There are bad landlords out there, just as there are rogues in every walk of life. And their bad practices need to be stopped, but should the findings of one report and actions of a few affect the whole industry?

In a bid to stop what have been called “revenge evictions”, MP Sarah Teather has introduced a private members bill to prevent bad landlords from evicting, or threatening to evict, tenants when they ask for repairs. The Government has recently announced that it is backing the bill in principle.

The rationale

Shelter has been pushing for this for some time. In March 2014 they conducted a study with British Gas and found that 200,000 faced eviction because they asked for repairs and that 8% of the UK’s 9 million private renters are afraid to complain.

According to Ms Teather, the main problem is in London, where 7% of private tenants have this concern, as opposed to 2% across the country. The figure rises to 17% for some migrant renters.

The counter-argument

The National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) are concerned about how Shelter’s findings are being used: the RLA has commented that they “ignored the inconvenient truths”.

The RLA says that, if the Shelter figures are correct, then 200,000 out of 9 million is 2%, perhaps not a problem of the scale Shelter claims.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show that there were 37,739 repossessions in 2013, which represents 0.5% of both the private AND public rental market.

The RLA also comments that Shelter’s figures don’t say how many tenants were evicted because:

  • They were not paying rent on time
  • The tenancy was coming to a close
  • The landlord wanted possession to refurbish the property
  • Of anti-social behaviour

The solution?

The Government has already given councils £6.7 million to tackle the problem of rogue landlords and in the last 7 month, 23 councils have inspected more than 6,700 properties and 1,700 landlords are facing further action or prosecution.

Would this be a more effective approach rather than introducing yet more legislation, and potentially putting prospective landlords off? There is already a housing crisis, so do we really want to discourage private landlords?

My thoughts

I think the MoJ statistics on actual evictions do demonstrate that the problem is smaller than is being made out and that those rogue landlords could be handled in a way that does not discourage property owners from renting.

Whilst threatening tenants with eviction is easy, actually evicting them is a little more involved. I have written before about regular delays of 12 to 16 weeks before County Court bailiffs are able to repossess property.

While many landlords are using Section 42 to request permission to transfer their possession order to the High Court for enforcement, I strongly believe that landlords should be able to transfer up without court permission, as is the case with orders and judgments for money.

The National Landlords Association chief executive Richard Lambert has commented that:

“Courts are already at bursting point and unable to deal with the volume of housing issues we have and this will only add to that burden.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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