Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report

by Dr Rosalind Beck

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

Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report

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Landlords Union Slams BBC Panorama Report

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.


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Comments

loretta wight

8:31 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

I don't think the BBC is in touch with the real world. I have found more of the public are supportive of landlords because they are feed up with this woe is me freebie aggressive culture emerging while they are working hard paying tax.

Terry

8:40 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Here is the pointles reply I have received from the BBC following my complaint. I'm not dissapointed as didn't expect anything else!

Dear Mr pearce
Thank you for contacting us regarding Evicted for no Reason: Panorama, which was broadcast on Wednesday 21st February. We understand you feel the programme was biased against private landlords and was misleading about Section 21 evictions.
The programme featured the stories of three people who were in the process of being evicted, or who had already been evicted, from their homes under the no-fault Section 21 process, which allows landlords to evict tenants, without declaring a reason, at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy.
The programme’s main focus was tenants and not landlords. This is because the private rented sector now houses one in five people in Britain, whereas landlords represent a much smaller proportion of the population.
We felt it was important to include landlords’ views and explain that most British landlords only let out one or two properties, and that many landlords feel section 21 is an important protection.
This is why as well as featuring tenants’ experiences we also followed the story of a private landlord who was having difficulty evicting a late-paying tenant, and visited landlord Landlord Action, a company which helps landlords evict troublesome tenants. Landlord Action explained the different reasons why a landlord may wish to issue a Section 21 eviction, that most tenancies go well, and that there will typically be a reason that a no-fault eviction notice is used, such as rent arrears or antisocial behaviour.
We 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.
As an impartial broadcaster, the BBC aims to carry a range of views on the issues on which it reports. In doing so, we hope to be able to help our audiences to make up their own minds on the subjects we examine. The views expressed by contributors to our news programmes are their own, but we would always aim to question them appropriately. We believe that our programme showed both sides of the story, and the consequences of a Section 21 eviction for both tenants and landlords. However we’re sorry you feel this isn’t the case. Please be assured that your comments have been passed along to the programme team.

Kind Regards
BBC Complaints Team

@AvaFosterCarer

9:55 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 01/03/2018 - 09:28
So, Ros you asked and I answered. Please note I can only ever give my side of the story, from my lived experience, and would not presume to speak on behalf of someone else. The difficulty comes when assumptions are made as to what has or hasn’t happened and then put forward as a valid argument. I have emailed the letting agents for permission to give their contact email here. If they are unwilling and as I have nothing to hide I invite you to be the voice of reason in the debate and exam my tenancy agreement and rent payments etc. It doesn’t feel right to have rogue tenants wrong doing attached to me when the facts are not known. There are good and bad players on both sides tenants and landlords. If we were all so bad there would be no landlords.

Yes, I remained in the property as I was legally entitled to and continued to pay the rent due while the process took its course. Yes, I also paid the court costs on the court order as instructed. I can almost hear a sharp intake of breath. No sorry, I did not ever want to be classified as homeless and did everything I could to stop this from happening. You talk of the terrible stress to the landlord without acknowledging the stress to the family being uprooted. My adopted son and daughter were at school and university studying for exams in the midst of this. Having rescued them from ‘the system’ once it was extremely traumatising for all, I felt and still feel I have let them down.

I don’t understand your mantra “This is all about you,” sorry of course it’s about me and at the risk of repeating myself I am not in a position to speak on behalf of the landlord. Many people do not have the opportunity to address the audience that sees the sound bite and expand on it. In my opinion, if I told you the landlord agreed with every word I said, you would not have believed me anyway.

I did not initially ask him to pay for anything I only required confirmation of when the electrics had last been checked and if that was in the recent past eg sight of an electrician’s receipt, which would have been sufficient. As you mention it, I was totally upfront as to my fostering vocation and moved in on the landlord’s assurance that the property would be available long term. Social services do not like children to move house unnecessarily because of the effect it has on them. My home insurance is aware of my fostering role and there is extra cover in the policy for damage caused by foster children which would not normally be covered if caused by family members. Along with the standard deposit, this is an additional layer of protection for the landlord’s property.

If this is all about me then, what is it about landlords? The Panorama was highlighting the ability of Section 21 to order out families with two months’ notice whether they are good tenants (or not). Therefore, if the landlords came on camera and asserted they were indeed rouge tenants who owed rent – the outcome would be the same – they still have to go.

What if mortgage lenders were given a similar legal route and could order homeowners (read landlords) out of their homes with two months’ notice if they choose to ignore any mortgage arrears owing. Would that be acceptable to everyone here, whether or not you have ever fallen into mortgage arrears?

@AvaFosterCarer

10:17 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 01/03/2018 - 07:48
Hey Mick, it’s great that you get to say your piece here and I have the opportunity to respond.

No, of course, the landlord does not have to pay for anyone to start a business. No, it is not something extra either, it is a matter of basic health and safety. Certificate or not landlords are required by law to ensure the installation is safe – it wasn’t (C2 faults). Why is an unknown electrician GOING TO find things wrong, when you have already made sure the electrics are safe?

Point of note fostering is not a business to me and even if it were – why are landlords the only one entitled to make a living? So anyone who lives in rented accommodation can’t have a business. Right.

You need to change your business model if a one-off £160 deduction per property will make you broke in 6 months.

Awaiting response from letting agent giving them the right to reply.

Mark Alexander

10:43 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 10:17
Anybody can have a business, but if they want to run that business from a rented property they need the landlords consent. In some cases (not yours) they may also require planning consent.

So, did you have permission to run a foster care business from the property from your landlord?

@AvaFosterCarer

10:51 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Alexander at 01/03/2018 - 09:44Dear Mark
I see you are the founder of this interesting site, that my inclusion on Panorama has brought me to, via Twitter. I note that it is for landlords and appreciate no one here is really looking to hear the tenants point of view.
The complaint from your fellow landlords against Panorama appears to be that they gave a disproportionate view. I disagree, the reason being that it did what it said it would do. It highlighted the fact that millions of renters can be evicted, using Section 21, even if they have not done anything wrong. Since the broadcast, several other renters have told me that they did not know about Section 21 and how vulnerable their tenancy really is. The true basis of Section 21 is due to the landlord's circumstances (or change thereof). There is no dispute that tenants can be evicted because they have rent arrears, breach the tenancy or engage in anti-social behaviour, however that calls for the use of a different process – Section 8.
It is the landlord’s decision to use a Section 21 and in effect negate any and all grounds on which they may otherwise claim. Having made that decision, the rhetoric is then to revert to, but the real reason was because of x, y or z. Failing that the reason given is the tenant made me do it. As the Section 21 is being misused you project your use of it onto me and automatically presume I owed my landlord rent, when I didn’t. Also that he was out of pocket from the court costs, which I paid. I am a law abiding person who pays my debts. I have not added my personal opinion on his actions. I have however contacted the letting agent to give them the opportunity to respond and 'clear' my name. I sympathise with landlords that suffer at the hands of tenants, nevertheless it is landlords that are distorting the facts and figures, in a way that could be deemed unlawful, in order to save money, time and ensure their desired outcome.

@AvaFosterCarer

11:22 AM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Barry Fitzpatrick at 01/03/2018 - 10:13
Thank you Barry for the sympathy and giving me the benefit of the doubt. Which is more than some of your fellow landlords have done.

Fostering is not classed as a business even though it can be perceived as such, short term carers can end up looking after children in double or triple numbers. In the 17 years I have fostered I have only had 6 placements, two of which I adopted, and a third my son James is still very much in our lives and featured in the programme.

I think hindsight is a wonderful thing and I have definitely learned my lesson for my current house search. I understand that you are looking for the missing half of the story but as I have said elsewhere it is not mine to tell. I have contacted the letting agents to give their response and will let you know.

I can sympathise with landlords who have had terrible tenants but there appears to be a lot of misconceptions here about what fostering entails. It seems the sign is up – No dogs, No DSS, No Foster Carers. Landlords have already found workrounds for the first two. A search on this site revealed only one article 5 years ago discussing fostering. It had a positive response from Jan Martin a former foster carer turned landlord. She made some valid comments and I think landlords here are missing an opportunity. Maybe I will follow her lead start a letting agency and fill the gap.

Luke P

12:16 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 11:22
Good idea about filling the gap in agencies. But remember it’s all business and not a problem for LLs to solve. We are not ‘all in it togetger’, we are a business. Greater risk, perceived or otherwise, will result in aversion.

Chris @ Possession Friend

12:33 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 11:22
Very interesting Ava,
But did you actually answer Mark's Question about seeking the permission of your Landlord ?

Mark Alexander

12:46 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 10:51
Hello Ava

I am indeed the founder of this forum and I am also a landlord. That said, I try not to be biased and when a tenant posts on the forum asking for help I always try to give it. In many cases I have sided with tenants n this forum. When I think a landlord is out of order I am just as hard on them as I am tenants. In fact, I am probably harder on landlords because when they are out of order it reflects badly on all landlords.

I admit to making the assumption that you did not pay your rent during the eviction proceedings or the landlords eviction costs. If that is really true then I owe you an apology. However, based on 30 years of harsh experience, unfortunately, without evidence of that I find it very hard to believe. It would be exceptionally unusual if that really was the case.

My question remains though; did you ever seek and obtain your landlords permission to use the property to run a foster caring business?

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