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Our regular weekly roundup of news items that interested us. This week we focus on various calls to abolish section 21 as well as a look at some of the hidden affects of the Covid pandemic which are being brought to light.

Shelter accused of Scaremongering ahead of renters reform bill

Shelter this week have been accused of scaremongering by NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle in their latest attempt to force the abolishment of section 21.

Shelter claimed that a private renter has been handed a section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice every seven minutes in England since 2019. In addition, shelter also claims that landlords ‘kick out’ tenants using this kind of possession route on a whim.

Shelter are commenting on this in light of the Government’s proposal to remove section 21 in the new renters reform bill. However, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA was critical of Shelter’s claims saying:

Shelter needs to stop its campaign of scaremongering. The vast majority of landlords do not spend their time plotting ways to get rid of their tenants for no reason. Official data shows that fewer than 10 per cent of tenants who move do so because they are asked to by their landlord or letting agent. Likewise, the number of cases coming to court as a result of Section 21 notices has been falling since 2015.

Mr Beadle has also stated that the new system of evictions must strike the right balance between landlords and tenants.

How tenants exploited the eviction ban to avoid rent

In another story, it is claimed that some tenants have deliberately taken advantage of the eviction ban during the pandemic to run up huge rent arrears bills, even though they could actually afford to pay.

The article cites the case of a practising doctor who owes £42,000, and a case where a landlord was able to recover £14,950.  We ourselves spoke to a pensioner during the pandemic who told us that his tenants were not only failing to pay any rent, but had invited all their friends to come and share their ‘free accommodation’.

In the past landlord’s tended to waive rent arrears after recovering possession, but it now seems that now (in view of the horrendous arrears and blatant behaviour by some tenants) this is no longer the case.  Landlord Action report that the number of landlords chasing tenants for rental debts has increased by 180%.

Airbnb calls for the end of section 21

Short term letting company Airbnb have this week vowed to remove landlords from its platform if they unlawfully evict tenants. However, a spokeswoman for the company has said that Airbnb have been powerless to stop this in the UK due to section 21 ‘no fault evictions’.

In a rather strange statement by Spokeswoman Amanda Cupples, she reflected:

At the moment there are very few illegal evictions that we can take action against because they are done legally using Section 21.

Airbnb has been criticised over the past few years for depleting the private rented sector in tourist hot spots.  An example of this is in Devon, where 70% of the stock has moved over to holiday lets. However, Airbnb have this week launched their ‘Healthy Tourism Commitment’ in response to this. The commitment includes calls for:

  • The creation of a UK-wide short lets landlord register
  • The introduction of local tourism taxes to help permanent residents benefit from living in a tourism hotspot

‘Holes’ in Welsh Reform Act despite it being in force in less than three months

This week, David Smith, a Partner at JMW solicitors has argued that the Welsh Government has underestimated the work required for such a radical change in housing law as the Renting Homes Act, which is to take effect on July 15 2022.

The Government’s committee meeting this week failed to alleviate any of the worries landlords have regarding the bill.  And failed to find a solution to fill many of the gaps that are still present in the legislation.

David Smith highlighted the legacy side of the Renting Homes Act saying:

There is nothing that will allow Section 8 and Section 21 notices issued now to carry over beyond 15th July, despite the Welsh government saying on their FAQ pages that they will carry over

The next committee meeting is scheduled for early May, which is hoped by all, to be more fruitful in providing answers to this and other crucial points.

Note that Tessa is developing extensive guidance for Landlord Law members on the new Welsh legislation, some of which is already online, and will also be providing contracts.  Find out more about our Welsh work in our series of articles – the most recent is here.

Pandemic revealed weakness in the ‘rent to rent’ sector

This week, the annual report from the property redress scheme (PRS) has shown the inherent weakness of the ‘rent to rent’ model (where people rent a property, not to live in, but to sublet to other tenants), with the PRS receiving more complaints about ‘rent to rent’ than in any other rented sector during the pandemic.

It seems that rent to rent businesses and landlords have been hit the hardest by rent arrears caused by the covid pandemic. Third-party firms, as well as agents, have left their ‘rent to rent’ landlords high and dry as many of them become unable to afford the costs due to tenant rent arrears. Making many ‘rent to rent’ arrangements uneconomic. This has led to a spike in complaints by landlords within this sector.

Sean Hooker, head of Redress at the PRS said:

Many of these (rent-to-rent) businesses struggled during lockdown and the increase in rent arrears that resulted during the pandemic led to a lot of problems

The full PRS report can be read here.

See also our video here which explains some of the issues.

Landlords’ face increased bills for maintenance & repairs

Callum Lee, of Adam Lee Property maintenance, has this week said that one of the lesser known affects of the pandemic on the sector is that landlords are now more frequently having to complete maintenance and repair jobs on their properties. It is likely this is due to tenants being in their homes more, as more and more people are now working from home.

Mr Lee said:

we’ve never been busier as tenants are spending more time working from home and noticing when things go wrong.

However, Mr Lee has also said that he is grateful to landlords, who despite this upsurge in their maintenance bill, have often been more than open to agreeing to get the work done.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

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