It’s a topic I have spoken about many times before, but sadly it doesn’t appear to be improving. Councils are still being forced to respond to Britain’s housing crisis by telling tenants who have been asked to leave by their landlords, to stay put until they are evicted. In many cases, landlords are left with thousands of pounds of rent arrears and legal costs, as will be shown on this week’s episode of ‘Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords’ (Monday 24 June, 9pm, Channel 5,).
Landlord Action was recently appointed by IT sales consultant, Dale Prime-Holder. He came to Landlord Action desperately seeking help on behalf of his elderly mother, whose tenant had stopped paying rent for over a year but was refusing to leave the property. They had also discovered that the tenant had moved her daughter, her daughter’s partner and their child into the property.
The rent arrears had reached in excess of £10,000 and Dale’s Mother could no longer afford to wait. I felt particularly saddened when she told me that she felt extremely guilty for having to go down the eviction route and really didn’t want to go resort to court proceedings, but felt like she had no choice as she had been using her own pension money to pay for various bills at the property.
On the flip side of this story is the tenant. Dale’s mother had used a reputable letting agent who had carried out all the necessary referencing checks. Unfortunately, referencing cannot predict someone falling into unforeseen financial difficulties. Dale’s mother found 62 letters addressed to the tenant, nearly all of which were chasing money.
As the population has swelled due to people living longer and immigration, the country’s housing stock has failed to grow at the same pace. The resulting imbalance – and the exorbitant rise in house prices, particularly in the south – has pushed rents higher.
It has become very difficult for those on lower incomes to find suitable properties when they try to move, and many are turning to local authorities for help.
But those who approach the council are being told they cannot get local authority assistance unless they are homeless, and so should stay in privately rented properties until they are forced out by bailiffs.
On the day of the eviction, the tenant had already left the property before the bailiffs arrived. Then, suddenly she appeared after realising she needed a letter from the bailiffs to prove to the council that she had been evicted. At this point, the tenant apologised to Dale’s mother. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.
The councils say they will work with households to avoid eviction yet contradict this by advising that if tenants walk away from the property, they have a legal right to stay in, then the council has no obligation to find them housing. Local authorities only have a duty to rehouse them in emergency circumstances – and that is only when the bailiffs are at the door.
Both landlords and tenants are trapped by this system and something needs to change. What’s more, many landlords use a ‘non-fault’ Section 21 notice to evict tenants and forfeit reclaiming rent arrears, which in many ways is to the benefit of the tenant. If the government abolishes Section 21, tenants who fall into rent arrears and are served a Section 8 notice, may found it more difficult to be re-housed.
Watch Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords on Channel 5, Mondays at 9pm