suffered while living in temporary housing.”

However, there are many other aspects to the situation that deserve to be mentioned.

Too often, tenant support groups criticise landlords for evicting tenants, especially using the one of only two possible routes, Section 21, where 2 months notice is required without having to prove a contravention by a tenant. Landlords know that proving anything in court can be time consuming in adjournments and costly in legal proceedings.

Unfortunately, whenever there are reports published by the media of Tenant evictions (by whichever means, but especially Section 21) there is no account from the landlord to offer a balanced view. Most of my clients have lost £5,000 as a minimum, many over that amount with the highest being over £25,000.  In that case, the tenant moved just 5 doors away, taking much of the landlords furniture with them. Very rarely, do my Landlord clients wants to sell or move back into their property where there hasn’t been any ‘fault’ or tenants behaviour that has instigated this.

One of the points from your article I’d like to focus upon, is the Local Authorities and Tax-payers’ liability to house people with children who have made themselves intentionally homeless.  This may be in many cases, not paying the rent, or even not passing over state Housing benefit or the housing element paid as part of Universal Credit.  The ‘quirk’ in that liability, is that if there are no children involved, the Local authority does not have a duty. Of course for many families in receipt of benefits with children, the Local authority must provide accommodation. This is understandable for the welfare of the child, but the whole family gets accommodated at Tax-payers expense.

Families can repeatedly be in and out of this ‘cycle’ who are a drain on the tax-payer (both Council tax and HMRC taxation) and also civil debt defaulters to Private landlords while they just ‘house-hop’ between properties.

The landlord suffers these losses from their income, on occasion, forcing the sale of their property. Otherwise, restricting funds for improvements and pressurising rent increases.  The Local Authority are also financially burdened as described above and by your article.

The landlord cannot mitigate their losses, other than to use the time-consuming and expensive (and quite ineffective) Possession process with no means of recovering debt from a ex-tenant in receipt of state benefit.

The local authority, financially pressed by numbers and cost, can only effectively mitigate their losses by not accepting their duty to accommodate (at which point incurring financial expense) until the very last or latest opportunity. This means when a tenant is about to be evicted by Bailiffs. By this time, court costs and time and landlord expenses, excluding loss of rent have been incurred. This process which Housing Ministers and even the Homelessness Act 2017 has condemned is known as ‘Gatekeeping’   When I say the Homelessness Act condemns it, it does not specifically prohibit authorities from this action, because the government realises the scale of the problem, that the government does not fund, nor can Local authorities raise enough via Council tax, to accept their duty to accommodate when it first becomes threatened.

The effect of this Gatekeeping is a cyclical process of increasing cost. More rent default lost, although given the majority of this is via Private or Social Landlords, this is not a concern for Local or Central government. Increased legal cost for landlords, for tax-payers when a person is threatened with eviction (in the vast majority of cases through their own fault), tenants receive legal aid in possession proceedings and the court costs in time and staff.

The tenant gets a bad credit rating, although this is of minimal effect due to credit card companies recouping their losses through charges to the rest of customers who pay the credit card company fees.

A significant number of Tenants are passing around accommodation provided at Tax-payers expense whilst still receiving Housing benefit or Universal credit that is, well, mis-appropriated.

Why is this never treated as Fraud ? Apart from there not being enough Police or court time to deal with it – although the scale of it would shock the general public.

Whilst Possession statistics are published by the Ministry of Justice, there is no detail correlating to the Housing benefit figures that have been claimed as rent outstanding in those cases.  Why is this? The government are concerned about revenue and trying to ‘plug the hole in their finance bucket’ through Housing benefit payments to Landlords, but ignoring all the other ‘holes’ through benefit fraud. Seems their interest stops at the point its paid. There is huge scope for working with Landlords and Local Authorities to reduce this, increase housing and alleviate LA strained finances. MHCLG are missing a trick, again. More joined up thinking needed  between DWP, MHCLG, L.A’s, and yes Landlords!

These tenants are increasing the problem and making it harder for those who are Not intentionally homeless to secure accommodation.

Unfortunately, it seems a media phenomenon to publish eviction stories focusing on the negative perception of Landlords for evicting a family ‘with pictures of children to draw the heart-strings’ and not on the reasons for that eviction, or more appropriately, the serial and historical nature of that families multiple previous evictions. A notorious landlord story, for example Fergus Wilson will have their past history analysed, but why is there no  public interest in serial benefit defaulters that defraud the tax-payer by tens of £000’s and still get provided accommodation?

I fail to understand why there is more media interest in a bad Landlord story than a rogue tenant story? I wonder if you could help and explain that to me please, especially as there are far more criminal tenants than there are Rogue Landlords. Rarely is there any criminal prosecution brought against tenants.

I am more than willing to discuss (anonymous) Possession cases with you, or even seek some of my clients consent to speak with you.

Regards,

Possession Friend.

Freedom of Information request to the DWP

I have also sent a FOI letter to the DWP asking:

Could you please give me the figures, whether estimated or otherwise, for Rental default of Housing Benefit payments (or their U.C. equivalent)  for the last three years.

That is rental default in either the private or Social Housing sectors, and  whether that is broken down into each sector.

If you have this information by Country or area, that would also be useful.

Do readers have any estimates on the above figures?



Comments

Mike

11:21 AM, 10th April 2019
About 5 months ago

Another thing, free legal aid representation (duty Solicitors) offered to bad tenants at a court hearing are quite often shoved down their throats, without defendants asking for one, because the court duty solicitors get paid a fixed amount by legal aid system per hearing or per representation, so the more clients (defendants) these duty solicitors get to represent the more they earn from legal aid system paid and financed by Tax payers Money. They are just as good a parasites as the bad tenants.
Landlords on the other hand who are the real victim are denied any legal aid assistance, what a load of imbalance in the justice system!
Suppose if the landlords are not getting paid their rents by rouge tenants, this also means landlords will not be paying any tax on rental income denied by a rouge tenant, hence this effects the HMRC revenue budget, as less tax is collected to feed these two breeds of parasites, the duty solicitors representing the bad tenants, both are helping one another to strive on tax payers money, both are a form of parasite, so know the truth, why would the court officials join hands in offering a bad tenant attending a court hearing by persuading them many times over if they need free legal representation, why? why do they want to shove this free legal aid representation to bad tenants which is actually paid by hard working tax payers, down the throats of rouge tenants?
In a personal experience at a recent court hearing, my tenant and I both arrived more or less at the same time, he was just ahead of me, and I was behind him, so I was able to hear the court official asking my tenant if he has a solicitor representing him, he replied "No, why do I need a solicitor" the official then asked him again if he needs a duty solicitor, again my tenant replied " why do I need a solicitor" then the third time the court official explained to him that the court can offer a free duty solicitor if he wants one he can get one for free! then my tenant paused for a few seconds before replying "Ok then"
Is this not shoving free duty solicitors paid for by tax payers down a bad tenants throat than what is it?
So now we know where some of this tax payers money is spent on defending rouge tenants who deprive landlords of their income on which they pay taxes, This made me feel very suspicious, I started to think if there is some connection of some kind between the court officials and the duty solicitors?
I will let you ponder on this, public money is free to some, but it is the blood and sweat of those hard working people including landlords who pay taxes.

Peter G

20:03 PM, 10th April 2019
About 5 months ago

Not all landlords are rich and yet the system assumes they have the funds to mount legal cases against tenants to uphold the landlord's legal rights. This despite the fact that landlords have been deprived of thousands of pounds in rent by tenants.

The system is clearly imbalanced - working against the landlord even when the tenant is culpable and has caused or frustrated the situation. The law should be even handed and protect landlords and tenants equally.

Chris Daniel

23:39 PM, 11th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 10/04/2019 - 11:21Mike,
What your inferring is that some of the parasites give the court officials a 'bung' which I wouldn't be at all surprised.
Its a game to them, win or loose, they all get paid.
The justice system is stacked in favour of the legal personnel which is one reason they prevent a claimant taking along someone ( other than a solicitor ) to speak - represent them.
The legal profession would argue this is because lay-advocates are 'unregulated' Try claiming wrong-doing and you'll find out how useless the Solicitors Regulatory Authority is ( or the Legal Ombudsman for that matter )
These 'ghost' structures are fallacies put in place to try to justify the authenticity of the system.
You can't complain against a judge, - full stop. There just isn't any process that exists and its almost the same for solicitors.

Mike

1:21 AM, 12th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Yes indeed Chris, I could smell something like a "bung"
Sorry Chris, after I spoke to you, I did not proceed with your recommendation because I had filed the claim on line, I had made a few errors, I suspected the case would be thrown out due to my errors, and that is exactly what happened, but I was very fortunate the Judge was very kind, she gave me an option to resubmit amended particulars of claim within 14 days, that included two Saturdays and two Sundays, so effectively I had only 10 days to amend POC, and resubmit, so then I also wanted to add more grounds to my claim, just in case the tenant tried to pay up rent arrears and derail the case, so in the end I did not want to take any more chances and I went straight for a law firm and they sat on my case for 5 days and told me they will not be able to help me as they do not have enough time, I then went to another firm nearby and they fitted me in their very busy schedule and managed to file my amended POC, and then 10 days before the 2nd hearing submitted a 94 page bundle to court and the tenant, and also arranged a barrister, however the tenant never turned up despite him telling me he will see me in the court, we were up for a proper fight and armed to teeth with all the evidence.
This time the Judge was another lady, absolutely horrible, she wanted to find a flaw and wanted to throw the claim out, our case was hanging on a thin thread, she could not find an important piece of evidence amongst her 94 pages and nor could my barrister find that very important document, just as she was going to dismiss the case I found it in my bundle, so we showed it to the Judge , she must have been very disappointed that she was not able to throw my case out, and in the end she had to give me a possession on mandatory ground 8 of the housing act 1988. I remember her giving tenant 14 days to leave in his absence, but later on when the court papers arrived or became available on PCOL site, it stated immediate possession. It is done and dusted, lessons learned, next time it will be plain sailing come what may using either section 8 or section 21.
One thing the Judge told me to shut my gob when I opened it to tell her that I will not be contesting grounds 12 and 14 since the tenant did not turn up, and still had not paid any rent since October 2018. I didn't realise if you are being represented you must not open your gob!

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

11:01 AM, 13th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 10/04/2019 - 11:21
Don't mean to be offensive, but the word is 'rogue' tenants, not 'rouge' tenants. The latter means 'red' in French. Hate to see the destruction of the English language. Also, an HMO is a 'House IN Multiple Occupation' (as legally defined), not a 'House OF Multiple Occupation'. Otherwise, an excellent comment.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

11:12 AM, 13th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 12/04/2019 - 01:21
Problem Mike is that we have rogue tenants, rogue MPs, rogue legal aid lawyers, rogue media. Where does this all end? Also, is the word 'rouge' deliberately used so as not to be accused of libel? I may be naive.

Old Mrs Landlord

12:13 PM, 13th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 13/04/2019 - 11:12I think it's just bad spelling combined with a poor appreciation of the language. Many people understand 'rogue' to mean a person up to no good and do not appreciate that its original and basic meaning is a thing out of line or acting out of character with the majority - for instance a rogue seedling has to be removed when hoeing because it has come up between the rows, rogue potatoes are self-set ones growing from an odd one of last year's crop which was missed when the previous crop was taken up; a rogue elephant is one which behaves in a dangerous manner uncharacteristic of the main herd, etc., etc. I get the impression that people who use the term 'rouge' might be trying to avoid casting bad landlords as lawbreakers because that's what they understand rogue to mean. Either that or they just can't spell! As a former proofreader of academic publications the general level of spelling on internet forums drives me nuts but I'm old and education isn't what it was in my day so I generally try to refrain from comment as it just gets people's backs up when no ill will is intended. There is no doubt, however, that there are some criminal landlords out there and it's not libellous to say so.

Mike

12:36 PM, 13th April 2019
About 4 months ago

No offence taken for correction, its rogue,

Heather G.

14:18 PM, 13th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Old Mrs Landlord at 13/04/2019 - 12:13
I feel your pain Old Mrs Landlord. I have a friend who's an international TEFL trainer and he has a t-shirt which reads "I'm silently correcting your English"!

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

16:42 PM, 13th April 2019
About 4 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 13/04/2019 - 12:36
You are a great man Mike with a huge heart. But I stand to be corrected myself. As Old Mrs Landlord states, 'rouge' may be a deliberate misspelling to avoid casting aspersions on someone. Also, by writing 'rogue MPs', 'rogue lawyers', etc, I may be opening myself up to libel action, in which case I withdraw these comments with immediate effect and apologise to all concerned grovellingly!

Sorry to deviate from a very important subjetc with valuable comments from all. Let's get back to topic!

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