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

Ian Narbeth

12:48 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Alexander at 02/03/2018 - 10:43
I was interested to read Ava's comment that fostering is not classed as a business.

Landlords of residential property should not consent to their tenants running a business without first taking legal advice. Allowing business use will very likely be a breach of their mortgage. In addition the tenant may obtain security of tenure under ss24-28 Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 with the result that the landlord cannot get vacant possession except in limited circumstances and may have to pay statutory compensation to the tenant. There are ways to avoid this but you need to know what you are doing or employ a competent solicitor to do it for you.

Mark Alexander

13:05 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 11:22
Two further points Ava.

One of my tenants is a foster carer and also works in Social Services. She has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks (huge dogs) which work with her.

Naturally, when she first contacted me I had my doubts. She was completely up front with me about her work though.

At the time I was still living in the UK and as she wasn't living too far away I agreed to see her in her current home. I also have big dogs so I know what to look for.

When I got there I fell in love with the dogs. The house and gardens were immaculate. The lady talked me though everything I needed to know and then proceeded to show me various certificates, bank statements etc. That was nearly 10 years ago.

Good luck with your agency if you do start one, but if you plan to run your business from home, please check with your landlord first.

Dr Rosalind Beck

14:11 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 09:55
s21s are 2 month notices but you went to the bailiff stage - so presumably it took 5 months or more for the '2 month eviction.' In my experience, if a tenant refuses to leave when their 2 month notice period is up, it means it takes a minimum of 5 months to gain possession of the property. So many hurdles are put in landlords' way however, that it typically takes longer. s8s take even longer in practice (and we are only interested in what happens in practice, not in theory). I believe that in the vast majority of cases the tenant is not paying the rent at this stage. Do you believe that landlords should be thousands of pounds out of pocket when if they had had ordinary decent tenants, the contracts would have been honoured and they would not lose thousands of pounds through no fault of their own? Also, as landlords know, in practice, if a tenant refuses to leave at the end of the 2 month period and does not pay the rent, they are also likely to leave the house in a state, costing even more thousands, often. Landlords lose £9 billion a year on rent arrears and damages, so I am not making this up.

What is more to the point here, however, is that with 3 or 4 cases profiled, even if it could be proven that those particular tenants were angels and the landlords were tyrants 'evicting for no reason' (this is basically how things were portrayed and we can see from hearing the beautician's landlord's perspective that this certainly wasn't the case with that example) this would not be a basis on which Panorama should advocate the abolition of s21s. The case studies - if they can be called that, flimsy as they were - of 3 tenants, being used to try and remove a key legal right of landlords - one which helped the expansion of the rental sector, along with the buy-to-let mortgage - is outrageous. As I have said, the BBC is here acting as the mouthpiece of the landlord-hating Shelter and Generation Rent, who dream up ways of attacking landlords, often get the Government to listen to them and act on this and then move on to another attack. This is all highly destructive.

In your case, Ava, you should be interested in promoting any policy which leads to the expansion of the rental sector as you are dependent on it. The more rental properties available, the more likely you are to find one where you are allowed to run your business, although, as Ian says above, it looks like landlords face huge risks if they allow tenants to do this.

By you being involved in a programme pushing an agenda to make things more difficult for landlords, you are helping to drive more landlords away from the sector and deter others from entering. It is the law of unintended consequences.

Mark Alexander

14:31 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 02/03/2018 - 14:11
You have made a very good point there Ros.

When my Social Worker / Foster Carer tenant eventually moves out of her home it will be sold. There was a time where I would have happily kept it forever, but the amount of anti-landlord sentiment and financial disincentive of late has resulted in me having decided to exit the market as and when my properties are vacated. As that particular property is a three, bed red brick semi, the rental yield based on current values is particularly poor, hence it is likely to vanish from the rental market forever as a result of being sold to "one of the few" owner occupiers who has the means to buy it.

DALE ROBERTS

14:47 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 02/03/2018 - 14:11
Exactly Dr Ros ... and as one woman to another ... may I compliment you on your trenchant and intelligent responses no matter the subject.
A Section 21 is NOT a guaranteed eviction. This myth needs instant rebuttal and exposure. The serial "professional" tenant in my property ignored the Section 21 and has forced me to seek an eviction with Bailiffs whilst she has deliberately withheld rental for 7 months. And yes ... I am in my fifth month of wrangling with her and pursuing her through first a County Court and now the High Court.
She is without doubt making herself deliberately "homeless" in order to ensure that she is housed at the Council's cost as her rental history has now reached a magnitude that is difficult to hide.
And if this is being done with the support, if not encouragement of Council, this needs serious attention.

DALE ROBERTS

14:50 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Alexander at 02/03/2018 - 14:31
You echo my sentiments exactly.

Mick Roberts

14:55 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 10:17
Unknown electricians do find things wrong, if they think they are getting the extra work out of it.

My business model is fine, I'm highlighting that if every tenant every week, asked for £160 cost that didn't need doing before, finances would not look or be good after time.

I don't know how much rent u paying, or how tight Landlords margins were. I think I may have read u were there 7 years, so I'd have probably worked with u on the Elec certificate. But I do know there are 2 sides to every story.

This is what I had yesterday from a tenant of 10 years, when rent was due, & before people shout me down for pay in bank, I do prefer bank, but I work with tenants who don't trust banks, never got enough money in bank for rent day standing order etc.:

U gonna have to leave me as I'm not willing to go out to the bank in this weather sorry

And I like u Mark have had enough, I asked her today what her plans are, as if she is thinking of going, I may sell.

AP

16:46 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 10:17Hi Ava,
Firstly I'd like to thank you for coming on here, posting and engaging in debate.
I agree with you that in an ideal world, landlords should serve the appropriate notice to evict a tenant. i.e section 8 for unpaid rent.
However in reality the system is broken to evict tenants who do not pay their rent or who are damaging the property.
The reason section 21 notices are often filed along with say a section 8 notice for rent arrears, is simply because they can be enforced quicker.
Firstly the tenants must be at least two months in arrears for a section 8 to be valid. If they keep it at 6 weeks in arrears you have to apply under being persistently late grounds. It then takes months to get a court date and there is no guarantee you will be granted possession as it is 'discretionary' to the judge, even if the tenant is still in arrears, and then you need to add in the time to get a bailiff to evict. However if you are able to also file a section 21 notice, you know you will eventually get your property back faster and most landlords prefer this even though it may mean they have to write off the unpaid rent.
One thing that was not made clear on Panorama (as far as I'm aware) was that section 21 notices can't be used during a fixed term tenancy / contract period. Some tenants want the flexibility of having periodic tenancies so they can move out when then wish with two month's notice and not be tied into a longer contract. I always want a fixed contract to give us both security and stability so often have to refuse a tenant's request to go periodic unless it's long term tenant who is looking to buy, or has split up with a partner for example, when I try and help out.
The new rules in Scotland basically give tenants all the flexibility, and give none to the landlord. At the moment, if a section 21 can be served, the tenant can also serve notice to leave. If the tenant wants a longer term tenancy, this discussion should always be had prior to moving into the property. I always do this - I explain to potential tenants I do a one year contract to start, and then if we are both happy at the end we can renew for a year or longer. As always, trying to engage into a dialogue before going into any kind of relationship is often the key to making sure both sides are satisfied and things proceed smoothly.

Mark Alexander

17:03 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Ada

One more thing.

I also offer my tenants a “Deed of Assurance”, which is something I created myself to attract the best possible long term tenants.

Please do a search on this website, or Google should also lead you back here. I am seriously interested in what you think about Deed of Assurance.

Appalled Landlord

19:32 PM, 2nd March 2018
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by @AvaFosterCarer at 02/03/2018 - 10:51“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).”
This is exaggeration, propaganda and misinformation.
Millions of people can be struck by lightning, but it’s very rare. The vast majority of PRS tenancies are ended by the tenant.
Every Assured Shorthold Tenancy makes it clear that the landlord must give two months’ notice to terminate a tenancy, which cannot take effect before the end of the initial fixed period. Section 21 is not named in the agreement, it is merely the legislation prescribing how this notice must be given. It is not surprising that those who contacted you did not know about it. If they have not received a Section 21 notice they don’t need to worry - they probably never will. If they want security they should sign new agreements when their fixed term expires.
You have invented the basis of S 21 - and claim it to be true! No, the true reason for the two month’s notice period is so that a landlord can terminate a commercial relationship that he or she is not happy with, and get the property back. Otherwise tenants would have tenancies for life, which is what caused a shortage of rental accommodation in the last century, together with Rent Control.
Most landlords own only one or two properties. If they had no way of recovering them they would not rent them out in the first place, and the supply would shrink. There would be less choice for tenants and rents would be higher. This is what Generation Rent is campaigning for by attacking S 21.
The Intergenerational Foundation has already achieved increased rents, reduced supply and increased homelessness by campaigning for a departure from normal taxation leading to mortgage interest being treated as income.
Tenants need to be protected from the actions of the young people in these organisations who do not have the experience or wisdom to foresee the damage their campaigns cause, and will not listen to those who do.
For the homeless it is too late. As they sit in their Travelodge bedrooms they can thank these young disrupters for turning their world upside down.

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