In recent months especially in the last week a barrage of articles in the main stream media have blamed landlords for homelessness.
To put it bluntly some of these articles we argue are not accurate.
In the last 3 days from 7 articles we have given below only 3 by way of example.
Landlords are not at blame for homelessness, but it is government housing policy that is causing homelessness and homelessness will increase unless ministers acknowledge the problem and its reason.
Demonising landlords and trying to introduce 3 years minimum tenancy will only create more homelessness.
We suspect the above articles were to get support for the government’s proposal 3-year minimum tenancy periods for private landlords.
It’s not rocket science if the local authority had enough housing than there would be no homeless crisis. Recent governments have made wonderful noises regarding plans for more social housing. This as we know has not fully materialised.
Many British Landlords Association members are reeling in anger at headings like “Hundreds of families are being made homeless for no reason”. Landlords are bemused at these reports and for good reason.
To find out why landlords are bemused we need to go down memory lane and get some facts.
Margaret Thatcher introduced the housing Act 1988 came into force 15 January 1989. The reason; This Act was to give private landlords and investors’ confidence that they could get their property back at the end of the fixed term of the tenancy. This was true provided the landlord had complied with the mode of granting an Assured shorthold tenancy “AST”.
The other reason why our late Prime minister championed the Housing Act 1988 was that it would alleviate the pressure on our local councils.
Sadly, this Act in practice had some gremlins and was causing problems for landlords and our courts. The very foundation that landlords could get there property back after the fixed term was not working knocking the confidence for landlords and investors. let me explain this….
The 1988 Housing Act said that all AST’s must be in writing and further the landlord must serve before or at granting of the AST a section 20 notice. If the landlord failed to do this the AST would not be an AST it would be deemed in an “Assured” tenancy.
The problems landlords faced the section 20 notice was a counter notice no requirement for the tenant to sign it. You just gave the notice to the tenant.
Upon the landlord requiring their property back some landlords found the tenants erecting a false defence that they never received a section 20 notice (not to be confused with a section 21 notice).
If the landlord could not provide evidence that the section 20 notice was given to the tenant landlords faced a real prospect that the tenancy would from an AST now in law be deemed an “Assured” tenancy.
Assured tenancy meant the landlord could never get vacant possession of their property under section 21. The value of the property was generally 30% less than market value due to having an assured tenant in the property.
This spooked many landlords and did not instil confidence in the residential letting market. The government stepped in and rectified this gremlin when the housing Act 1996 was introduced. The 1996 HA turned the problems of the 1988 HA on its head. The HA 1996 said that each tenancy shall be an AST unless expressly otherwise stated in writing. The HA 1996 also said it was no longer an express requirement to have a written tenancy as an AST could now be an oral tenancy. The HA 1996 also dispensed with the requirement for landlords to serve the section 20 notice.
As can be seen the government of the day took positive steps to instil confidence in the residential letting market which in turn gave the economy a boost.
The government of today has destroyed the confidence in the letting market. The promise you didn’t need to worry you could let your property out and after the expiry of the fixed term you could get your property back is no longer true.
When a landlord now wishes to get there property back they face the potential risk of the following defences under section 21;
- Retaliatory eviction
- Deposit was not protected
- Deposit was protected but tenant claims he / she did not receive the deposit certificate.
- Deposit was protected but tenant claims he /she did not receive the deposit prescribed information
- The gas safety certificate was not given to the tenant before or at the time of granting the tenancy……. the list goes on
Confidence is further dented with the latest court ruling; if a landlord did not give the tenant(s) a gas safety certificate before or at the time of granting an AST than the landlord will never be able to obtain possession under section 21.
Under rules introduced by the Immigration Act 2016 landlords in the private rented sector must check prospective tenants have the right to live in the country and face a fine or prison term for knowingly letting a property to a disqualified person.
So, all the above in the mix how do landlords feel?
The British Landlords Association commissioned a very simply survey to ask landlords who are evicting their tenant under section 21 if they;
- Intend to re-let their property?
The companies participating in the survey where national tenant eviction companies (1) Hector & Finch (2) Regency Law (3) Landlord Advice UK.
- Intend to re-let their property? Average 61.3% said they would be selling the property *average calculated from data from the 3 companies and was from 120 clients per company.
Landlords are not causing homelessness government policy hitherto is causing homelessness. Homelessness will continue to rise unless council’s start building more social housing or central government make radical changes in housing law.
Many people through divorce, death (probate), financial or job due to their circumstances let out their property for a short term. There comes a time they need to sell with the money buy somewhere else.
3-year minimum tenancy proposals will put these individual souls seeking to sort out their lives and finances under strain. Some people want to let for a short period and they should have that right and that right should continue to be protected.
We must not forget the HA 1996 also turned on its head the minimum period of 6 months tenancy and dispensed with this too (unless for possession).
Our current government must understand the reasons why some important key elements of the HA 1988 was changed by HA 1996. If they do not we will fail to protect one of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Three-year minimum tenancies will be another factor leading to more homelessness.
Author; S Ahmad, British Landlords Association
Aspects of the HA 1988 and HA 1996 hereinabove are very brief snippets and condensed. Landlords and tenants should seek legal advice and not rely on condensed version.