Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report

Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report

11:34 AM, 22nd February 2018, About 3 years ago 157

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This week landlords watched with trepidation as the BBC presented a so-called Panorama investigation into the use of Section 21 notices in the private rented sector.

The inauspicious title: ‘Evicted for no reason,’ warned us that we should expect the usual bias and inaccuracy as Section 21 notices are not served for no reason. That would just be stupid.

So the first inaccuracy was to repeatedly refer to Section 21 as a ‘no-fault eviction.’ This is a made-up term with no legal or actual validity, promoted by anti-landlord ‘homelessness’ charity Shelter and its new little brother, Generation Rent, whose entire existence seem to be premised on attacking us as housing providers and whose latest campaign is focused on trying to stop landlords from regaining possession of their property.

In fact, Section 21 permits a landlord to serve notice without writing down a reason (indeed there is no space on the forms to give a reason). This absolutely does not mean there is no fault. The facts are that 93% of tenancy terminations are initiated by the tenant and of the 7% remaining, these are largely caused by tenant behaviour – notably failure to pay the rent and/or damaging property. It is very expensive for landlords to get rid of rogue tenants whatever legal route they choose; Section 21 is just marginally less bad than, for example, Section 8.

Bias is also evident in the huge omission in the programme of not even mentioning the existence of eviction from the social sector.  According to Government data, there are a huge number of people evicted from social housing. The reasons will also be comparable – for rent arrears and damages and so on, but the social sector has to use a different legal procedure. Why would the programme completely miss out this factor? Why would it only focus on private landlords? Why should private landlords be stopped from evicting rogue tenants, but Housing Associations and councils be allowed to?  The answer is that, even after Grenfell, it is ideologically unacceptable for the ‘left’ to attack social housing, but it is par for the course to constantly target private landlords.

Further intrinsic bias was apparent in the amount of time given to tenants in comparison to landlords and their representatives in the programme. However, we were glad to hear the contributions from Paul Shamplina and his colleagues who made some excellent points.

Bias was also apparent in the way that the reporter, Richard Bilton, allowed the tenants to make statements about their landlords with scarcely any corroboration at all.

So, tenant Laura McGlasham and her family were profiled, and were euphemistically said  to have, ‘fallen out with their landlord.’  Laura then states that the bailiffs are going to be turning up the next day. As an experienced landlord I know that this means that Laura has not left on the date that the judge would have ordered her to leave, but instead has forced her landlord to accommodate her and her family for even longer and pay for expensive court action and bailiffs.

She then declared that the landlord wanted to increase the rent by £400. This is highly unusual so why did the journalist not probe into this further? Firstly, it would imply to me that Laura had probably been paying a very low rent and not had it increased to market levels over recent years. Secondly, I would assume the landlord was having to make such drastic increases because of the Government’s war on landlords and the introduction of tax on fictitious profit. Further, if the landlord did manage to obtain rent at £400pm more than Laura was paying, from another person, then that indicates that the landlord is now simply asking for the going rate. But instead the landlord, whom we do not see or hear from, was depicted in effect as some evil, money-grabbing tyrant who has made her homeless for no reason.

Bilton then went on to talk about revenge evictions and used the example of beautician, Julie – who stated that that she complained to her landlord and ‘now she’s out.’ It is stated that she lived in the house in rural Worcestershire for 4 years and always paid her rent. Bilton did not corroborate this at all! There was no evidence that he examined her bank accounts and tenancy agreement to prove that she was telling the truth. She was allowed to make accusations about her landlord with no evidence presented either by the tenant or landlord. The idea that she was given her notice purely because she complained about a leaky shower doesn’t ring true at all. It was then stated  that she was offered a new lease but didn’t sign it so was given an eviction notice 3 months later. Why didn’t she sign the lease? (as they seemed to call it) Presumably if she had, she would have been able to stay. This story makes no sense to me and doesn’t resonate with my experience or anything I’ve heard during 20 years as a landlord.

‘I’ve worked hard and spent nearly £40,000 to live here and I’ve got nothing for it,’ she states. This is not challenged.  In fact, what she’s ‘got’ for it is 4 years of accommodation for herself and her family, with someone else covering the property costs within the rent she paid. The implication here is that the landlord would just pocket this amount, when landlords have mortgages to pay, maintenance costs, insurance costs and so on and have tied up their own money to provide housing. ‘I’ve paid a quarter of the mortgage off on this house,’ she adds.  She’s been listening too much to Shelter propaganda as this is very reminiscent of Campbell Robb’s claim two years ago that when tenants pay £40,000 over 5 years, they have effectively handed over a deposit on a house of their own >> https://www.property118.com/campbell-robb-supporting-tenant-tax/ Where would they live in the meantime? Does he expect private individuals to provide housing for strangers for free? The Salvation Army don’t even do that. It is people’s own choice to rent instead of buying. It is not landlords’ fault that some people do not have the deposit or meet the criteria to purchase their own home.

‘But the private rental market can be precarious for landlords too. Bad tenants can quickly cost you thousands.’ Whilst it was nice that they showed a landlord, Frances Carpenter,  who works as a cleaner and rents out two properties and who sported a pink Mohican (combating stereotypes about loaded old men being typical landlords), it would have been more representative and even-handed to profile 4 landlords alongside the 4 profiled tenants, and show the extreme financial loss and stress experienced very often by landlords – and not choose someone who was facing fairly trivial tenant problems.

The case of Frances, however, did show that landlords do not quickly gain possession in reality as five months into the eviction legal complications meant that she was still no closer to getting possession through the ‘simple’ Section 21 eviction. In fact, obstacles have been flung into the way on a regular basis – such as requirements about deposits, Energy Performance Certificates, gas safety certificates, prescribed information and so on – all of which can make Section 21 notices invalid. Section 21 does not work for landlords as it is already extremely costly and complicated. According to those who oppose it, they want the process made even more difficult.

Bilton then said that evictions are costly for landlords, but also for tenants, with the average cost of a move being £1,400. However, if the tenant has not paid the rent for 6-12 months, as is often the case, then the cost of moving is more than recouped by the savings made by not paying rent for these long periods. The journalist obviously didn’t think of this. And this is of course a problem with journalists who go from reporting on one issue to the next. They have very limited knowledge and only scratch the surface, not asking the right questions or gathering proof to back up their claims or the statements made by their biased group of informants.

He then states: ‘The most common cause of homelessness is being evicted by a private landlord.” My heart sank when I heard this nonsense, perpetuated by Shelter, being repeated again. It doesn’t matter how many times a lie is said; it is still a lie. Causes of homelessness are hugely varied and many factors could have caused any one case of homelessness. These include:

  • Loss of a job or a relationship
  • Getting involved in drug or alcohol abuse
  • Being abused by family members
  • Having mental health problems
  • Simply deciding to spend the rent on things the tenant prefers to spend it on (holidays, take-aways, drinking etc)

All of these factors can lead to the person not paying the rent. So it is the ‘not paying the rent’ – that is ‘tenant behaviour’ – which is one of the main ‘causes’ of homelessness. If an employee steals from their employer, then it is not the loss of a job which has caused them to be unemployed (tautological nonsense) and it is not the employer’s fault for sacking a thief. It is the person’s own behaviour. Housing providers provide housing; they do not cause homelessness.

Once again, why is there no statement about the social sector ‘causing homelessness’ when they evict rogue tenants? The accusation is bizarre, whomever it is leveled at. Private landlords alleviate homelessness by providing housing, just as social landlords do.

It added insult to injury to then have a Shelter employee on the programme examining a foul mattress in the B&B Laura is allocated, as Shelter has supported and waged its own war on landlords for many years, which is forcing landlords to have to increase rents, as allegedly occurred in the case of Laura. Her kids are now ‘missing school as it’s an hour and a half away.’ We predicted all of this -as can be seen in my report >> Click Here  The Government and Shelter have caused this problem and then use it to have another go at private landlords.

‘Ava’  is then profiled as someone who had been evicted twice, apparently. Why was this not explained?  No questions were asked and no reasons given. She had been a foster carer and had to give it up because she now didn’t have a proper home. I smell a rat here. The payments for fostering are high and should mean that she was well able to afford a private rental.

We then get told: ‘Rents are so high in some parts of the country that people on average wages are being priced out.’

In fact, rents have not kept up with inflation and have lagged about 4% behind it over recent years.

Moreover, surely a basic requirement of an investigative journalist was to obtain evidence from all of these tenants and their landlords that the rent was up-to-date? It is always the same with these ‘reports.’ Tenants’ statements are taken at face value as though butter would never melt in any of their mouths. How is this good journalism?

‘So the system is not working for thousands of landlords and tenants.’ Uh, it’s not working for landlords as we are supposed to be able to regain possession two months after serving notice but in reality, have to wait for court action to run its course and often, if not mostly, in such situations the tenants are no longer paying the rent. We need quicker evictions! So we are not of the same mindset as ‘charities’  who want to restrict our rights to regain possession.

The Scottish ‘experiment’ of abolishing Section 21s is then presented as a positive move. I hope that Scottish landlords can put the record straight below this article as I believe most see this as a hugely retrograde step. Section 21s were originally brought in to encourage more people to let out houses to relieve the housing shortage. This worked. Reversing this is likely to put the breaks on landlords providing housing and cause many to leave the market. How is limiting rental supply going to be good for tenants?

The underlying premise of the programme was that Section 21s should be abolished. In addition to this being very bad news for supply, choice and for rent levels, if they were, how would this tie in with lenders’ requirements to not issue tenancies longer than 12 months? Whilst some lenders have indicated they may get rid of these clauses, others won’t and landlords would be in breach of their lenders’ conditions if they gave indefinite tenancies.

These programmes don’t explore complexity. They use the framework of mostly uncorroborated sob stories of a few individual tenants, using these few cases to call for national legal changes which are in nobody’s interests and will lead to misery and more homelessness.

Apparently, Richard Bilton gave a lecture to students at York where he talked about ‘the importance of unbiased and balanced reporting.’

I would suggest that he learns to practise what he preaches.



Comments

by Gunga Din

11:40 AM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

I have exactly the same response from the BBC and am composing my follow-up complaint.

They say the program was tenant-focussed because there are more of them - I will point out that for every dispute there is the same number of tenants as LLs.

The BBC ".. felt it was important to include landlords’ views and explain that most British landlords only let out one or two properties.."

They only included one LL, and what has portfolio size got to do with it?

I could go on.......

by Dr Rosalind Beck

11:45 AM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Gunga Din at 01/03/2018 - 11:40Good points, Gunga. Please do go on, as it will help us in our responses.

A lot of the arguments we hear 'against' landlords are very illogical and irrational and I believe the more we can use reasoned argument against nonsensical argument, the more we will show the latter up for what it is - and possibly shame people into not continuing to repeat it.

by Ian Narbeth

12:58 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Interesting that the BBC: "..spoke to the landlords / letting agents of tenants featured in the programme, as well as neighbours, and looked at documentary evidence in order to establish the background to the cases we included. Where landlords told us the reason they were evicting their tenants, this was included in the programme."
I wonder what they said and why the particular landlords did not wish to comment. They may have feared bad publicity.

I suspect that the BBC did not try too hard to get the LL's views and did not interrogate the tenants about the real reasons for their eviction, especially the woman who had been offered a new tenancy at a higher rent but did not take it.

by DALE ROBERTS

13:12 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Chris Daniel at 01/03/2018 - 10:03
I've tried them all to recoup my escalating GBP16 000.00 losses and the response is the same. Unless there are actual assets to attach with a Writ of Control the process is futile. I have uploaded this bad tenant onto the Landlord Referencing site and will also lodge a claim on Money Claims Online once I have finalised the full quantum of costs. These steps are in addition to the 6 year CCJ I already have against her.
However, if a tenant is aware that Council is obliged to house her after her evictions/s, notwithstanding, her accumulated litany of judgements and evictions, why should she care? And therein lies the nub of the problem. Professional tenants behave as they do because they can.
It should be mandatory that, if a Council advises a tenant to remain in situ without paying rent until Bailiffs arrive to force an eviction, they be held equally accountable as a co-defendant to settle the arrears. That regulation would be a simple solution to the unethical and highly injurious conditions landlords presently operate under.

by Gunga Din

15:30 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

"Good points, Gunga. Please do go on, as it will help us in our responses."
Delighted! Here's complaint no. 2 to the BBC.
Thank You for your form reply to my earlier complaint, which I feel has not "got through."
So the focus was on tenants because there are more of them. How is the relative populations of LLs vs tenants relevant? If BBC did a documentary about speeding tickets would they focus on drivers because they outnumber traffic police? For every dispute there is generally one LL vs. one tenant. In each of the 4 disputes only one side was shown.
If BBC felt it was important to include LL's views why did the report select three tenant's whose LLs' accounts and a LL whose tenant's version of events were mysteriously not shown? Surely cases could have been found where both parties could have appeared.
It would have been far more convincing had the program shown, or even referred to, the documentary evidence, accounts of LLs and neighbours you claim were sought.
I have read the account of the LL of the evicted beautician. If he was prepared to put his views in the public domain on http://www.property118.com then I am sure he would have done so on screen. It is surprising the LL tolerated her behaviour for so long.
Likewise I have read more explanation (on the same forum) from Ava the fosterer. This raises more questions than it answers and shows the situation to be far more complicated than the program inferred.
Neither back-story would have supported the apparent pro-tenant agenda. How could this program “..help our audiences to make up their own minds..” with one sided arguments? Without LL's input in the three tenants' cases, how can you claim a “..range of views..”? Please cite one example where the program met its “.. aim to question them appropriately..” as opposed to just taking the tenants' stories at face value.
I suggest a follow-up program showing three LLs with eviction dramas, with the difference that the affected tenants are allowed to speak. Hopefully no more sensationalist lay-public fodder, perpetuating the image with which the media has seen fit to tarnish LLs.

by Mark Alexander

15:33 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Gunga Din at 01/03/2018 - 15:30
Brilliant response 🙂

by Dr Rosalind Beck

15:44 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Gunga Din at 01/03/2018 - 15:30
Brilliant response. Others who have also received the same reply from the BBC can pick up on a few of your points as well as adding any other ones. We should all reply pointing out how their response is unsatisfactory.

by DALE ROBERTS

16:20 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Gunga Din at 01/03/2018 - 15:30In other news today the UK appears to be heading for a rental crisis as BTL investing decreases and Social Housing demands increase at an alarming rate. 2 million homes to rent will be required in the next decade just based on the current trajectory of growth. But BTL landlords are in retreat after new taxes and a slew of legislation makes BTL less attractive. The UK is looking at a possible critical rental shortage. Instead of alienating us why does the UK government not shift their priorities into allowing the rental sector to thrive. By encouraging a "buy-in" relationship between government and private landlords housing stock would increase and rentals would stabilise.
Councils should also take heed. Advising bad tenants to stop paying rental and await a Bailiff eviction is going to result in escalated social housing demands as landlords continue baulking at housing benefits recipients.
The collective antagonising attitude towards BTL investors requires immediate attention. And the BBC programme presently under discussion is merely a symptom of that distasteful attitude.
Landlords are the solution. Not the problem.

by Dr Rosalind Beck

16:54 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

I have my reply ready and will post it here for info. Nicked some of Ginga's ideas. I did just try and reply directly to the email but it bounced back. I think we have to go back onto the complaints page and do it from there:

Dear Complaints Team
Thank you for getting back to me, however I find your response to my complaint unsatisfactory. How can you defend disproportionately focusing on the tenants' versions of events because there are more tenants than landlords? If you did a documentary about a grooming gang of 20 criminals and found they had abused 8 children in total, would you focus only on the criminals because there were more of them? Nonsense. In fact, I was really surprised that such a defence could be dreamt up which was numerically-based. Indeed, for each 'complaint' by the tenants profiled there was one landlord. It would only be an unbiased programme if the accounts of each were presented and both were given equal credence.

As I published my complaint about the programme online, the landlord of the beautician, Julie, was able to put his side of the story. You will agree that this really should have been sought and covered as a counter-balance to the misleading version by Julie. It is here:

'I am the landlord in the "Beautician" Julie case. She always paid her rent, but bombarded us with a string of trivial complaints which usually meant she had a tradesman there every month. I took the opinion that new cookers, laminate flooring, and showers were improvements that were tax deductible, so I authorised the agents to do all the work. The string of complaints became more and more trivial, on one occasion she claimed to have been broken into and wanted a new front door lock - I personally went to look at the damage, she was out, but there had been no break in at all and no damage to any external door. The agent told me she had also complained about a neighbour exposing himself to her!

Her latest string of complaints were a cracked paving slab, the door bell stopped working (battery!), and "the tiles in the kitchen don't match"!!!

This was the last straw for me, and I asked the agent what we could do to get rid of her, I was told that despite a string of reminders, she had failed to sign a new 6 month tenancy agreement, so I took this opportunity to get the house back and sell it.

When she got the letter, we believe she deliberately flooded the bathroom until water came through the kitchen ceiling, she called the local Council and claimed this had been going on for 3 months, something she had never mentioned to us, BUT some 6 weeks previously we had installed a complete new shower cubicle even though there was no evidence of a leak at that time.

We didn't evict her, we didn't make her homeless, she refused to sign a new agreement. There was no story but she played a good "victim" on the film, but the facts were ignored by the BBC.
The outcome is that I am now selling my 2 houses and leaving the domestic property market altogether.'

Instead of the programme alluding to this there was a simple statement along the lines that the landlord evicted because he was sick of her trivial complaints. That made the landlord seem trivial himself, which according to his version, he certainly wasn't. A proper investigation would have thrown up this information. Instead, there is a cultural assumption promulgated by the media that tenants are always victims and landlords are perpetrators. This led to a massively disproportionate amount of time being spent on the tenants, despite what you say in your email about talking to landlords (a colleague quantified this and said it was 6 minutes on landlords/Landlord Action and the rest on tenants). How can you talk about impartiality in light of this clear evidence to the contrary?

The publication of my complaint also led to 'Ava' the 'foster carer' describing more of her version of events. As I said to her:

'Thank you Ava, for explaining more about what happened, from your viewpoint. Unfortunately, this only increases the extent to which we have your perspective on this, with the landlords' versions of events and perspectives completely missing. I have had many rogue tenants for example, who left owing me thousands of pounds and having left the houses a state, but if you asked them what had happened, they would make up something about me being terrible and say they 'always paid their rent on time.'

This is the key problem with the programme. We received no corroboration from the journalist, who should have examined tenancy agreements and bank statements to prove all rent had always been paid on time and that there were no arrears at the end. They should also have only profiled people where both parties were willing to give their versions. We heard nothing about what efforts were made to get the landlords' accounts.

Are you saying that when you remained at the property against your last landlord's wishes and against the s21 they issued, and waited to be physically evicted that you continued to pay all the rent on time? Did you also reimburse the landlord for the considerable court costs (and terrible stress) they faced because you wanted to be officially classified as homeless?

This is all about you, sorry - as it was about the way you wanted to use the house for your specific needs as a foster carer and expected the landlord to pay for some of the preconditions for this. You should have been upfront with the landlord at the beginning and explained you would be regularly accommodating persons unknown at their property and would also need an electrical certificate. You would also have needed to indemnify them so that if anything went wrong and for example damage was caused to their property that you would be willing and able to cover the costs. The landlord may also have had to check with their insurance that their house was covered for this eventuality. We need the landlords' versions as the whole thing is skewed.

In this case, Panorama presents only the tenants' viewpoints, believes everything they say, doesn't ask the important questions and for the evidence needed to back up their informants' accounts and then acts as judge and jury and condemns the landlords, unheard.'

Other landlords have made further important points and so I have put the link at the bottom of this email. I would like you to pass this to Richard Bilton and ask him to read it and get back to me. It really is not acceptable that taxpayers' money be used on what is effectively the promotion of an anti-landlord agenda by Shelter and Generation Rent, whose latest hobby horse is to try and make it impossible for landlords to get their properties back by pushing the ludicrous argument that landlords evict for no reason. The BBC was just their mouthpiece and this is not on.

Yours sinerely
Dr Rosalind Beck

Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report - Property118

Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report - Property118
This week landlords watched with trepidation as the BBC presented a so-called Panorama investigation into the us...

by jay shah

17:59 PM, 1st March 2018, About 3 years ago

Do something . Lobby your MP or we , landlords will not be landlords. Shame on BBC for such a poor coverage.


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