We did not have a Newsround last week as it was our annual Conference day. So a fair amount to get through today.
The End of Section 21
Improving the courts?
There has been a lot of discussion about the problems that will arise if section 21, the no-fault procedure for eviction tenants, is abolished and I suspect the government may be taken aback by all the clamour.
The Housing Minister has in response to this pledged to make changes to speed up the ability of landlords to repossess properties for legitimate reasons “by making other parts of the system perform better”, and to do this before section 21 is abolished.
Well, good luck to her on that. I have been making a few suggestions but I doubt whether it is really possible to substantially improve the eviction process. The main problem with the courts is a chronic lack of funding. So bad is it that it is actually threatening the entire justice system. There is not a lot Heather Wheeler can do about that.
There is a lot on the web about angry landlord re-actions to the potential loss of section 21. For example, this post reports the new Landlord Alliance saying that because of this, none of its members will now accept benefit tenants.
Naturally, we will be accused of discrimination. This is a red herring.
The Government is now on the cusp of a crisis because who will house benefit tenants.
Last year we attempted to get Shelter the housing charity who house nobody, to bond benefit tenants. Shelter refused but pushed to get s21 scrapped.
Landlords up and down the land will now turn their back on social tenants and this crisis has been manufactured by Shelter and this failed government.
Dr Rosalind Beck, an academic and landlord activist, said
This is the most radical anti-landlord measure yet proposed by a Government desperate to get the ‘tenant vote.
“It would mean us handing over our properties to strangers (aka tenants), granting them indefinite tenancies and only being able to get our property back if certain specific conditions are met – conditions that the Government will decide on and on which realistically we will have no say.
It is an incredible attack on private property rights, which are a foundation stone of any democracy.
Well, that is what happened under the Rent Acts in the 1970s where rented accommodation dropped from about 80% of households to about 8% as described in my history post here.
Paul Shamplina, the founder of Landlord Action the eviction firm has written to Heather Wheeler inviting her to his offices to gain a greater understanding of the possession process before making changes. I wonder if she will accept?
Nearly half of landlords likely to leave the market?
This is what is being predicted by a survey carried out by the Residential Landlords Association reported here. Almost 6,500 landlords responded.
40% of landlords answered that they were waiting on learning government plans although 79% of those with experience of the court process considered it to be unreliable. There was strong support for a specialist housing court and for changes to the stamp duty level.
I think it is highly likely that many landlords will leave if section 21 goes as I don’t think changes to section 8 will provide the peace of mind they currently have with section 21.
David Smith, the RLA’s policy director, said:
Security of tenure means nothing unless the homes to rent are there in the first place.
With the demand for private rented housing showing no signs of slowing down, it is vital that landlords are confident that they can quickly and easily get back their property in legitimate circumstances.
Whilst the system should clearly be fair to tenants, it needs also to support and encourage good landlords.
Our survey shows how complex it will be to ensure that the grounds on which landlords can repossess properties are both clear and comprehensive.
This needs to be underpinned by a court system that is fit for purpose and properly resourced. At present, it is neither.
David also pointed out in this blog post for the RLA that axing section 21 does not mean homes for all.
I can’t help feeling that the government started this on a whim, thinking it would be a cheap way to get tenant votes and have now found that they have bitten off more than they can chew. True, section 21 is in many ways ‘evil‘ and the whole system needs to be considered and revised, but I don’t think that now, with Brexit looming over everything, and the government in chaos, is a good time to do it.
Changes should only be made after a proper and wide-reaching review, such as the Renting Homes project carried out by the Law Commission and published in 2006.
Tenant Fees Act issues
We also must not forget that the Tenant Fees Act is due to come into force in a weeks time.
This could prove catastrophic for agents (assuming it is enforced property which is by no means certain) and some are already predicting that letting agent fees for landlords will rise steeply as a result.
Landlords wishing to self-manage could consider using Landlord Law – that’s what it is for.
Tenant accident climbing security gates
Even tenants of posh properties have problems.
The tenant of a £1 million Hampstead flat, Carlos Reguero Perez, had an accident when the security gates to his property became operational and he was unable to get in as the agents Savills had not given him a key. He decided to climb the gates but lost his footing and fell heavily on concrete. He is now suing the agents, Savills for £100,000 compensation for his injuries, which were pretty severe.
Savills deny liability saying that they had no role in installing the gates, had not been told when they would become operational and indeed had not been given access codes. Mr Perez should have arranged to stay overnight elsewhere and then contacted them in the morning.
The Judge, however, refused to strike the case out and it will now proceed to a full trial. It will be interesting to hear the result. Does an agent owe their tenants a duty of care in these circumstances?
- The Government has issued guidance to local authorities on the enforcement of mandatory client money protection
- There is also new guidance on right to rent checks after Brexit
- A new Section 21 Form 6 notice will need to be used after 1 June.
- Nearly Legal reports on errors in the Government Guidance documents stemming from a failure to update the legislation website and how this has resulted in injustice.
- There is also an interesting report on adding service charges to an AST
- The Welsh Fees ban will go live on 1 September
- NALS is changing its name to operate as safeagent.
- Property Redress Scheme annual report shows an increase in complaints is driven by increased awareness of redress
Newsround will be back next week.