The myth that landlords can evict at a moment’s notice

by Readers Question

15:24 PM, 13th November 2019
About 4 weeks ago

The myth that landlords can evict at a moment’s notice

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The myth that landlords can evict at a moment’s notice

Some of the so-called housing charities like to say that tenants must be protected, that they have no security in the private rented sector, that they can be asked to leave at a moment’s notice, on a whim from the landlord. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Landlords must always give at least two months’ notice and usually only issue notice if the tenant has not paid the rent for some time and has accrued a large amount of arrears. This is the point at which the possession process begins. It then takes many months, with obstacles thrown in the landlord’s way, left, right and centre.

Below is a recent case, which illustrates how long it actually takes to get possession with Section 21. All the time that possession is denied the landlord, the landlord is pushed further and further into debt while the tenant lives rent free. What is clear is that Section 21 must not be abolished; it must be strengthened.

A recent case:

Sarah is a polite young lady, 26 years of age. She works as an administration assistant for an electronics company, quite well paid but she’ll never be a millionaire on her salary.

In mid-2016 she excitedly picked up the keys for her first property purchase, a Taylor Wimpey new-build apartment in a shiny new development in Newport.

Two years later Sarah and her boyfriend of 3 years Steve decide to take the next step on the property ladder and purchase a 3-bed home. They find a buyer for Sarah’s flat but at the last minute Sarah’s buyer has his mortgage offer withdrawn by his lender.

Sarah is told that the lease for the flat is toxic and the lender isn’t willing to take a chance on it, because of issues to do with the ground rent the lender could lose the money secured against the property.

Steve and Sarah have to decide whether to proceed with the purchase of their dream home. Money would be tight until another buyer is found. Convinced it won’t take long given the interest in the apartment, they press ahead. Unfortunately, however, each time they find a buyer for the apartment, it falls through for the same reason as the first time.

By this time Steve and Sarah are getting desperate for the money they need in order to refurbish their new home. They are living in a property with damp and no proper kitchen.

Sarah decides to look into renting out the apartment. However, she is told that as she took out a Help To Buy loan when she bought the property, she can’t rent it out. She therefore decides to get someone to rent it on a lodger agreement as these have no restrictions.

A lodger/tenant in his early 40s moves in on 21st January at a rent of £162pw, including bills and council tax.

On week 6 the tenant doesn’t pay the rent. Over the following month he makes a few more part payments and then stops paying completely. Around this time Sarah discovers that the tenant is on a suspended prison sentence for stealing money from a football club that was meant for an animal charity.

Sarah takes advice, as she relies on the rent to pay her own bills including the mortgage and the utilities that the tenant is benefiting from.

On 20th May, by which time the tenants owes a considerable amount of arrears, Sarah issues a Section 21 notice, with an expiry date of 22nd July.

The tenant does not vacate by 22nd July so court proceedings are started. The possession hearing takes place on 26th September. Due to a technicality over the serving of a S21 for a lodger agreement the hearing is adjourned.

The second possession hearing takes place on 15th October; possession is granted. The tenant must leave by 29th October.

The tenant does not leave by 29th October and informs Sarah that his council housing officer had instructed him to ‘sit tight’ and wait for a Bailiff’s warrant. An application is made on 30th October for a bailiff’s warrant.

The bailiff who covers the area has been away on compassionate leave and returns to the office to find around 30 cases waiting for his attention. He estimates he will not be able to enact the eviction any time before 12th December. By this point, the tenant will have ripped Sarah off the tune of around £3636, excluding eviction costs of around £1200. In what universe is this seen as a system favouring the landlord and not the tenant?

Other issues:

  1. Is it right that when someone is not paying the rent, they get to stay rent-free in a property, where the landlord is paying the mortgage and all the bills, for, in this case, 8 months? –
  2. How come councils and ‘charities’ are still instructing tenants to ‘sit tight’ and wait for a bailiff’s warrant, when this causes huge losses to private landlords?
  3. How can the Government even be contemplating getting rid of Section 21 – currently the least awful option for landlords – because it is seen as favouring the landlord?

I would welcome landlords adding their own examples in the comments section below, of how long it has taken them to get their property back, so that we can present this to Government. These will be real examples, and not the fantasy ones imagined by the likes of Shelter – who, indeed are often complicit in advocating for these rogue tenants so that they can rip off decent landlords for even longer.

Debbie



Comments

christine walker

10:07 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

My tenant stopped paying rent and was in arrears by £2000.00. She then went to live with her parents miles away and left all her furniture and a cat with 3 kittens in the property.A friend of hers had a key and went in to feed the cats.She was instructed not to hand the house over until I obtained a court order.It took 3 more months to get the order and the house was covered in cat excrement in every room and i had to put all her stuff into storage for 3 months but she never came to claim it. I ended up out of pocket by about £7000.00.

Mick Roberts

10:20 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

U say it so well.
All my Section 21 cases are 5.5 months plus. From start to almost getting the house back.

Where can u walk in a shop, pick a Mars Bar up, walk out without paying, shopkeeper says U can't do that. U still walk out.
And u do this EVERY DAY for 5.5+ months. It wouldn't be allowed to happen. It's theft. Shopkeeper losing money. It's illegal.
What's the difference with the tenant not paying then for something that the Landlord is paying for. Does the Mortgage lender allow us to not pay?

If Govt ever allowed much quick possession, this would be another step for much less homeless. As Landlords wun't need to be ultra careful, as we'd know if there was a problem, law would be on our side much quicker.

christine walker

10:23 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Also had a tenant who was on local housing allowance and never paid the rent.I was told by the benefits office that she wasn't doing anything illegal,that it was her benefit and she could spend it on whatever she liked.it took me 6 months to finally elect her with a court order.

Carl I'Anson

10:25 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Unfortunately it is usually a 6 month process for us Landlords to remove a tenant who refuses to leave, regardless of whether section 8 or 21 is used and regardless whether you engage a Solicitor or not. I’ve just had 2 cases were this has been the norm and although each case has different circumstances the process, sequence and timescales were exactly as Debbie has described above. Even if the tenant leaves but doesn’t hand the keys back we cannot take back possession until it’s gone through the court/bailiff process.
Obviously then with a non paying tenant the arrears stack up to a point were is highly unlikely you are ever going to get your money back as that “type” of tenant doesn’t give a damn about CCJ’s etc.
The law is ridiculously all in the tenants favour.
Carl

christine walker

10:28 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

CCJ's are a waste of time as these people do not have the wherewithal to pay you back anyway

Pradip Thaker

10:51 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

In the last 2/3 years i have lost over £9000 with loss of rent legal fees and renovations.
Ours is a ridiculous system as it is. Without section 21 we would loose more

KEN WALTERS

11:15 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Thanks to examples like these I only accept tenants with good credit histories,in stable and relatively well paid employment who are vetted by a letting agent and then myself.The property is in an ex mining village in County Durham and lets for £575 a month,therefore in a relatively deprived area. It may take slightly longer to find a suitable tenant but after 3 tenants in 5 years I've yet to experience these type of problems.
I am aware that it can happen to anybody,anywhere at anytime ,but you can mitigate the chances of it happening by doing some due diligence.
I wholeheartedly agree with the comments about the negative attitude of political parties who see us as easy targets and potential vote winners. The fact that the Tory party is part of this is staggering. Thankfully I've never voted for them.

The Forever Tenant

11:36 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

I (understandably) would like to see the removal of section 21, but also the enhancement of section 8.

So many times Section 21 is used to remove disruptive tenants, or non paying tenants, etc. when it should be Section 8 that is being used.

When they say "evict at a moments notice" I take that as meaning that without warning or expectation and with no reason on my behalf, I could be asked to leave the place that I have set up home. I'm given 2 months to find a new place and leave.

Now I am one of the honest tenants, if you ask me to leave within 2 months, I'll leave. But this means that I live every single day in fear that I might have to find a new place to live for myself and my family because of the whims of someone else.

It seems to me that most of the examples above, and examples I see everywhere would be better suited with a more robust and speedy section 8 resolution.

christine walker

11:45 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

The majority of landlords are happy if tenants pay their rent, look after the property and don't cause problems for their neighbours.As a landlord in the past i have gone down the section 21 route because my solicitor has advised it as the quickest way to get bad tenants out ,but you cannot get money owed to you unless you go to the smells claim court, incurring further expense and no guarantee that you will get arrears or damages paid.
It must be difficult for good tenants like yourself to feel any sense of security, but I don't know what the answer is to be honest. I think the government should provide many more properties for rent with long term tenancies, but history shows this is not going to happen in the near future. As a landlord in my late sixties, I just hope for good tenants who pay their rent and want to stay in the property and look after it. Unfortunately this doesn't always happen.

christine walker

11:48 AM, 14th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

If the government do away with section 21 they say they will add an amendment to section 8 to enable a landlord to give notice if they need the property to live in themselves or have to sell up, so it won't solve the problem of tenants feeling insecure

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