With the stay on possession claims about to lift there have been some wildly varying opinions written about what may result.
Shelter, on one side, is claiming that hundreds of thousand of renters are in imminent peril of losing their homes. The National Residential Landlords Association, on the other hand, has done an excellent job of very vocally challenging Shelter’s claims.
Here are two more views. One from a well known London agent who see boths sides of the letting coin. The other from a writer who, it must be said, does not seem to much like the concept of landord and tenant.
Director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr.
“Many will have found themselves in financial trouble due to the current pandemic, with some unable to pay their rent as a result and there’s no doubt this is a terrible situation to be in.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t the responsibility of UK landlords to take this financial hit on behalf of their tenants and to expect them to continue to is somewhat unfair, considering they have already done so for some months having had no choice in the matter.
“Those tenants who have found themselves in financial hardship due to the coronavirus have now had time to seek alternative living arrangements without the pressure of eviction. In any other scenario, it’s unlikely they would have been afforded this luxury.
“It’s also incredibly unfair not to consider the landlord in this scenario as many are reliant on rental payments in order to survive and have had no choice but to swallow this loss of income due to the eviction ban.
“Of course, there will always be a few unscrupulous landlords wanting to evict their tenants, but the reality is that the vast majority of landlords have been working with their tenants to reach an agreement that suits all parties, in what has been a tough few months for all. So the reports that many will now end up without a home are perhaps a tad exaggerated at the very least.
“In contrast, some landlords have been held to ransom by unsavoury tenants who have seen an opportunity to play the game knowing they can’t be evicted.
“We have one tenant who fell into arrears before the pandemic and was afforded the necessary grace periods in which to sort themselves out. With the ban introduced soon after, they now keep stating to both the landlord and us ‘go and speak to Boris, I don’t have to leave’.
“In this instance, the landlord is already £50,000 out of pocket and while the end of the eviction ban means he can now start proceedings, given the backlog, he is unlikely to even get a court date for three if not four months.
“Then if he gets an eviction date it is likely to take another three or four months to get the bailiffs in, so he may have to wait up to eight months to get his property back and by then he will be another £50,000 out of pocket.
“This will be an issue that will now plague the rental market for many months and as ever, landlords are the ones getting hit by ill-thought-out initiatives
“As with most aspects of current life, returning to normality isn’t an easy process and there are no quick fixes in many cases. However, return to reality we must and removing the ban on rental evictions is the next, necessary step in doing this within the property industry.”
Meanwhile, and with a rather different take on the situation, on the website Open Democracy, Jacob Stringer, a housing researcher and campaigner, and a member of London Renters Union writes under the headline:
As courts re-open, Britain’s renters must confront the power of landlords
There was a moment, just after the declaration of lockdown, with the immediate loss of jobs and hours, when it seemed that a rent strike might be inevitable. Many members of London Renters Union thought there might finally be a moment of unity between renters affected by the pandemic that could be leveraged into much greater power against landlords. When evictions were temporarily suspended some members grew even more excited: for once private renters did not have the sword of Damocles hanging over them. This was the moment to strike!…
The reason the rent strike has not taken off can be summed up in one word: fear. Private renters in London have learned to fear their landlords, even when courts are closed and possession orders can’t be issued. In the same way that fear of the boss at work can be qualified by the notion that ‘you can just get another job’, fear of the landlord is qualified by market relations that say there is always the option to move house…
But one of the many problems of London’s exploitative rental market is that it isn’t that easy to move. On benefits? Forget it, says the letting agent. Low income? Give us six months rent up front. Pets? Nope. Children? We’d rather not. No good references? You deserve the street. Visa documents? Too much trouble to check. Poor credit? Don’t waste our time. You want the ‘luxury’ of a sitting room for your family? With your income you’ll get cockroaches with that…
Private renters may not have the upper hand yet, but we can make it clear that the power of landlords will not go unopposed. If enough people join in with eviction resistance over the coming year we can get the voice of private renters heard, and we may just begin to change the balance of power between renter and landlord.