Are landlords really out for revenge?

Richard Price, Executive Director of UKALA outlines the flaws with the Tenancies (Reform) Bill and the issue of so called ‘revenge’ evictions.

Revenge: noun – the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. Retaliate: verb – make an attack in return for a similar attack.

The Tenancies (Reform) Bill is being debated again in parliament soon and it seems to have quite a bit of political support. You may only know it by its media alias; the ‘Revenge’ or ‘Retaliatory’ Evictions Bill.

The terms ‘revenge’ or ‘retaliatory’, as seen in the definitions above, are entirely the kind of emotive language we expect campaigners to use in order to gain more traction, but in my experience the idea that landlords or their agents are out to exact revenge on customers is utterly ludicrous.

Tenants must be able to raise issues with their landlord or agent without the fear of losing their home, and the act of evicting for this reason is unacceptable. The culprits of such unscrupulous practice are borderline criminal.

Confusion

The Bill fails to differentiate between so called revenge evictions and no fault possessions. They are two completely different things and should not be confused. A no fault possession procedure used to end a tenancy is, in the vast majority of cases, the final resort, not a response to a request for repairs or because landlords or their agents are out for revenge.

The Bill proposes to invalidate the use of a no fault possession if a local authority notice has been issued. Sounds simple. But what landlord or agent when faced with a local authority notice (which they must comply with anyway) would risk a void by evicting a tenant? It makes no business sense. The kinds of rogue operator who evicts in an attempt to avoid making a repair is more likely to rely on bully boy tactics to force a tenant to leave rather than through the Courts. This won’t change, so the impact the Bill will have on the problem is negligible.

What does it mean for agents?

As already mentioned, the changes would mean landlords or agents would be unable to serve a no fault possession if a local authority notice had been issued, presumably after a complaint from a tenant. However, this could be easily exploited for example through vexatious claims from tenants in order to delay the evictions process, meaning potential lengthy delays in regaining possession. This would be particularly galling in the cases of removing anti-social tenants in shared housing. After all, their swift removal is for the benefit of other tenants, not landlords or agents, and a no fault possession removes the need for others to appear in court or give evidence; something many are often reluctant to do for fear of reprisals.

Above all, the Bill seeks to fundamentally alter a landlord’s or agent’s ability to end a tenancy promptly, without any real rational or evidence base to support the need. It’s simply not a proportionate response and the fact remains that investors need the surety of being able to regain possession of their property promptly if needed. It’s not rocket science.

A lack of evidence for change

The only thing the Bill is likely to tackle is the perception of the ‘worst case scenario’, which is not the experience of the majority of tenants. Unfortunately, we see examples from campaigners and in the media which highlights the issue. However, a lack of compelling evidence to support the changes proposed in the Bill is an inconvenient truth, and an argument lost when faced with the kind of emotive case studies featured in such coverage. Case closed. Guilty as charged.

At UKALA and the NLA, we call it pantomime politics; policies designed to turn heads, fuelled by a mainstream media who are fascinated with perceived good versus evil. It seems this is yet another example of policy based on the negative minority.

For UKALA, the issue remains: landlords and their agents should have the right to possession if needed, and we don’t believe that the changes will make one bit of difference to the problems that a minority of tenants sadly experience. Furthermore, it seriously risks unnerving landlords, agents and the financial institutions that fuel the buy to let market and much needed investment in homes for the future. That can’t be good for anyone.

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