At Shelter, we do all we can to stand up for renters’ rights. But we know that landlords also face their fair share of problems. Ultimately we want to see a private rental market that works for both landlords and renters.
That’s why, at the beginning of the year Shelter went to visit Landlord Action, a landlord advice and solicitor firm. We wanted to understand more about the problems landlords faced. During this visit we found that there was a lot of common ground on the issues we believed needed fixing. Below, Paul- the Founder of Landlord Action- shares his experience.
Paul Shamplina, Founder, Landlord Action
Since 1999, when I started Landlord Action, we have worked with thousands of landlords, handling their disputes with tenants. In this time I have seen the market grow considerably. The main problem we now face is the lack of new, affordable supply and the Social Housing crisis.
We have dealt with a vast range of landlords, including property companies, small landlord investors, and amateur landlords who have come into the market place in the last 5 or 6 years. Some of the amateur landlords we have acted for have ended up being a landlord by accident. They were unable to sell their property, so rented it out instead. I always encourage these amateur landlords to use an accredited letting agent, as generally we find that they do not have time to manage their property themselves, or are not up to speed with the regulation. Cost is an issue to some landlords especially if they are on tight margins.
We have come across rogue landlords in some of the cases we have acted on, where they simply have not undertaken repairs, or have been harassing the tenants. This- rightly- can cause a lot of problems for them at court. There have even been some instances where a tenant has issued an injunction against the landlord.
We deal with approximately 80 hearings a month all over England and Wales. Some courts are better than others. However, the process is often tortuous. The problem is usually a lack of court staff to deal with the administration of the case, or that judges are under pressure for time, so they adjourn cases too quickly. Generally a case can take 4 to 5 months and we do have a lot of desperate landlords who are struggling to pay the mortgage because the tenant has failed to pay the rent.
Recently, we have seen a huge rise in Section 21 eviction cases, where tenants are being advised by their local council to stay in the property until the landlord obtains a possession order and eviction date. I believe this is because of the shortage of social housing. We are also seeing an increase in cases being brought against housing benefit claimants who have fallen into arrears. This is largely in response to recent changes to the benefit system, which are leaving renters- and ultimately landlords- out of pocket.
The government recently announced that they will be exploring the issue of ‘retaliatory eviction’. They proposed that, if a tenant files a complaint with the council about disrepair, the landlord should not be allowed to serve a section 21 eviction notice, until the repairs have been carried out. Quite rightly the tenant should expect the property to be in a reasonable condition to live in, and to have peaceful enjoyment in their home. However, there does need to be a very clear mandate about what will be deemed reasonable or unreasonable with regard to the works to be carried out; I have seen occasional instances of tenants damaging a property on purpose. I do also have some concerns about whether environmental health officers will have the capacity to support this processes. The £6.5 million the government has set aside to support local authorities will not be enough.
Since meeting Shelter on the Improving Eviction Processes Working Group, I have had them attend my office, so they can understand the landlord’s perspective when rent is not paid or a tenant is not vacating a property. I think it is good to engage and see both sides of the issue and to get a better understanding, so I’m happy to be a guest blogger for Shelter.