9:12 AM, 9th April 2019, About 2 years ago 16
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.
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?
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