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Can You Believe It ? Landlords Legal Political Tenants

Discrimination ? Really !

Reports of “Direct Action” being taken against a number of Letting Agents who advertise their properties on a “No Benefits Tenant” policy come as no surprise given the militancy of the anti-landlord brigade. Supported by Shelter and other organisations, it is likely that we will see an increase in this kind of activity as the problems with the Universal Credit system unravel (read more), and more and more landlords will be given no choice but to stop taking benefits tenants. Unless Landlords, Letting Agents and our representatives fight back with the truth about this high risk sector, the militants will successfully get their emotionally charged message through to the sympathetic ears of our anti-landlord politicians.

Any landlord who has ever rented to Benefits Tenants will know that there are genuine claimants and there are those who are the complete polar opposite, but whichever camp they are in, all benefits tenants come with a high level of financial constraints, and that is why they are high-risk. We doubt that anyone who has managed a benefits tenant would disagree that they are high risk and high maintenance, whether that is from the perspective of receiving the rent, or having to sort out the benefits paper-work,  or from a behavioural aspect, there are undoubtably more issues to deal with than there is with a standard tenancy and therefore more to do and more to manage.  When you add into the mix, the current turmoil in the Universal Credit system and reports that rent arrears are rocketing because the system can’t cope, you can see just why so many landlords will go stay clear of this high risk sector.

Despite what many seem to think, being a landlord is no different from any other business. It’s all about making the right decisions for the business with regards the risks the business takes or is willing to take. All business owners have to manage risk, and if they get it wrong, they pay the price, and landlord are no different.  Most landlords are amateur landlords, they may own one or two properties and therefore they do not have the luxury of a high cash-flow business which could help take the hit when a benefits tenancy goes wrong. This means landlords, like banks, building societies and other businesses, must make an assessment based on the probability of getting paid.  Landlords who have mortgages still have to pay the mortgage when the rent is not getting paid, they cannot do what tenants do and simply stop paying without any consequences!  And landlords who do have mortgages must consider that most Buy To Let mortgage contracts have an explicit condition preventing landlords from renting to Benefits Tenants, which means if a landlord did, they would be in breach of their mortgage contract.

Where a landlords business is unique and differs hugely from many others is that if the landlords tenant choice is wrong, the cost and time of putting things right or getting back on track is huge!  You cannot name another business where the provider of a service is legally required to provide that service when that service is not being paid for?  And for the provider of that service to regain their service/product they must go through a series of legal steps, culminating in a court hearing, but all of this whilst still not being paid for their service!  This is the reality in the world of a landlord, so if being a landlord isn’t high risk, we really don’t know what is!

We understand what Shelter are attempting to do with their emotional anti-discrimination, campaign, but they are wrong to do it without balancing the argument and addressing the main points which concern and affect landlords who do not wish to rent to benefits tenants.

Landlords (or anyone else for that matter) should never be prevented from making pragmatic commercial decisions about their business based on risk and if that risk is too high, they should never be forced into doing so by some ideological belief that they are wrong whilst others are right!

OneLandlord

 

 

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Can You Believe It ? Dear Tenant Landlords Political Tenants

An excellent landlord!

This is OneLandlords response to Penny Anderson, the Guardian’s landlord friendly feature writer who has penned an article about “How to be an excellent landlord” ( click here )

In her article, Ms. Anderson sets about explaining her ten point plan on how landords should treat their property and their tenants. There is of course, nothing wrong with this, we all need help and advice sometimes, but as this particular help is from Ms. Anderson and her Guardian friends, don’t expect it to be either useful or friendly. However, do expect it to be patronising, and remember when reading it, that this is from the same person who in a recent article, called landlords “oppressive” simply because they ask for background checks on potential tenants!

In return for her warm and comforting words of wisdom to landlords, OneLandlord has provided some equal words of wisdom to Ms. Anderson and her merry band of Generation Renters ?  Below (listed 1-10) is Ms. Anderson’s recommendations to landlords, and our response to her is below each item;

1. Do repairs promptly.

We agree, landlords should do repairs promptly, not least because it’s in their interest to keep on top of the properties maintenance. But they can only do those repairs when or if they are told about them. Tenants have a responsibility to report repairs to their landlord but many do not, at least not until the simple repair has become a full refurbishment!  Tenants who do not pay their rent have a habit of not saying anything about repairs until they eventually catch up on their rent, that’s when the landlord gets the long list of repairs which the tenant failed to report earlier, most of which are now quite big jobs but would not have been had they been reported on time – was that something to do with the rent arrears ?  Oh, and whilst on the subject, don’t forget that tenants also have a responsibility for repairs, the minor ones!  So please don’t call the landlord at nine o’clock on a Sunday evening to inform them that a handle has fallen off a cupboard door, why not try fixing it, like we all have to do!

2. Don’t visit unannounced.

Quite right, landords should not just turn up unannounced, but tenants should allow the landlord access when they are given the correct notice instead of refusing it! (which, by the way, they agreed to when they signed their tenancy agreement). Tenants who do not allow landlords access to inspect, or worse, do not allow access for important safety items such as gas certificates (yes, I know it’s unbelievable, but it’s true!) must have something to hide mustn’t they, or why would the prevent it?  And then there are those tenants who don’t allow access for landlords to show prospective tenants around the property when they themselves are leaving the tenancy.  Tenants that do this are preventing the landlord from earning their legitimate income, why would anybody want to do that?

3. Treat letting homes like a business, not as if you are graciously allowing strangers to stay in your home.

Somewhat contradictory to Ms Andersons later recommendation in item nine where she doesn’t want landlords to be friendly!  The fact is that tenants are strangers aren’t they? at least they are until the landlord gets to know them. A landlord can only know who they have in their property once the tenant has the keys, by which point it may be too late. Many landlords will have lived in the property as their main residence and may find it difficult to disassociate themselves, so in these circumstances, a bit of understanding might not go amiss. And, whilst it is still the law, let us not forget who’s name is actually on the deeds, the person who pays the mortgage, and therefore who actually owns the property – the landlord!

4. Be mindful that human beings, not vermin, pay to live in your property.

The use of the word “vermin” sums up this person (and her newspapers) hatred of Landlords. I can’t think of any landlord I know who would treat people as as “vermin” and this particular “how to be a better landlord” comment from Ms. Anderson simply isn’t worth OneLandlord responding to – we have no words!

5. Provide good-quality fittings and furniture.

Indeed, but the deal should work both ways; tenants should return those same good quality furniture and fitting as good quality furniture and fittings,  and not in the total disrepair landlords often get their property back in;  and “fair wear and tear” doesn’t even come into it!

6. Do not store your own possessions in the property’s precious cupboard space.

We agree, the properties cupboard spaces and indeed other spaces, such as the garage or sheds should be there for the exclusive use of the tenant during the period of the tenancy. So why oh why do so many tenants leave their unwanted items in those exclusive places when they quit the property?  Why do tenants send messages to landords saying such things as “we thought you might need these?”  well think again, landlords don’t need tenants old items, those items which tenants can’t be bothered taking to the local tip!.  So, yes, please do have exclusive use of any storage, but please take ALL your belongings with you when you leave!

7. I shall say it again: let us decorate.

Ok, go ahead and decorate, but don’t leave your psychedelic, grunge, goth, garage or other freaky and badly done DIY decorations for the landlord to try and attempt at re-letting the property, because the landlord won’t be able to!  If the landlord asks you to put the property back to as it was when you moved in, then put it back, and that doesn’t mean doing a poor “dot and dab” cover up job because you can’t be bothered to do what you agreed to in the first place!  Of-course as landlords, we know that tenants won’t do this, they’ll simply walk away and leave it for the landlord re-decorate, and that is why landlords do not like tenants to decorate!

8. If you are tolerant of occasional late payments, for example, tenants may not call at 2am on a Sunday demanding urgent hot water repairs, accepting that it takes a while to summon elusive plumbers.

The truth is, tenants tend to demand urgent heating/water repairs, not because they know or understand that it t takes a while to get a plumber/engineer out, but because tenants tend to call at 2am on a Sunday morning expecting someone to be with them at 2.30 am on a Sunday morning!   And seeing how you mentioned 2.00 am on a Sunday and not 2.00pm on a Sunday afternoon, do you possibly think it’s fair and reasonable to call any one at that ungodly hour in the morning, unless it was a real emergency?  Let’s face it, not having hot water isn’t exactly an emergency is it?

9. Don’t be creepy, expecting tenants to become mates, like the former landlord who was most put out when we rebuffed his offer to come round for “a smoke”.

We honestly do not know of anyone who would wish to become best mates with their tenant, and we couldn’t think of a worse business/client relationship to do this! So this one does surprise us little!  But if there is an explanation, it’s probably a brand new landlord who is somewhat whet behind the ears and a bit excited about the prospect of being a landlord. Leave it a year and we’re pretty confident that the tenant, the LHA, the government, HMRC, journalists like you, the courts and the system will have ground them down to the point that they’ll probably wonder why the heck they even bothered being “friendly” in the first place!

10. If you plan on selling up, inform your tenant first, not last, as has happened to myself and several friends.

Given the notice periods needed for the landlord to get vacant possession, we can’t see how this could be the case.  But if it is, we don’t think tenants are going to need to worry  about this for much longer.  Looking at the ways the government, local authorities and other anti-landlord bodies are trying to restrict landlords businesses, some agencies and others are getting very excited about the world of anti-landlords and see it as an opportunity to stop landlords selling their property at all, unless there is a good enough reason ! like they may be facing bankruptcy for example! It’s hard to believe but it is actually true.

As in all walks of life, there are two sides to every story. Ms. Anderson takes the side of the Tenant, this is what she does and this is her right, but there is no balance in her article and there is a complete lack of understanding of the landlords side, but that figures!

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Can You Believe It ? Landlords Political Tenants

Oppressive Landlords !

We simply have to write in response to yet another “landlord hate” article from the Guardian. Written by Penny Anderson, this article is about the Governments proposed minimum three year tenancy period and goes a long way to show that Ms Anderson has little or no understanding of the Private Rental Sector, or even the larger world.

To read the article, click here

The article starts with Ms. Anderson’s nostalgia of the private rental sector;

“In the good old days, when knights were bold and children were happy with an orange for Christmas (that is, about 20 years ago) life for flat-hunters was simple. Find a flat; view it; decide you like it; maybe grab a quick landlord reference; pay one month rent in advance then another month as a deposit; and hey presto, in you move”

What she conveniently forgets is that industries and sectors mature, lessons are learnt (many at great expense) and those lessons are acted upon, normally by those at greatest risk, and in this regard, landords are no different. Twenty years ago, landords may have been trusting, even naive, but with experience of tenants and how the system and the courts work against them, landlords are no longer quickly and easily going to hand over their highly valued asset to someone they have never met before, before at least doing some due-diligence!

Her complaint appears to be that landlords are simply becoming too cautious, that pre-occupancy checks are too complex and she’s even complaining that many housing associations are now insisting that prospective tenants demonstrate their benefit to the community!  Well, what a great idea, and exactly what is wrong with that?  I have no doubt that Ms. Anderson will live in some leafy suburb where the only noise she will experience will be the barking of a Pug dog as the post man delivers the post, or the cooing of the Doves as they wake in the early dawn, but to those living in Social Housing, knowing that your neighbour is not a raving nut-case who is going to hold all night parties and stink the landings out with the smell of Wacky-Backy can only be of great relief, and it smacks of hypocrisy that this policy is criticised by those crying out for landlords to be more responsible.

And her criticism of landlords does not stop there, she goes on to write;

“Tenants get no assurances from mysterious landlords, who could be dangerous criminals or serial bankrupts about to lose the property. Must landlords provide proof that they, too, have never paid a utility bill late? Of course not”.

It’s hard to believe that such a naive statement could be written by a professional journalist!  Didn’t it cross her mind that tenants too could well be criminals and indeed bankrupts or may have been evicted for not paying rent?  If it didn’t, let me tell her that bad tenants do exist, tenants do try to hide bad debt and evictions and there are far more cases of landords being attacked, and even murdered, than there are of tenants being attacked. Landlords, especially those dealing with “vulnerable tenants” run huge risk to themselves and their properties and nobody blinks an eye-lid.  Landlords do not have access to the criminal register to check if tenants could be dangerous criminals, murderers or pedophiles, but is seems in Ms. Anderson’s world, that it is only landlords who have the potential to be dangerous criminals, with everyone else being the victim?

Landlords face huge costs when a tenancy goes wrong and when tenants stop paying rent, any landlord who has experienced the process of possession or eviction will know what it entails; the cost is huge and the time is extreme. Landlords should be entitled to take what ever references they need to satisfy themselves of the risk they are taking. In other industries, it’s called a Risk Assessment and is pretty normal across the board.  Would you expect to get a mortgage or a loan without providing proof that you can afford it or proof that you have a good credit rating? Would you walk on scaffolding without knowing it wasn’t going to collapse,?  So why can’t a Landlord employ a “risk assessment”?  And wouldn’t it be irresponsible of a Landlord to allow a person to take on a property that they could’t afford, no doubt Ms. Anderson and her chums would quickly blame the landlord for being irresponsible when the tenancy goes wrong.

I absolutely refute that all landlords require a pristine credit rating, but where there is evidence of a bad debt, such as a Money Order (CCJ) or bankruptcy, the landlord has every right to know about the circumstances so that they can make an assessment and if necessary, they are within their rights to ask that that tenancy is supported by a Guarantor, there is nothing wrong or onerous in that. And to imply that Landlords are now asking for CV’s before granting a tenancy is simply rubbish and is really scraping the sensationalism barrel.

Where exactly is the balance in this article and why does Ms. Anderson write sweeping generalisations about landlords? Ms. Anderson may be or may have once been a tenant, we don’t know that, and she may have friends who are or were once tenants, again we don’t know that either. But what we do know is that being a tenant does not make her an expert in this field, walking a mile in a landlords shoes may go someway to helping her understand her subject matter before writing such hateful statements in future.

The solution we are told by Ms. Anderson is affordable social housing;

“The solution is a mass programme of genuinely affordable social housing, with rents at roughly one quarter of average incomes, as in the olden days. This would mean tenants could afford their rent, unlike the current situation where they struggle to pay, not because they buy avocados for all their friends but because rents are stratospheric”.

From what we can make out, Ms. Anderson is suggestion that the Private Rental Sector is abandoned and that everyone currently living in PRS property moves en-mass to Social Housing when it is built (when!). Can you imagine a situation where people don’t have a choice, are housed in purpose built, in-expensive (because with the level of building proposed, it will have to be cheap), badly designed property (because it always is), living next to tenants who have not been vetted (because that will be outlawed in Ms. Anderson’s solution)? What a great idea, let’s make everyone equal and put them all in Social Housing, just like the Soviets did!

The vast majority of  landlords are good people who simply wish to rent their property and get paid, that’s all they ask. They don’t seek to run it as their full time business and they don’t seek to become rich. All landlords know that as with any walk of life, there are some bad people amongst them and landords will readily acknowledge this, unfortunately, it hard to get some people to acknowledge that there are are also bad tenants.

Some tenants may want three year tenancies, but the overall majority do not. In the 20 or so years that I have been a landlord, I cannot remember once being asked for a three year tenancy, in fact, I’m certain that this would have scared plenty off!  I have no doubt that in the interest of chasing votes (which by the way, they will not get), this government will not listen to landords and will push this policy through.

We have no doubt that Tenants will be able to sign up to a three year tenancy and leave when they want to leave. Landlords will be forced to grant three year tenancies but will not be allowed to get their property back when they want, that is pretty much the experience of landords anyway, so not much will change except the problems become bigger and more expensive for landlords. So may we suggest that whilst they are re-writing the tenancy laws, and to help avoid any further confusion for landlords, the Tories should rename the Landlord and Tenant Act theTenant and Tenant Act!

 

 

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Can You Believe It ? Legal Political

Proposed Legislation….

Secretary of State for Housing Sajid Javid confirmed that the government will support new legislation to ensure rental properties are safe for tenants.

The legislation, which will also allow tenants to take legal action when faced with rogue landlords, will be enforced by local authorities. They will be given the power to deal with both social and private sector landlords who rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation.  I find the term “Rogue Landlord” very interesting, who will define what exactly a Rogue Landlord, is it someone who rents out a one bedroom flat to 30 people, or is it someone who doesn’t answer his phone after eight at night?  You might think the answer is obvious, but how can it be?  The term “Rogue” covers such a wide spectrum, for example, is a Rogue  “a dishonest or unprincipled man?” or is a Rogue “a person whose behaviour one disapproves of but who is nonetheless likeable or attractive“?  Both of these are defined in the Dictionary as being Rogues!..

Ok, maybe we’re not so dumb and we can work out what a Rogue Landlord is, but do you get my point? Unless this is thought through, the courts are going to be throwing cases out because someone objects to how they based their assessment of the word Rogue!.  And it’s the same for the assessment of what is “fit for human habitation”, who or what exactly is going decide what the bench mark of human habitation?  I’ve seen plenty of Students turn a perfectly liveable and habitable property into something you wouldn’t put a rat in, so who’s going to get sued in cases like that?  What if the Landlord decides that their tenants have made the property unfit for human habitation, are Landlords allowed to sue their tenants under the same act ?

The new bill ensures that landlords confirm that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of each tenancy and throughout the tenancy. Should a landlord fail to do this, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract. This will be on the grounds that the home is unsafe for habitation.

I read where the RLA are supporting this legislation, mainly because it brings Local Authorities and Housing Associations into the fold and we agree with that point.  But what the RLA failed to do in their press release was to push for supporting good Landlords by asking for equal legislation for Landlords to have a dedicated Housing Court where Landlords can quickly and effectively enforce the terms of a tenancy agreement rather than having to wait months and spending hundreds of pounds in the process.

It’s just one more attack in a long line of recent attacks against Landlords. There are many pieces of legislation already in place to force landlords to maintain their property and to be punished if they don’t and The HHSRS provides the councils with adequate powers to deal with and enforce virtually all aspects.

The old chestnut of tenants causing damage by drying washing indoors causing condensation in one of the biggest problems faced by Landlords on a daily basis but who is taking the side of Landlords to enforce tenants and their behaviour. If legislation is going to be introduced against Landlords, Landlords should no longer accept damage done by Tenants and should take this attack by MP’s as the turning point to sue tenants for causing damage to the landlords property and the cost of remedial works where they do not occupy the property in a good tenant like manner.

Landlords will need to wise up and start suing tenants where at present, they tend to let tenants get away with much more than they should and we can see that the upping the stakes will be inevitable as landlords are victimized by bully legislation.

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Blog Three Column Can You Believe It ?

It’s Not Unreasonable

A tenant has been in one of my properties for two months.  I noticed on the bank statement that his rent was short by £200.00 this month (for the second month) so I called him a number of times before he responded with a text!  In that text he told me that there had been a mix up with his wages and his bank Standing Order and that it would take four months to sort out, four months!. Bearing in mind that he works for the local council, I found this whopper to be one of the biggest I’d heard but backed up by the usual “blame the bank excuse”, which seems to be a such a common one these days!

He said that it wasn’t unreasonable for him to have to sort out his affairs and that it was within the rules of the Housing Act !  WHAT !  which Act is he reading ? it’s certainly not one I’ve read!  I told him in no uncertain terms that I certainly considered it unreasonable, first not to pay the contractual rent and secondly not to inform me about his situation and for me and for me to have to chase him to get my money!

What other business is there where you are legally obliged to provide a service for someone who doesn’t pay for that service?  Well get this Mr. Tenant, try walking out of John Lewis’ without paying for the iPad you’ve taken a fancy to and see what happens next – just a small but important point of the law of contract !

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Can You Believe It ? Legal Political Tenants

Questionable Journalism !

Today I read yet another article in the Guardian attacking private landlords and the PRS, this one is clearly aimed at the “momentum” gathering in certain quarters for the abolition of Section 21 in England and Wales.  Here is a link to the article;  https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/08/how-eviction-leads-to-homelessness-my-youngest-child-doesnt-know-what-a-home-is

The article starts;

The single biggest cause of homelessness today is loss of tenancy – in other words, an eviction. An increasing number of these are “no-fault evictions” – meaning the landlord need not give any reason why they are turfing someone out of their home.

Homelessness and sub standard housing is clearly a serious issue for those poor people who experience it and OneLandlord.com sympathise with anyone facing such uncertainty. The Guardian gave four examples of desperate people affected by the housing crisis.  We feel that The Guardian are intent on making out that because of the use of Section 21 by Landlords, there can clearly be no fault (because they call it a no fault eviction) and therefore they are putting the blame on using this method on unscrupulous Landlords. What these commentators forget is that “no fault” means that the Landlord does not have to provide the reason (or fault) for serving the Section 21, it does not mean there isn’t one!

Kelsie and Shaun  – They were living in privately owned accommodation, but fell behind with their rent and were served with a Section 21 eviction notice.  Surely, any self respecting journalist would have wanted to learn the level of arrears that Kelsie and Shaun had run up, wouldn’t they?  If they “fell behind with their rent” then isn’t this some kind of “fault”, and not the Landlords! Is a Landlord expected not to act when rent arrears occur?

Tim:  It is clearly stated that Tim could not afford the Rent, but it looks like the Landlord is being blamed for acting.  Once again, wouldn’t it have been fair to have some balance and to find out from the Landlord what the level of arrears was before the Landlord acted on serving the tenant with the notice, I think there’s a bigger story here!

Siaron:   The Guardian journalist states that Siaron was served a Section 21 Notice in yet another attempt to make out that it was through no fault of her own, but again we only have one side of the story, the tenants side, we don’t have the Landlords so how do we know that the tenant wasn’t at fault ?

Pauline:

Pauline has lived in nine houses in six years and has been in five houses since her youngest was born!  Is it unreasonable to assume that Pauline has a problem with keeping herself and her kids in a property and that nine landlords (nine properties) can’t simply be “picking on Pauline”.  There has to be a reason why she has lived in nine houses in six years, could it be possible that Pauline is herself to blame for her evictions?   On the face of it, this story smacks of a chaotic lifestyle rather than anything remotely do do with “No Fault Evictions”

With Pauline, the Guardian journalist stated  “The family was evicted from one private house on a Section 21 notice and had just a fortnight to get out” This simply cannot be true, as anybody who has any understanding of Housing Law knows (and if you are reporting on it, you really should!) a Section 21 Notice must provide the tenant with at least two months notice and it cannot beak a fixed term tenancy.  Even when the notice has expired after two months, the landlord cannot gain possession without a court order so where on earth does this journalist get their two weeks notice period from? I suspect this journalist has the Section 21Notice mixed up with a Section 8 Notice, which does provide for two weeks notice and this is due only because of arrears of eight weeks or more, so just maybe Pauline was served with a Section 8 Notice because of her rent arrears, it’s a high probability and that then would not be “no fault”, but it’s yet another example of extremely bad journalism!

In all of these examples, there appears to be no attempt to balance the subject matter by contacting any of the Landlords for their comments. Why wouldn’t they want the Landlord to put their side of the story and in particular the reasons why a Section 21 has been used, or was it?  As anybody who is a Landlord knows, there is very rarely such a thing as a “No Fault Eviction” but you get the feeling that the journalist writing here would not care less about that “minor detail”.

What is happening is a concerted effort by certain politicians and journalists to abolish Section 21, alongside a concerted effort by the same people to alienate Private Landlords and paint all of them as bad and unscrupulous people and to portray all Tenants as victims.

In my experience, the vast majority of Landlords who serve a Section 21 Notice to gain possession do so because they have been left with no other choice. Faced with the complications of Section 8, where many breaches of the tenancy are solely down to the courts discretion, Landlords must look to a guaranteed method to bring to an end a tenancy they no longer wish to provide. We will be in a very dangerous position if politicians and journalists start to dictate to private businesses and private individuals when they can and cannot take ownership of their own private assets, why would anyone even want to be in a business like that?

The most amazing thing about this article is how immediately it contradicts itself, stating that Landlords are using a “No Fault” eviction process to evict tenants with, guess what? Rent Arrears, so who’s fault is that, the Landlords?

Martin O’Hearne

CEO OneLandlord.com