The government’s Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper has initially caused some consternation and a strong adverse reaction from some within the residential lettings industry.
Among the things causing the most “horror” is the abolition of the “no fault” eviction, where a landlord or letting agent serves a “section 21” notice on the tenant telling them to quit. There doesn’t have to be a reason other than the landlord wanting to serve the notice, and some have branded this as an easy way to get rid of “difficult” tenants. Those same tenants regard a section 21 eviction as a vicious reaction from a “difficult” landlord who doesn’t want to fix faults. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
It has to be asked why a landlord would want to remove a perfectly good tenant for no reason. At present, a section 21 is an easy answer to a sometimes difficult question and rather than raising an issue about a tenant being bad, which might prevent them finding a new home and moving out, maybe it’s easier to have a no-fault eviction so some other hapless landlord can take them on and subsequently find out what lay behind the move.
The new rules will still allow a landlord to repossess a property and remove a tenant under certain defined circumstances and hopefully these will be enough to do the job. Impossible tenants will still find themselves on the wrong end of an eviction order while other landlords will know why they have left their previous home and be forewarned about taking them on.
The new rules do not say you have to let to a prospective tenant even though they do say that tenants being on benefits, having children, or owning a pet can no longer be blanket reasons for refusing to let to tenants in such circumstances.
The immediate reaction to the news about benefits was an objection because tenants would take on properties they cannot afford and therefore build up arrears. But if the proper financial referencing is carried out before the tenancy is granted then these issues should be flagged up.
There’s also an issue about all tenants being moved onto a single system of periodic tenancies, which the government says mean “they can leave poor quality housing without remaining liable for the rent or move more easily when their circumstances change.”
There’s something to be said for this in an age of social mobility. Tenants do not necessarily want to be tied to one place and one of the reasons they rent is so they can up sticks and move to a better paid job elsewhere. It’s a luxury many homeowners would love to have but they are restricted by the time it takes to move home.
In other economies, where home ownership is less highly regarded and the housing ladder is something you use to clean the windows or decorate the stair well, social mobility is much easier. In the UK we have been conditioned to use home ownership as a means of living in a space that brings unearned and untaxed income in the form of ascending values. One way to stop this is for people to lessen their ambition to own a house and rent instead, a situation faced by many young people.
They don’t own a house or a car, are happy to rent or hire, and spend their money on living the life they want.
Good luck to them and here’s the opportunity for lettings agents. Instead of panicking your landlords into leaving the rental sector, embrace these changes and become the efficient lettings agent who keeps on top of issues and maintains records of all that occurs so, should an eviction be necessary, the evidence is there.
*Colin Shairp is Director at Fine and Country Southern Hampshire and Town and Country Southern estate agencies, Drayton