Renters Reform Bill and Anti-Social Behaviour

Renters Reform Bill and Anti-Social Behaviour

16:35 PM, 24th May 2023, About 11 months ago 10

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The Government is trumpeting that the Renters Reform Bill will help landlords deal with anti-social behaviour. A number of commentators have been taken in by this spin. Ben Beadle of NRLA has said: “We welcome the government’s pledge to ensure landlords can swiftly recover properties from anti-social tenants and those failing to pay their rent.”

When you actually read the draft Bill the legislative change proposed is a tiny mouse of a thing, a molehill, a statutory fart you might call it. It is unlikely to lead to significant additional numbers of anti-social tenants being evicted. Ground 14 of Section 8 is to be amended so that it will include “behaviours ‘capable of causing’ a nuisance or annoyance” as opposed to behaviours ‘likely to cause’ a nuisance or annoyance. Apparently, this means that a wider range of tenant behaviours can be considered in court.

Even then, a Generation Rent spokesperson thinks the change in words: “requires clarification as it is ambiguous and open to abuse”. M’Learned Friends at the Bar may spend time and their clients’ money splitting hairs about whether particular behaviours, whilst capable of causing a nuisance or annoyance, would not be likely to cause the nuisance or annoyance. That misses the point. The alleged anti-social practitioner (let’s call him Viper) must have his day in court and face his accusers. The alleged victim (let’s call him or her Mouse) must give a witness statement and be prepared to be cross-examined. Importantly, Mouse may have to wait months before the case gets to court. By definition Mouse may very likely be living next door to or near to Viper’s home. Mouse may feel intimidated by Viper, his family and friends. Mouse may fear reprisals if the case goes against Viper, or even if it doesn’t. Viper’s landlord can offer no assurances that Viper will be evicted. The landlord and his agent may feel intimidated. Will females, in particular, be willing to visit a property and risk meeting the 18 stone bully they are trying to evict? All the lawyers I talk to say it is almost impossible to evict for anti-social behaviour using Section 8.

By abolishing section 21 the Government will take away the most useful tool a landlord has against anti-social behaviour. Local Authorities are allowed under the Housing Act 2004 to introduce Selective Licensing in order, primarily to help tackle low housing demand and anti-social behaviour. Low housing demand may have been a problem in 2004. It no longer is. Government guidance says “landlords will need adequate support [from local authorities] to help them deal with problem tenants”. As if local authorities were not over-stretched enough already! If landlords’ powers to deal with anti-social behaviour are removed then much of the rationale for introducing selective licensing goes too.

Yet again, despite taking months to come up with the Bill the Government’s thinking is shown to be very far from joined up. In consequence the rights of the weak and vulnerable must yield to those of the bully. The mice had better watch their backs as they face the vipers on their own. Instead they may leave and hope to find a safer home elsewhere.

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Chris Bradley

9:51 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

Exactly this
It needs publishing maybe a media article will help raise awareness.
Maybe a petition to keep S21 for this very reason. I would sign it many would.
No genuine business person (landlord) would ask someone to leave their property if there wasn't a genuine reason.
Rogue landlords would and will still do so irrespective of any legislation.
Legislation only shackles the law abiding it does nothing to curb those who are already outside the law

Seething Landlord

10:51 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

I agree that many seem to have fallen for the spin, which started with the claim that the time taken for eviction based on ASB would be halved, when in fact it was only the notice period before commencement of proceedings that was to be reduced from 4 weeks to 2.

As for the rest of it, I can see no way of overcoming the evidential problems - you cannot do away with S21 "no reason given" and at the same time allow possession without proving the grounds, the two are mutually incompatible.

Robert M

10:52 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

Well said Ian, this is exactly the dilemma faced by "Mouse", (who may even be in the same property and have shared facilities with "Viper", e.g. in a HMO), and the landlord is left completely powerless to help "Mouse". The RR bill does absolutely NOTHING to help landlords evict anti-social tenants (such as Viper).

Monty Bodkin

10:55 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

This bill is a rogue tenants charter.
ASB is the second biggest reason for section 21 evictions.

Peter Merrick

11:05 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Seething Landlord at 25/05/2023 - 10:51
Landlords had better get rid of undesirable tenants before it is too late, and be extremely selective with any new tenant. It's quite easy to get credit history, references and bank statements these days, so no excuse for anybody not to do due diligence and crucially not to believe any hard-luck story.
If the government want to make it virtually impossible to get rid of an antisocial tenant in the future, then we should still have the nuclear option of putting the house up for sale, as no doubt the government in it's anti-renting mindset expects, or we could move in ourselves or a family member. Maybe they will also get rid of these options in due course and remove the concept of private property altogether?
Needless to say, a lot of landlords could easily sell up and use the money to fund a comfortable retirement without the hassle of dealing with private housing being turned into a human rights issue that we don't have the resources to deal with. I saw an article recently where a council with all its resources had taken years and no doubt many thousands of pounds to evict a tenant who they discovered had acquired a tenancy using false information.
The clear long-term intention is that housing provision will only be viable for big, well-resourced players.

Darren Peters

11:14 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

Just a thought which may help some.

If you re hmo’img with several tenants on separate tenancies, we’re thinking, while S21 is still available, to give S21 notice and offer a new, joint tenancy. Or they can just leave.

On the joint tenancy, if one becomes obviously anti-social, another tenant can end the joint tenancy and leave or be offered a new tenancy without the culprit. Ie the tenant victim can effectively force the tenant culprit out by giving notice.

Once a tenant serves notice on a joint tenancy does the problem tenant who wishes to remain have any rights?

northern landlord

11:39 AM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

We have direct experience of Ian’s viper and mouse. We had a tenant who was dealing drugs and all sorts of people were turning up at all times of the day and night. The neighbours complained to the letting agent but none of them were willing to come forward or contact the police for fear of reprisals. We didn’t want get tied up in all of this either and just issued a section 21 notice, job done, mandatory ground, no defence possible as long as all your landlords ducks are in a row.
As for making it easy to get a property back if you want to sell or move yourself or a relative in who knows what strings will be attached to that? You won’t just be able to evict the tenant and move your relative in or evict them and put up a “for sale” board that’s for sure. You will probably need to supply proof that the property is actually yours to move into and a DNA test to prove the relative is genuine and provide a good reason as to why you want the sale money!
Given this and the other aspects of the RRB, the new proposed EPC regulations, increasing interest rates and inflation, there is also the fear of what might happen if Labour get in. Labour also propose a new deal for renters and while the Tories have ruled out rent controls it is pretty much about the only tool in the box left for Labour to use against Landlords after the RRB goes through, essentially turning PRS housing into social housing. It’s no wonder the rats (as landlords seem to be regarded by one and all) are deserting the sinking PRS ship en-masse.

Ian Narbeth

12:33 PM, 25th May 2023, About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert M at 25/05/2023 - 10:52Yes Robert and as an HMO landlord, I know that behaviour well short of actionable anti-social behaviour can make lives a misery for other tenants in the house. With all new tenancies being periodic the upset housemates will give a month's notice and we will be left with the difficult tenant(s).

Judith Wordsworth

10:27 AM, 27th May 2023, About 11 months ago

The Mouse can also be the Landlord as, certainly under Selective Licensing, is the unpaid untrained ASBO officer having to face the anti-social tenant.

Old Mrs Landlord

18:54 PM, 27th May 2023, About 11 months ago

Did you, like me, feel a ray of hope on first reading the original title of this legislation when the White Paper appeared, only to be sadly disappointed? A Renters Reform bill - well I have certainly come across more than one tenant who would benefit from reform! But that's now been amended to the Renters (Reform) Bill and on reading the main points it looks more like a landlords' reform measure to me.and will in all probability reform many good landlords right out of the sector it is so onerous, restrictive and, in places, ill thought out. Of course, this is a totally tongue-in-cheek comment but I would be willing to bet that the few rogue landlords in need of reform are considerably outnumbered by the tenants who are. As others have said, it's a sledgehammer to crack a tiny nut but as with most things this government does, it's all about appealing to popular opinion in a bid for votes and popular opinion has been influenced by years of anti-landlord rhetoric designed to deflect attention from their own failings in the housing sector.

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