Since when did a rent freeze mean don’t pay rent?

Since when did a rent freeze mean don’t pay rent?

11:04 AM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago 18

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It has been a busy time for landlords with several stories that would normally make my blood run cold, but let’s start with a question: ‘Since when did a rent freeze mean no need to pay rent?’

I ask this, because this was one of the takeaways from the issues in Scotland where the number of repossession cases is rising, and various groups are confused about the reason why.

That’s because Scotland introduced a rent freeze which then became a rent cap which will run for several months yet.

However, I was taken by the fact that a large number of tenants in Scotland had managed to interpret the rent freeze legislation unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon as a reason for not paying rent.

At no point did the legislation highlight that tenants were not to pay rent – just that the rent wasn’t to be increased.

This brings me to the second issue, and it’s the problem of perception. Let me explain.

Portrayal of landlords is overwhelmingly negative

Since the media portrayal of landlords is overwhelmingly negative, I can only surmise that tenants took from the extensive media coverage of a rent freeze in Scotland, that there was no need to pay rent.

Because why should they when landlords can afford to not only not increase rent, but not even be paid rent at all.

This is absolute nonsense and is something to bear in mind because while Michael Gove says that there is no rent freeze or rent cap planned for landlords in England, I’m not quite so sure.

With various charities, organisations and media outlets all highlighting problems with poor rental accommodation, I think the government will come under pressure to be seen to be doing something.

And with the Renters’ Reform Bill due to make an appearance in the next two months, or so Mr Gove says, all landlords need to be wary of what will be included in the planned legislation. I’m not holding my breath.

Former council houses being turned into HMOs

The issue of perception also hit me while watching BBC’s Panorama programme about what has happened to former council houses being turned into HMOs – and the return of ‘slum landlords.

Firstly, there was no mention about of profits enjoyed by former council house tenants when they sold up, and not always to a landlord.

Since then, landlords have undoubtedly invested heavily in former council housing stock and will have changed these into HMOs. That’s a business responding to a demand.

But again, the BBC’s perception is that the landlord is always wrong and while the journalist confronted a landlord accused of exploiting tenants in the street – and he did not respond to the allegations – the idea is still that landlords are abusing the housing situation and poor tenants.

Issue of new EPC regulations finally being resolved

There’s also the issue of new EPC regulations finally being resolved, and it looks like we will have to meet a minimum rating of C by April 2028. I have several issues with this.

Leaving aside the cost of the improvements, there’s still the issue of time and having enough people in the workforce to carry out the work and the materials to complete it.

I’ve no doubt either that the work will be expensive, certainly dearer than most landlords are planning on, but there’s also the worry that lots of landlords will simply bail out of the private rented sector rather than upgrade. This will cause chaos.

Not only will tenants not get a house improvement to a C, but they will also be handed an eviction notice because the landlord wants to sell the property and move on with their life.

After selling up, the tenant will undoubtedly have to pay a higher rent because they will be competing with lots of other tenants for the ever-decreasing number of rental properties.

They could of course, in years gone by, apply for a council house but most of those have now been sold on. And they haven’t been replaced.

The government hasn’t asked landlords what they think about the EPC improvements or, crucially, tenants because this is all about meeting a nefarious target and we all have to submit.

Landlords repossessing their own properties

I also had to smile when I read the Property118 story about Lewisham council having to invest in 300 homes so they can deal with the number of homeless families and landlords taking possession of their own properties.

Again, perception and lack of joined-up thinking.

If you make it expensive for landlords to run a property with a selective licensing scheme, or crack down on law-abiding landlords offering quality homes, what is the consequence of that?

Perception is an interesting issue and I’ve touched on the negative coverage of landlords several times before and here we have a situation that could get very much worse.

Indeed, it will get worse because no one ever joins up the dots when they deliver their clever legislation to meet the demands of a vociferous minority.

And that’s a shame when the vast majority of landlords offer quality homes to tenants with very few of them ever showing gratitude for someone putting a roof over their head. Albeit, the tenant has paid for the privilege of living in a home, but the landlord has worked hard and taken the risk in buying a property.

Shelter came up with some quack statistics

It was also nice to see that Shelter came up with some quack statistics about tenants who complain being two and a half times more likely to be evicted. Really?

Again, who are they asking? The people calling their ‘helplines’ or tenants living happily in a rented home? This notion that all landlords are bad must stop.

And it doesn’t help when the media just carry one side of the story – with the notable exception of the Daily Mail.

So, perception works both ways and for those organisations calling for a quick implementation of the Renters’ Reform Bill and/or a rent freeze then you need to appreciate this: Your perception of landlords as soulless, rich scavengers who are just interested in money is very wrong.

Be careful here because our perception of you isn’t wrong – and when lots of us decide that the media/public perception of landlords has worn thin and we sell up, just appreciate that your antagonism created a situation that saw landlords leave the sector so that tenants have fewer homes to choose from and more expensive rents.

Perception? If you perceive us as the ‘baddies’, wait until we are gone and there are no homes – unless you have a well paid job for the big corporate landlords because, believe me, they will not want anything to do with tenants on low wages, benefits or a record of rent arrears. Que sera, sera.

Until next time,

The Landlord Crusader


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Comments

Robert M

11:36 AM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

As usual, your post highlights many of the contradictions and propaganda coming from the media and groups such as Shelter, and the unfortunate but inevitable consequences.

Landlords have been telling governments, press, Shelter et al, and indeed tenants directly, that everything that creates a cost for the landlord has to be paid for via the rents being charged, so landlords have little or no choice but to increase rents or sell their properties. This inevitably leads to a decrease in supply, and much more competition for the few properties that then become available for rent, so rents naturally increase, as do the security requirements (landlords requiring tenants to provide a rent and damage guarantor).

chris welham

11:37 AM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

Thanks for your honest and timely post which lays out the current situation so well.
I have invested my hard earned and taxed money in providing decent homes at affordable rents. Most of my properties were uninhabitable when purchased and were brought upto a decent standard and rented at very reasonable rates.
However I've become increasingly exasperated at the continued vilification of us "housing providers" and the uncertainty/impossibility of EPC upgrades of 1900 housing to C and the removal of rights of possession that I'm selling up. 4 out of 6 Nottingham now sold with 2 to go.
I have managed to help my tenants to move to new properties but these are becoming rarer and much more expensive.
I feel for people who cannot afford or are not yet in a position to buy but they need to understand who is really to blame for this situation.
It's government policy encouraged by the various anti landlord organisations both of whom don't provide enough/any housing that are solely to blame for the current housing crisis and its only going to get worse.
I'm out!

NewYorkie

11:39 AM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

Spot on! But I think the problem for tenants is not a future one; it's been quietly happening since S24 started to bite, and many landlords realised BTL was unsustainable [me included]. I saw recently that there had been a 38% drop in available rental properties since 2019. And that's not considering the constant media vilification, and other taxes, costs, and regulations. We have reached a tipping point, and landlords are choosing, as is their right, to no longer offer rental accommodation.

Mick Roberts

11:50 AM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

Great words by u again Landlord Crusader.

Yes, Govt assumes we all charging top whack and that we actually WANT to keep our houses. Many of us don't. Many of us are doing the right thing & only keeping it for the tenant. 8 years ago, that tenant would have moved eventually & we could have sold. Now as we know, low earning tenants can't move any more cause we charging em too cheap rent, so they look elsewhere & think WHAT! I can't afford to move there. And the new Landlord ain't taking our low earning tenants any more, he wants minimum 31k earnings a year.

U say same as what I'm about to say on EPC's.

U say same again on what we all think.

I'll keep repeating this, as applies to many attacks on us lately.

It's still not happening.

They/we not gonna' be able to retrofit these 1920 houses while tenant is living there & on the cheap rents a lot of tenants are paying.

Govt has to stop penalising tenants AFTER they’ve moved into their home.

Who’s paying for this then?
Cause if tenants are paying cheap rent ie. Landlord looking after em, & then maybe £5000 or £30,000 to upgrade from E to a C, Landlord then says I can no longer look after u with cheap rent. Cheap rent doesn’t pay for these outgoings, I’ve now got to charge u what the Landlord is charging his better off tenants up the road who’s paying more to live in that New build.

I’ve got to start telling tenants soon You can’t live here past 2028 anyway, Govt say u can’t if EPC not a C. And your rent doesn’t pay for a C.

Has anyone asked the tenants what they want? We know they want the better house, but when u give them choice I can give u New build for £1000pm or EPC C for £900pm, or still decent house EPC D but not New build standards for £700pm or £550pm I know what all my tenants say.

Luke P

13:06 PM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mick Roberts at 06/04/2023 - 11:50
Mick, as soon as the band-C 2028 EPC requirement becomes official, you should put those two very succinct and impactful statements in a letter (not being able to live there beyond 2028 and, crucially, the rent not covering a band-C).

Just like when I sent a covering letter with my mass-s.21 servings that ended up being read out at PMQs, I think, with your volume, such a letter could end up in a similar position.

We need to spoon-feed the politicians the concept of ALL expenses coming from the rent.

A quick calculation tells me rent would need to realistically increase by £500pcm in order to have £24-30k by the time this comes in. Had we known sooner, we could have upped the rent long ago to account for it. There's no point saying that the additional rent being collected beyond the implementation of the measures can also be used to pay for it...my confidence is shot and I will need to save that for the next dreamt-up scheme.

Get it in a letter and tell one of them to give it to their MP!

Anne Nixon

13:31 PM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

"a large number of tenants in Scotland had managed to interpret the rent freeze legislation unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon as a reason for not paying rent"
I had exactly the same happen during the pandemic when the sympathetic noises being made by the government towards tenants was interpreted by some as a sign that they were no longer obliged to pay rent.
I had one previously okay tenant on 100% furlough pay deciding that they had better things to waste their money on than rent and they stopped paying altogether.

NewYorkie

14:04 PM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Anne Nixon at 06/04/2023 - 13:31
Same here. He was receiving SEIS and continued working, and subsequently, I found he was also getting housing benefit. It cost me £20k before I could evict him. That was 10 years' net profit!

Neil Robb

14:36 PM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

As for the rent freeze and eviction ban in Scotland.

You can still evict but huge delays and failures of the FTT system where landlords must use to evict. It is so under funded and back log was huge before COVID.

The policy was driven by the green party Patrick Harvie who has a real issue with landlords as he was twice evicted but won't say why.

Using his position for revenge .

He has mislead and manipulated everything to make out there is a huge problem .

Yes rents are rising on new tenancies but many landlords never increases rents for years me included .

He say there is actually more rentals available yet many landlords are selling up. Huge demand for properties.

He is using areas like Edinburgh Glasgow etc where rent have really gone up but not in areas like Inverclyde where there is huge issue where deprivation and rents for one beds are only £300 a month.

There is 200 applications to FTT for evictions around or just over a 100 are from council social housing.

There is 365,000 private tenants in Scotland so I would hardly say this is a huge issue as he is making out.

Patrick Harvie states those most effected by the cost of living where those in social housing.

Yet he allowed their rents to be increased upto 11% .

When this was highlighted he then said private landlords could raise their rents by 3% or 6% if they could prove financial hardship or increased costs.

It said landlords could increase 50% of there increased costs brilliant people thought until they saw the next line to a maximum increase of no more than 3% .

So £150 increase in costs allowed to raise £75 no if rent was £500 it can only be increased by £15 a month.

To mislead the public and use your position for personal vengeance he should be forced to resign.

SNP need green party to stay in power .

Absolutely ridiculous .

The people these policies are ment to protect are the ones they are harming the most.

Mick Roberts

15:42 PM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 06/04/2023 - 13:06
Aah good so u got one of your letters read out PMQ. Brilliant.

Yes that's the thing, we letting tenants off with cheap rent now, yet if it does come in, we han't had the rent in to pay for it. And Labour Party wants us to re-mortgage. Yeah right we get to 70 years old & want to start taking loans out again do we for a house we don't want.

I've just sent to MP with good idea from u, I don't bother any more cause note gets done. He thinks I put my tenants up to contacting him as they scared off me. Well he used to, Less so now.

johncov

16:10 PM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago

I decided a year ago that I had enough of all this rubbish and I am 74 now so sold the 6 houses that I had and another 1 is going in the next month. I am out of the game now and good riddance.
I did this without making anybody homeless so my conscience is clear

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