Another Friday another Newsround. What have we for you?
Unworkable eviction hearings?
As courts are gearing up to start dealing with the huge backlog of possession claims from the end of June, questions are being raised about the practicality of virtual hearings for eviction cases.
The big problem is access for tenants to duty solicitors for help. This is really important and many tenant’s homes have been saved by the duty solicitor schemes.
However, how can this function if courts are operating virtually? Many poor and vulnerable tenants will not even have computers.
Housing solicitor Sue James, of Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre, said
The duty solicitor is an essential component in achieving proper access to justice for those losing their home and assisting often some of the most vulnerable in our community.
The last thing we need right now are more evictions – taking away the duty solicitor will almost certainly mean that.
Also, if remote, how does the court know the reason for the defendant not “turning up”? Clients facing possession proceedings often have welfare benefit problems which means they are on very low incomes. They may also lack computers to access the court remotely or to have data or credit on their phones.
Remote hearings for duty possession cases are not workable.
It’s hard to see how this problem can be resolved other than, maybe, by volunteers visiting defendant tenants in their homes to investigate and offer help.
No-one seems to have suggested this, no doubt because the massive problem of finding volunteers willing to risk the exposure to infection means it is an almost impossible task.
But maybe it should be considered? What about those huge numbers of volunteers for the NHS services. Couldn’t some of them help? Maybe they could be used by courts to personally deliver notices of hearings.
Otherwise, we may be faced with a massive homelessness spike, Which is not what anyone wants.
Help for students?
As we have written before, students are angry that they are being expected to pay rent for student accommodation when their courses have moved online. But are they actually entitled to a refund?
An article on LandordZONE says
Guidance on consumer contracts hit by COVID-19 issued by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) – the body responsible for protecting consumers from unfair trading practices – says in most cases, businesses should offer refunds where a consumer isn’t allowed to use a service as a result of lockdown restrictions.
The CMA has confirmed to LandlordZONE that its guidance could apply to suppliers of student accommodation. It adds: “In most cases, the CMA would expect a full refund to be offered if a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services.
I can see how this could apply to accommodation provided by the Universities and Colleges themselves but am doubtful if it could apply to student accommodation provided by private landlords. As they are not the ones providing the training.
The ‘goods and services’ provided by them is the accommodation – which remains available. They have no control over the delivery of college and university training.
NRLA Policy director Chris Norris told LandlordZONE:
Coronavirus doesn’t preclude any tenant from continuing to live in the property they rent. When lockdown restrictions were introduced it was for individuals to choose where that would be. For students, maintenance loans continue to be paid to cover rents and universities are providing hardship loans for those who might need extra support.
We shall have to see.
Finally, funding to remove unsafe cladding
Nearly three years after the terrible Grenfell Fire caused largely by unsafe cladding on the building, the government has stepped in to provide a £1 billion Building Safety Fund.
This will be a great relief to private owners of flats in affected buildings. The value of their properties had plummeted due to the heavy costs of cladding removal and replacement which they were exposed to.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:
I will not accept any excuses from building owners who have yet to take action and those responsible should register for the fund so that they can start the remediation process immediately.
It would be nice if this could draw a line under this sorry story.
However, some are claiming that this funding will not be sufficient and that there are other types of cladding which are also dangerous and which will need removal and replacement. So the story will continue.
Cleaning up the Property Wealth Education Sector
I was pleased to hear that steps are being taken to help people choose reputable investment training by the launch of the Property Educators Accreditation Scheme (PEAS) – which will have a proper complaint system with adjudication from the Property Redress Scheme.
Many, many people have lost money they could ill afford to lose by signing up to expensive training which then failed to deliver.
If the training relates to ‘rent to rent’ then some of the nightmare scenarios that can ensue are set out by David Smith in this talk from a couple of years ago.
I have noticed quite a few ‘earn substantial sums from property with no money down’ type emails coming into my inbox in recent weeks. Please be very careful about responding to this sort of thing and check to see if they are accredited.
A request for furlough freedom
An open letter has been written to the Chancellor from a group representing group we represent estate agents, lawyers, search agents, valuers, surveyors, energy assessors and removal companies, asking for employers to be able to move their staff in and out of furlough on a weekly basis rather than the current three-weekly basis.
You can read the letter in full here.
- What are tenants asking Google?
- Warning issued as thefts take place in agency branches as a result of social distancing rules
- Islington Council approves key property licensing schemes, but without start date
- New Gov’t advice: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Energy Performance Certificates
- Former shadow chancellor urges tenants to break legally binding rental contracts
- Lettings agents must sign up for AML checks as HMRC fixes registration system
- BSI publishes UK Safe Working Guidelines
- Landlords heavily exposed to young renters most at risk of losing their job
- London mayor launches initiative to tackle illegal evictions, rental scams and sub-tenancies
- Courts ‘could come under pressure’ to hear complicated possession cases quickly
Newsround will be back next week