Landlord blog: Landlords on the wrong side of the media

Published: 09/05/2014

After Labour leader Ed Miliband pledges his support for tenants, a week later and landlords are under fire again as ‘tenants face worst eviction threat for a decade’. In his latest blog, Rob Denman, considers why this debate appears to be so one sided.

“Safe as houses… unless you rent. That was the headline that greeted me on my commute this morning. Front page of the Metro. Naturally I was curious but by the time I had finished the article my curiosity was laced with frustration.

“Let me briefly paraphrase the article… 47,220 possession claims lodged by landlords in first three months of the year, families at risk of losing their homes, bailiffs turning up to evict tenants. Nowhere was there any explanation of why those possession claims had been lodged. Actually no I take that back, towards the end of the article there were claims from charity Shelter that ‘tenants were falling victim to revenge evictions if they complained to their landlord’. In fact, according to other figures, landlords and letting agents are handling three times the usual volume of repair requests in Q1 following the harsh wintry weather experienced.

“I do acknowledge such bad behaviour does happen but I sincerely doubt even a fraction of these possession orders were on this basis and I am growing increasingly frustrated that all landlords are being tarred with this rogue brush because of the actions of a small percentage of the sector.

“Let’s be realistic, it’s not too big a leap to say a large proportion of these possession claims will be down to the tenant being in rent arrears or in a similar breach of their tenancy and while I empathise with tenants struggling to pay their rents I think it’s important to offer some sympathy to landlords who, in such a situation, are too hit financially.

“There seems to be this misconception that landlords are the new ‘fat cats’, cashing in on the supply and demand imbalance by hiking rents at every given opportunity. The article talks about the fact that monthly rents have increased, on average, £50 over five years. In direct contrast it then immediately talks about a mortgage (singular) for three-bed semis which fell from £945 to £645, implying landlords are charging more and paying less.

“Firstly I’d like to double check this mortgage rate to see if it was residential or buy to let and secondly I’d love to know its loan-to-value. At a guess I’m reckoning you’d need a 40 per cent deposit to qualify for such a rate.

“From a legal perspective there are only two times a landlord can increase a tenant’s rent – the first is when a tenancy is being renewed and the second is during a periodic tenancy. However it is important to note firstly that a rent increase can take effect no earlier than 52 weeks after the commencement of the tenancy or a previous rent increase. There must also be a minimum period of time between the date the notice was served and the date the new rent comes into effect. This minimum period is dependent on the nature of the periodic tenancy.

“There is a much bigger story here and that is the the severe lack of available property in the private rental sector alongside stagnated wages. How much attention was this given; a short quote from Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins, which just happen to be the smallest paragraph in the whole piece. Perhaps rather than using landlords as scapegoats, we concentrate on resolving these issues.

Evicting a tenant is neither a simple nor short process. Landlords must first serve a Section 8 or Section 21 Notice, depending on the circumstances. If the tenant does not leave the property, they then have to obtain an order for possession of the property from the court.

“And for the record should it ever get to the stage when court bailiffs arrive it’s because tenants have ignored prior notices and orders. To get to this stage there is every possibility that landlords have forgone rent for six to twelve months.”

Rob DenmanRob Denman is a solicitor and Head of GW LET (Landlord Empowerment Team), specialising in such landlord legal issues as rent arrears, tenant eviction and tenancy deposit disputes. In his spare time Rob enjoys watching football and running. He is currently training for his second half marathon.

Content correct at time of publication

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