Thursday, 30 September 2010

Nothing Go On And No Rent

Recently, I’ve noticed that many people are finding this blog by googling the simple, unsettling phrase: ‘I can’t pay my rent.’

I’m not talking about the tiny minority of feckless tenants who blow the rent on booze and shoes only to then whine about the resulting eviction, but renters in a genuine bind: when pay or benefits come in late, jobs are lost, rent goes up, or flatmates move out.

When this happens, what do you do?

Negotiate – try and reason with the agent or landlord? Listen to me with my funny jokes. It takes a brave renter to pick up the phone and announce: ‘Hi! Just to let you know - can’t pay this month. I’ll catch up when I can, though. All the best and love to the kids!’

If you’re expecting sympathy, then dream on. Although, I did once speak with an award winning landlady who conceded that modern life is messy, and kindly agrees that as long as tenants contact her and honour a commitment to pay arrears, she would never turf them out. She doesn’t use a letting agent mind you, and therein lies the problem.

The other snag is that rents are too high, and wages and benefits are too low. Working life is complex, tenuous, and precarious: employment nowadays usually involves short term-contracts and temporary jobs, while dipping in and out of benefit claims and low pay, and subsequently being forced to choose: rent or food. What would you do?

There’s sometimes a chance that freelancers and part-time workers can make a back-dated claim for housing benefit, which is always worth a go. Many people are scared of appearing in court (which in reality is like sitting before a kindly man – yes it usually is a man – and explaining your actions.) Being in this position undermines every day, and disturbs every night. The threat of being thrown out and made homeless wrecks your peace of mind. Social housing is occasionally more understanding, but private landlord are stricter (let’s face it, they have a mortgage to pay and finances can be tight at the best of times.)

Of course, you can ask the bank for a loan, or an overdraft, or borrow money from friends and family. But if you are behind with rent, banks are unlikely to help and friends will probably have financial problems of their own.

The next step then is legal proceedings, which can start all too fast. If you are taken to court you can - and should - attend, so as to make a case for staying on and paying up. But what are the chances that landlords and agents will eventually give notice anyway, because they can, and because they want to (even you are a dream tenant wafted in from heaven and paid in full.) Once you miss a payment, you are stuck, and face either doing a runner, or submit to a bad reference from your landlord.

Like I said, it’s horrible. Nobody said that life was going to be easy, but why must it be so hard?

19 comments:

derek said...

Times have changed,rent used to be 10% of wages,it used to be possible to buy "on plan",with a minimal deposit,live rent free for 6 months or so until evicted,reaping the rise in value from the builder,after deductions,repeating often,until solvent,ah,the "Good old days"!!!

Justin Burns said...

Landlords cannot start proceedings to eveict until the rent is at least 2 months late so that gives the tenant a bit of breathing space. Although, like you say, if there are any arrears the tenant will probably get notice to leave at the end of the fixed term.

No tenant ever need be made homeless - they are entitled to stay until the court order is executed by the court baliff and if things reach that stage they will be rehoused.

Sam said...

Many landlords go bump because the tenants have not paid their rent and they as individuals reach their limit on how much debt they can pay.

People often forget that landlords are people with their own bills to pay. Buy to let is like any other business if people do not pay their invoices you can only manage so long...and then CRUNCH

It is a sad fact that tenants not paying rent causes much heartache and headaches which are not seen in the public realm.

I know of many relationships breaking down and houses being repossessed and watching landlords lose everything they have built up because tenants have not paid rent.

You would not go into Tesco fill your trolley with goods and walk out without paying. If you did - they would call the police. You would be arrested for theft.

Why do some people think they can live in a property and then leave without paying? Is this not theft?

RenterGirl said...

Justin - 'rehoused'? Where? In a hostel. And notice to leave is all very well and good, but where will they go next?

And Sam - I make it plain that landlords are human with their mortgage to pay. This blog is about tenants. And - rents are too high - that's why people can't pay.

Justin Burns said...

If it is an emergency they will probably go into temporary bed and breakfast type accommodation until something more permanent becomes available.

I know it's not ideal but it beats a cardboard box and provides a safety net while they look for another job or try and sort out what ever it was that got them in to arrears in the first place.

Yin said...

I don't think my landlord deserves rent after the hassle we've been through. We didn't get the heating til 6 weeks in, but yet we had still paid £330 each. Also he starts harassing us for rent on the 2nd (even though our rent goes in on the first)

Don't most people have 14 days to pay up before they get evicted anyways?

Sam said...

Rentergirl "And - rents are too high - that's why people can't pay"

BUT...

if we use that argument and say mortgages are too high landlords can't pay where are we going to be then?

Emma said...

Justin, I'm sorry but that's just not true. if you are a healthy, no children adult then you are highly unlikely to be rehoused by the council as you are not in priority need. If you're not in priority need then the council only has the duty to provide you with advice and assistance. Which will almost never mean accommodation of any kind.

spacecadet said...

Crucial difference is, landlords have a choice to take out that buy-to-let mortgage, but more and more of us tenants have no choice but to rent.

spacecadet said...

Last comment was for Sam.

Anonymous said...

Sam clearly hasn't read the article! Renter Girl is talking about the tenants who _can't_ pay, not those who won't pay. My sympathy is with them - not with BTL landlords who are lucky enough to be able to _choose_ to buy a second property (when tenants can't afford even one!)

property lady said...

I agree with Sam - good analogy with the Tesco thing. As much as landlords can chose to take out the buy-to-let mortgage, tenants can chose where they rent and how much they want to spend.

Going back to the Tesco analogy, you wouldn't fill your trolley with stuff that is out of your price range and then claim you can't pay because you can't afford it, you just buy what you can afford. It's not like when you rent a property you don't know how much it costs. You rent something within your budget.

Why should landlords have to suffer because tenants can't budget. Landlords don't just go round evicting people when they can't pay rent - it costs them money too to find someone else.

spacecadet said...

Dear property lady. It must get claustrophobic in that small narrow mind of yours, no? Please do read the original post again, specifically the 2nd paragraph. But then, it strikes me that it's all rather black and white in your mind. Maybe you've been too busy with your property empire to notice what's been happening in the economy lately. Or to care (And yes, i'm being sarcastic)

Dazzla said...

@property lady

Your analogy is flawed and I suspect deliberately obtuse for the following reasons:

1. Your weekly shop is discretionary spending. Unless you want to sleep on the streets, rent is not.

2. Between picking things up at the supermarket and getting to the checkout, you're unlikely to lose your job. If you did, you'd put them back. In a rental situation you are tied into a fixed-term contract and in any case, sleeping on the streets is again the only alternative.

I find your implication that tenants are idle and profligate very distasteful. Perhaps it's the get-rich-quick landlords who should be more careful what they're putting in their trolleys?

Dazzla said...

Added:

Again, why should tenants suffer because landlords can't pay the mortgage. Tenants evicted in this way have no rights and are unable to carry out credit checks on landlords. This does happen. It happened to me.

Tony_G said...

Property lady...

Landlords are in business and are thus exposed to risk.

If a landlord cannot absorb a 6 month void on one of their properties they should not be in the buy-to-let game.

You analogy is terrible. If a tenant loses their job they may have no option but to miss a couple of rent payments... This is not due to poor budgeting or general fecklessness - but the kind of unfortunate event that often cannot be avoided.

spacecadet said...

Dear property lady.

It must get claustrophobic in that small narrow mind of yours, no? Please do read the original post again, specifically the 2nd paragraph. But then, it strikes me that it's all rather black and white in your mind. Maybe you've been too busy with your property empire to notice what's been happening in the economy lately. Or to care (And yes, i'm being sarcastic)

Tessa Shepperson said...

Hi, I can't find a contact / email link here. Would you be interested in being a 'Notable Property Person' on my Landlord Law Blog? http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/npp/ It would be good to have someone tenant orientated. The blog is not just for landlords (despite its name).

Email me at tessa@landlordlaw.co.uk if you are interested. Cheers. Tessa Shepperson

Techno Mystic said...

I see the landlords are on a PR offensive.

"People often forget that landlords are people with their own bills to pay. Buy to let is like any other business if people do not pay their invoices you can only manage so long...and then CRUNCH"

If somebody has enough savings to buy a property outright with cash, and then lets it because that is more profitable than putting the cash in the bank, I have no problem with that.

If somebody takes out a mortgage to buy a property to rent then can't pay the mortgage I have no sympathy at all. They have clearly overstetched themselves and can't afford it.