Industry News

400,000 private sector tenants in danger of being evicted

when the suspension of eviction proceedings is lifted according to a report by the London School of Economics and Political Science. The report uses the Government’s projection of


unemployment rising to 6.5 per cent this year – and the likely impact that this will have on private tenants and their ability to pay their rent – to inform this calculation. Currently around ten per cent of private tenants

are thought to be unemployed – this is double the average unemployment rate – and six to seven per cent of them appear to be in arrears. This is around twice the proportion of a ‘normal’ year. Many tenants are also at risk because their

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) have not been renewed. Data from the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) suggest that only around 20 per cent of landlords have issued new tenancies to existing tenants, while over 30 per cent have allowed ASTs to become Statutory Periodic Tenancies – short-term rolling contracts of usually one month. As a result, only tenants with a current AST and

who are up to date with their rent or are less than eight weeks in arrears, are safe from being evicted. This means that large numbers of tenants are likely to feel increasingly insecure. However, large numbers of tenants will not

immediately find themselves homeless because, even when eviction suspensions are relaxed, the courts will not be able to cope with the huge volume of cases. At the moment the courts are struggling to deal with egregious cases involving anti-social behaviour, domestic violence or very long-standing

ver 400,000 private tenants may be in significant rent arrears by the end of 2021 and facing the threat of losing their homes

rent arrears in a timely manner. Before the pandemic it was taking between 10

and 12 months for arrears cases to reach the repossession stage. This has risen to almost twice that long. What happens when eviction notices are enabled is totally unclear – but if nothing specific is done it could take years to return to normality. Meantime many landlords will be receiving no rent for months on end.

PROTECTIONS IN QUESTION Homelessness and rough sleeping in the time of Covid says that greater protections need to be put in place to protect private tenants and landlords. This includes immediately stopping ‘no fault’ (Section 21) evictions while speeding up court proceedings for extreme cases of failure to pay the rent – such as being over six months in arrears. Professor Christine Whitehead, Emeritus

Professor of Housing Economics at LSE and co- author of the report, said: “Most evictions remain on hold until after the 31 May. Depending on what the government announces will happen after this, many tenants could be vulnerable to being asked to leave their homes. “However, we do not expect an immediate surge

in evictions since, in many cases landlords and tenants have found ways of coping through rent holidays and lower rents during the crises, and some renters have moved in with family or friends.” The report recommends that the Government

should support greater investment in services that will help people stay in their homes including Discretionary Housing Payments for those claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. More help should also be provided to tenants without access to UC but who are in rent arrears.

Currently around ten per cent of private tenants are thought to be unemployed – this is double the average unemployment rate – and six to seven per cent of them appear to be in arrears. This is around twice the proportion of a ‘normal’ year

This could be through low interest rate loans for those who are less than six months behind on their rents for example. So far nothing has been done to help landlords

facing significant losses from rent arrears. Already a third of NLRA members say they have lost more than 10 percent of their rental income and NRLA data also suggests over 30 per cent of landlords are thinking of reducing their investment in rental properties or leaving the market altogether. Dr Nancy Holman, Associate Professor of

Urban Planning and co-author of the report, said: “Unfortunately, these solutions are partial. In a crisis of this magnitude there are no easy answers. Even if there is a rapid transition back to normality, the long-term arrears and loss of credit- worthiness among tenants and loss of income and confidence for landlords will continue to scar both individuals and the private rented sector for many years to come.

Allowing more pets in lets

Less than one in ten of private rentals are pet- friendly properties but a new survey from Direct Line has shown that nearly half of landlords back the Government changes to allow ‘well-behaved’ pets in rental flats and houses. A new standard tenancy agreement template

announced by the Government earlier this year aims to prevent landlords from issuing blanket bans on tenants with pets, for ‘no good reason’. Instead, consent for pets is the new default

position and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide them with a good reason for refusing consent. But the proposal has hit various roadblocks with

the pandemic slowing down Government business and letting agents have largely failed to adopt the

new model tenancy agreement which allows pets. The MP who proposed the changes, Andrew

Rossindell spoke out to encourage uptake of the changes saying “An animal is a living, breathing creature with feelings and attachment to its owner. It’s not just traumatic for the owner if they [lose] their pet but can you imagine the trauma for the animal, particularly dogs, being taken away from the owner that they love and who cares for them. “I think the current rules are cruel, they lead to

horrible situations and I really hope that what I’m promoting here will lead to a better society and a better way of treating both humans and animals.” One pet friendly landlord is supporting the

changes and encouraging other landlords to adopt the scheme. Opening their first pet-friendly property, Vantage Point, in September 2016, the

10 | HMM June/July 2021 |

London-based apartment rental company Essential Living believes pets are a vital part of a home and a family. Nick Woodward, Head of Lettings at Essential

Living explained: “Unlike many other landlords and letting agencies, we have a flexible pet policy. We’ll sometimes ask tenants to attend a ‘pet interview’, where we will meet their pet just to double-check that it will fit in with the rest of the community and that it’s veterinary records are up to date. “Since April, we have seen a huge increase

of over 200 per cent in people viewing our ‘pet-friendly’ pages online compared to last year. Not only do dogs encourage daily exercise but they also help reduce stress and prevent loneliness during these isolated times. We are glad to have continued permitting dog-friendly access, but as more people have taken up pet ownership during lockdown, we hope to see more landlords weighing up the benefits.”

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