Monday, 25 March 2013

Let Us Stay

Much of my stuff is still boxed up – books, CD’s (yeah, digital music makes this whole lot easier.) I don’t suspect that my rentier, aka Landgirl (as she styles herself) will chuck me out onto the streets soon without warning, but the well-founded insecurity of all long-term renters.

The excellent Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group have started a campaign for long-term tenancies. I know, I know: I’ve written about this before. Assured (Accursed) Short-term Tenancies (Travesties) mean that tenants have four months grace, after which they can be give two months notice for no clear reason.

EPTAG say: ‘At the moment security of tenure in the private rented sector is very poor, and many tenants don’t feel secure enough to even complain about repairs. The root of many problems for private tenants is in the lack of security, and that is why it is essential to get this changed.’

The ever present threat of being shown the door is a stick to disempower tenants, who have surprisingly few rights. Legal protection can be weak, and with newly enacted Legal Aid cuts, missing in action.

I feel weak repeating this, but renting affects someone’s life, and any rentiers who intend to sell should make this plain. The expectation should prevail that people can stay put for at least five years (on this at least Shelter and I can agree.) Letting for longer periods (that is, decades rather than months) is beneficial to all, rentiers and tenants like, with guaranteed rents paid for guaranteed homes. Simple isn’t it?

No. Rentiers like tenants to stay spooked and unnerved. Bad management mantras seem to include treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen (and many people hit this blog after googling their concerns about tenancy agreements being renewed.)

It’s out of step with an increased fondness, indeed fervour, for long-term contracts with everything else; utilities, phones - even gym membership (which are hard to cancel if you are forced to move way.) That’s not to mention school lists, social circles, good neighbours…

Shelter have also highlighted the desirability, or need for longer tenancies in their proposal for stable renting contract. The horror of short term living is widely known, and the only people with any interest in keeping up the practice are (here we go again, once more with feeling…) letting-agents, who coin it in by charging fees, fees and more fees.

Tenants meanwhile live like mice, scurrying around, afraid to ask for repairs, scared to refuse unreasonable visits, unable to decorate. It’s impossible to plan, to budget, to live. The six months cycle; move in, worry, receive notice, then move.

Oh – by the way, Shelter have identified the most common cause of homelessness. It’s the loss of a private rented home, with the accompanying five horsemen of renting apocalypse: retained deposit, no guarantor, failing those new fangled computer ‘affordability assessments,’ or just not enough houses of reasonable prices with a reasonable rentier.

Tenants cling by their fingertips to the speeding rental merry-go-round, but vulnerable people are being thrown off.


59 comments:

Dazzla said...

Here's why letting agents encourage us to move all the time. I received this 'breakdown' of the fees charged by an agent this morning:

Inventory + Check in = £100
Check out = £80
Full Reference check = £50
Administration cost =£40

It's so brazenly pulled out of his arse that even after all this time I can scarcely believe it.

Anonymous said...

Dazzla,
Fees charged to landlord:

Set up fee (full management)=£195
Checking a tenant in=£50
Checking a tenant out=£50
Registering a deposit=£25
Issuing a section 21=£25

So between us, about £600 every time a tenant changes.
-Unless they only charge once for check in/out (yeah right!)

Nice 'work' if you can get it.

Regards, HB Wecome

Dazzla said...

Issuing a section 21=£25

£25 to print out a pro-forma contract and ask someone to sign it?

What skills are they providing here that you couldn't ask a reasonably bright temp to do in a half day for £8 an hour?

RenterGirl said...

Those sums seem quite low...

Anonymous said...

I have always been charged about £150 just for the reference check. How they have the cheek to charge so much is beyond me ...

Dazzla said...

RG:

It wasn't really just the cost, it was the arrogance. I told him that he would probably get about £20,000 of business from me over the next one or two years if he'd just reduce or waive the fees, but he wouldn't have any of it.

And that isn't a breakdown. A breakdown lists billing rates for the tasks. It lists cost of materials and billable rate of staff.

I'm paying for it. I should know what I'm paying for.

Anonymous said...

I know that with 6 month fixed terms it is technically possible for tenants to have to move every 6 months but how often does this happen?


Changing tenants is not a cost free option for landlords. For crook landlords of the rachman variety there may be a profit on ejecting tenants from slum properties and replacing them with more marks, rather than doing the legal minimum, but for a law abiding landlord there is there really a business case for ejecting a tenant asking for a legal right. After all would the next tenant not also notice the broken boiler/missing floor boards that the original tenant complained about?

If a tenant has been repeatedly asked to move after 6 months by a number of different landlords then is it not more likely that the problem is the tenant.

Dazzla said...

The profit is for the agent, not the landlord

"If a tenant has been repeatedly asked to move after 6 months by a number of different landlords then is it not more likely that the problem is the tenant."

What odious, misinformed drivel you emit.

Anonymous said...

@Dazzla

You are right that the agent makes the profit from forcing tenants to sign new contracts. The landlord has no benefit from the arrangement. In fact you could argue that the landlord loses from the arrangement as the new contract with a new fixed period prevents them from evicting the tenant via section 21 for the next six months. By the same token this improves the tenant's position by giving them 6 months security rather than the 2 months on an SPT.

Don't take this as my support for the situation, having been on the receiving end of an agent telling me that I had to resign a new contract and wanting £100 for it, I can say it's borderline extortion. But the agent holds the cards.

My point was that even in the extreme case of an aggressive agent insisting on a new contract every 6 months, the tenant still is not being forced to move. They have the option to pay the (admittedly scandalous) fees, sign another contract and then carry on for another 6 months.

Lets just take it as read that the practice of agents using the threat of S21 to force tenants to sign new contracts when the fixed term expires in order to inflate their fees is wrong, immoral and should be stamped out.

To get to my statement:

"If a tenant has been repeatedly asked to move after 6 months by a number of different landlords then is it not more likely that the problem is the tenant."

What I was trying to get across was:

If we have a tenant Mr X and Mr X has been forced to move (ie served S21 and not given the option of a new contract)at the end of his fixed period from the last 6 properties in a row.

There are 2 realistic possibilities:

1)Mr X is a reasonable man who has had 6 terrible landlords in a row. Each of those landlords was so bad that they would rather forfeit rent from the inevitable void periods between tenants and pay the costs of signing a new tenant than comply with Mr X's reasonable requests.

2)6 separate landlords have found Mr X so objectionable to deal with that they would rather forfeit rent from the inevitable void periods between tenants and pay the costs of signing a new tenant in exchange for not having Mr X in their property.

I was merely pointing out my opinion that (2) is more likely than (1).

Of course there is the case where, unknown to Mr X each of the 6 properties was also up for sale and the landlords wished to have Mr X leave so the house could be sold.

That situation is a problem and should be addressed by forcing landlords to inform the tenant if the property is being marketed. In this way tenant's could fold the risk if the house being sold into the calculation of of the rent they are happy to pay.

As for misinformed I've lived on both sides of the fence and can say that as well as terrible landlords (threats of eviction if we didn't agree to £75pcm for rubbish collection because the council couldn't take the rubbish as the landlord had locked the gates to the bin storage) there are terrible tenants (assaulting me with a stick because I wouldn't pay his deposit, which I had agreed to pay in full despite a trailer load of rubbish in the garden and broken kitchen units, back in cash on the spot)

Dazzla said...

So you'd assume that, if a tenant has moved once every six months to a year, that that tenant was a bad risk?

RenterGirl said...

No Anon. It's easy to be given notice for no reason, or have landlords go bankrupt, sell, discover you are jobless, just want another tenant. Factor in agents making money evryt time and you have the current nightmare.

Emma Cahill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dazzla said...

RG: That's the problem. We have unqualified, untrained profiteers in charge of a vital scarce resource. 'The market' isn't helping anyone on the demand side.

Dazzla said...

It's not helping many people on the supply-side either, really, except the big construction companies and landlords.

space cadet said...

Other scenarios include: landlord wants the place back for themself, landlord wants to let a family member to have it, or landlord took a dislike to you because you dared to ask for anything and came up with some made-up excuse as to why they need the place back now (otherwise known as retaliatory eviction).

space cadet said...

Or: landlord is illegally subletting and faces prosecution.

And of course, there are all the flatshares where communication has just broken down and it's time to move on again. Not because we are all such objectionable tenants, but because how we each live is a very personal choice, and when we are forced to share, then it can and will go wrong.

My flatmate likes to smoke indoors, and his cat wakes me up every morning by scratching my door. I've also taken to sticking cardboard in the window frame to keep the draught out. So, yet again, I'm resigned to moving on.

RenterGirl said...

Emma Cahill bit cheeky that. I am a writer - who's your article for? Might have been polite to email to ask if okay first.

Anonymous said...

@Dazzla,

Apologies for the long post...

No, simply because someone has moved a lot in the past is not a sufficient reason for them to be a bad tenant. If they have explanations for the moves (as Rentergirl and SpaceCadet point out there are several reasons that a person may move every 6 months) then there is no reason that that should count against them. I rented in London for nearly 10 years so know all about churning through rented properties!

But if a series of good landlords (as opposed to Rachman-esque villains) have all decided that they would rather go through the cost and uncertainty of getting rid of a tenant than have the tenant continue with them is it not possible that the tenant is at least partly to blame? After all a steady paying, reasonable tenant is a valuable commodity.

Remember that a landlord cannot just “throw” a tenant out. The dreaded S21 notice is merely notice that the landlord intends to seek to have the court terminate the tenancy. Being served one does not mean that the tenancy ends or a tenant must leave.
The only way that a tenancy can be ended is:
1) by the tenant giving the correct notice
2) by mutual agreement between the tenant and landlord
3) by the courts at the landlord's request (after the correct procedures have been followed)
(Note that the ending of the fixed period does not end the tenancy, it just carries on regardless of what letting agents will say!)
The above makes it difficult and expensive to "throw" a tenant out. Assuming the LL uses a solicitor to carry out the process the costs start around £600 to go to court via a solicitor’s "package" and that's not including the cost of returning to court to ask for bailiffs if the tenant refuses to leave.
Including lost rent and finding a new tenant, evicting a tenant can cost well over a thousand pounds before any lost rent from the tenant not paying rent or the void period are taken into account.

This makes retaliatory eviction not quite as simple as "Oh they've complained about a leak, EVICT THEM!". That’s not to say it doesn’t happen though.

Of course all of this relies on the tenants being clued up on their rights!

To address the issue of security of tenancy directly:

What are the options?

Increase the minimum fixed period of ASTs (in fact there is no minimum fixed period, but courts won't award possession sooner than 6 months from the start of a tenancy) to (say) 2 years? - Would that tie a tenant to the property for 2 years as well? Would tenants be happy guaranteeing to stay in a property for the next 2 years? What happens if they change jobs, or have an unexpected "arrival" or conversely divorce? Or would the system be asymmetric? with the tenant's option to leave with one months notice at any time. Is that not rather unfair on the LL (not to mention totally negating the claim of improved income security for the LL)

Remove the option for Section 21 (pretty much go back to the old assured tenancy)? - This would allow the tenant maximum security and effectively prevent a LL getting possession of their property. Would this not be a major drag on people's willingness to rent their house out (say if they were posted abroad for a few years). Lenders would also be wary of rented properties, as an asset you cannot sell when you want is worth considerably less. I guess that this would pretty much kill the buy to let market (but this may be a good thing!). But what about mortgaged properties bought to live in (as many are) but now rented (going abroad? negative equity?). In fact renting a house out would be pretty much certain to reduce it's value, so most mortgages would probably prevent any renting of the property (most do at the moment but you can convert to a BTL). Overall would the net effect be to reduce the supply of rental properties available (and hence push up prices)?

Dazzla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dazzla said...

So what you're saying is that a tenant's letting record is actually no reliable indicator of anything at all. We're not applying for jobs. We are customers who are paying a large chunk of our income to hire a resource from you.

I hired a lens for my camera a couple of months ago. If I'd lost or broken it, it would have cost £18,000 to replace it - and note, not a few quid for cleaning or repair. It was so delicate that it would cost almost as much to repair as to replace. But that didn't matter, because the lens hire company took out insurance. I left a £100 deposit (the excess on the insurance). I didn't need guarantors. I didn't need references. Why should I need any of these things when I rent living space?

I think there should be a compulsory damage and wear insurance requirement for landlords. THEN we'd see how often those 'professional cleans' were actually needed.

RenterGirl said...

Anon - you seem determined to say it's the 'bad' tenant at fault when actually most are good tenants given notice for the long list we've provided and don't fight - so letting agents move them quietly along.

space cadet said...

"This makes retaliatory eviction not quite as simple as "Oh they've complained about a leak, EVICT THEM!". That’s not to say it doesn’t happen though."

But, really it is that simple. Or rather, black and white. Because, landlords are still allowed to just serve an S21 notice for no good reason. Tenants can take it to court but - and this is the point - this just delays the eviction - it DOES NOT entitle the tenant to stay in their (rented) home. So: faced with the choice, most tenants will pre-empt the inevitable and start looking for their next home (rather than finds themselves homeless). And the landlord knows it. Their mission is accomplished. And they've not spent a penny.

Anonymous said...

@ RenterGirl

"you seem determined to say it's the 'bad' tenant at fault when actually most are good tenants given notice for the long list we've provided and don't fight - so letting agents move them quietly along."

That's not quite what I meant. I'm going to exclude agents and their actions from the discussion because I think we are all agreed that the practice of "resigning" fees is bad.

What I was trying to say was that if you are a reasonable tenant then the chances of you being repeatedly moved on as soon as your fixed period is up are fairly small.

Anonymous said...

@Dazzla

No, I was saying that a tenant who has been repeatedly moved on with no explanation may indicate a problem tenant. If the tenant was not a problem then why were they moved on by so many different landlords?

By moved on I mean served S21 as soon as the AST allowed, not lived somewhere for 18 months then had to move because the bank repossessed or LL returned from job abroad etc.

If the tenant has an explanation or better yet a reference from the previous LL ("Mr X was a good tenant unfortunately I need the property back, I will be sorry to lose him")then there is no problem.


Regarding the need for references, guarantors etc. The situation with the camera is somewhat different, for example if you ran off with the camera (the equivalent of stopping paying rent), that would be a criminal offence, you could be arrested, charged and made to return it or pay back the value (to the insurance company).

With a property there is no such remedy.

You could sign an AST, move in and never pay rent. the LL would be powerless to prevent this. The police could not be called, the LL could not even enter the property or the gardens without your permission. By the time a section 8 had been brought to court (can only be brought after 2 months of missed rent, then have to wait for a court date, another 4-8 weeks), you could plead poverty and agree a payment schedule with the court, then not still pay rent. In the mean time you could paint the inside of the house bright green, dig up the garden and dump an old car in it.

After 6-8 moths of this (depending on how stubborn you are) you could just walk out one day, catch a train and disappear. if the LL manage to track you down he would have to take you to court for money owed, if you had no real assets you could declare bankrupt and slip away.

All of the above is quite possible for a tenant to do (and sometimes does happen). When a LL hands over the keys to someone he's only just met he's trusting them with a very valuable piece of property with very little leverage to get it back. Isn't it right he should know a bit about you?

To put it another way, would you let me rent your brand new Bentley Continental (I believe they are about the price of a flat)? Would you let me rent it knowing that you wouldn't be able to get it back without going to court, even if I stopped paying rent on it? That even if I parked in your street and started scratching the bonnet you wouldn't be able to stop me or use your keys to get in it and drive it home?

Anonymous said...

@SpaceCadet

You are right, going to court only delays the eviction, but the tenant can defend by pointing out any errors in the process .Judges are notoriously harsh on any mistakes, for example using the phrase "on the 1st April 2013" rather than "After the 1st April 2013" can invalidate the notice, getting the date the notice expires on wrong, even if it means the notice is greater than the tenant is entitled to, so saying the 22nd April rather than the 20th April, can also invalidate the notice. If the judge throws out the notice the process must start from scratch (another 2 months notice period at least) and the LL may be liable for any tenant costs.

All of this makes going down the S21 route rather expensive and tricky.

If the dispute is a minor one (leaky taps or something) then the tenant can point out the difficulty of S21 and use this to negotiate with the LL.

Of course LL ultimately can get a tenancy ended and a tenant evicted, but it is such a costly and difficult route that most reasonable people would not use it for minor disputes.

This blog is obviously visited by people who are having disputes with their landlords. In some of those cases the LL will be at fault, in other cases the tenant will be at fault (when viewed objectively). Rather than dwell on the doom and gloom, put up some basic facts forward to show that tenants are not helpless, they have a large chunk of the law on their side (some LLs would say too much).

to reiterate.

A tenant cannot be thrown out onto the street. If a LL changes the locks, enters the property and throws out the furniture, sends his mates round, cuts off the gas or even threatens to do any of the above, this is a serious criminal offence.

The ONLY way a LL can end a tenancy agreement is via the courts. A LL CANNOT end a tenancy on their own, regardless of rent arrears, alleged damage to property or breaking of any terms of the lease. This right cannot be written out by any clause in the lease.

There are strict limits on what a LL can impose on tenants, for example a blanket ban on pets is likely to be unenforceable, the LL can say that you need written permission for pets but it must not be unreasonably withheld.

You are correct that a S21 will eventually be successful (assuming all the proper processes are followed) but it is not an easy option for the LL. Remember this if your LL (or to be honest more likely the agent to force a resigning fee) threatens you with S21

Oh and your deposit MUST be placed with one of the 3 schemes authorised by the gov, all of which offer arbitration in the case of deposit dispute.

All the above applies to ASTs lodging is a different matter

RenterGirl said...

Anon - stop being tedious. Many tenants know they will have to go eventully, becuse owners issue notice on a whim and it's no point resisting as they will always have to leave in the end. This is another of those Monty Python arguments 'but I came here for debate not a repeated list of contradictions.'

Anonymous said...

Ha!

Someone actually comes up with an well-formed, accurate and informed opinion (instead of the standard nonsense from people who haven't got a clue about property law) and you accuse him of being tedious!

RenterGirl said...

No Anon - you are tedious because the laws don't work - murder is illegal but people still do it. They are not even used to protect tennts, who as we all keep saying here move before they invoke their rights, ie to reclaim a protected deposit when slice is being withheld, as they don't hve time to fiht and need to work long hours nd find another home. Landlords treating tenants mean to undermine them - shouldn't happen, shouldn't lead to them moving out, but it does. Ha!

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
Ha!

Someone actually comes up with an well-formed, accurate and informed opinion (instead of the standard nonsense from people who haven't got a clue about property law) and you accuse him of being tedious!"

Wasn't actually me (the other Anon with the long posts), but a good point.

I'm trying to show that statements like

"The ever present threat of being shown the door is a stick to disempower tenants, who have surprisingly few rights"

"Tenants meanwhile live like mice, scurrying around, afraid to ask for repairs, scared to refuse unreasonable visits, unable to decorate."

"The six months cycle; move in, worry, receive notice, then move."

are only partially true.

Yes some LLs use the "if you don't like it I'll evict you" to frighten tenants, but tenant's do have rights, some of which are quite powerful and if more tenants knew about them it would take the wind right out of the LLs sails.

Despite the overall tone of your blog there are many protections for tenants from bad LLs.

For example (and WRT to deposits)

If the LL wants to withhold some of your deposit and you disagree, each of the 3 schemes has online forms you can fill in and dispute the deductions. A LL cannot deduct from the deposit without either your agreement or the agreement of the deposit protection company.

"But what about the evil LL who doesn't protect the deposit or doesn't tell the tenant which scheme it's protected with?" -

Well if that's the case then it's happy days for the tenant. if the LL hasn't protected the deposit and informed the tenant which scheme it's protected with then he cannot serve S21, the judge will not grant possession and the tenancy will continue.

I'll repeat that:

If your LL hasn't registered your deposit AND informed you of it the landlord CANNOT use S21 i.e. you cannot be asked to move for "no reason". You can still be asked to move under section 8 for things like not paying rent.

I'm trying to show that the law has plenty of protections at the moment. The fact that tenants (and LLs) are ignorant of the law is not a reason to change the law. After all if the law is ignored now why even bother changing it?

That's not to say that there aren't some areas that could do with changes but informing and empowering tenants will do more than flapping about giving the impression that tenants are powerless against landords.

Dazzla said...

"If the LL wants to withhold some of your deposit and you disagree, each of the 3 schemes has online forms you can fill in and dispute the deductions. A LL cannot deduct from the deposit without either your agreement or the agreement of the deposit protection company."

Yes. And the deposit is withheld until both parties agree. Meanwhile, the tenant is moving and needs the money (for another bond that won't be returned). Who gives in first, anon? The landlord with a healthy cash flow or the tenant on a limited income?

space cadet said...

Tenants have some rights in law, of course they do, and should. But they do not empower us. These rights, do not give us any security of tenure and the right to stay in our home (unless given reasonable and just cause to leave) or the right to request or insist on anything, without fear of retaliatory eviction. Oh, but the landlord won't serve an S21 for "minor disputes" you say? "Too much hassle" you say? Except you've missed the point I've made already - that if landlords are inclined to ignore repairs and resent you for asking, then they'll just serve an S21 for any made-up reason they like.

It might be at month 8, 10, 12, whatever. But in every home you have exactly and only 4 months in which you can relax. And then - the threat looms. Clearly, that is Penny's point.

But I must remember to sit down over a cuppa and discuss the long and drawn out process that is S21 with my landlord next time they take a dislike to me. Oh, hang on..

Anonymous said...

"landlords are still allowed to just serve an S21 notice for no good reason. Tenants can take it to court but - and this is the point - this just delays the eviction - it DOES NOT entitle the tenant to stay in their (rented) home."

Why should it?

A tenancy is an agreement.

A landlord can't evict using a section 21 during the agreed period.

If a tenant wants the security of a longer tenancy they should sign up for longer and pay more, if that is what they want.

You can't have your cake and eat it.

Anonymous said...

@space cadet said;

"But in every home you have exactly and only 4 months"

Nonesense, an AST can be however long you agree.

But if you want longer, you have to agree to stay longer and possibly, pay more to get a landlord to take you on.

You can't have your cake and eat it.

space cadet said...

"Why should it?" Oh dear, here we go again. Because, if a landlord wants a tenant out they should be required to provide a good reason, like it is in so much of Europe. (Do you research, honestly, I can't be arsed) As for "having my cake and eating it" well, we all know it's landlords that want to make a tidy little income of their property, but when it comes down to it, most of them couldn't care less that this property - to the tenant - means home.

space cadet said...

And yes, landlord's CAN serve notice before the fixed term is up, they just have to be more elaborate with their reasons. Read Shelter's website. No doubt some of you will jump for joy at that little bit of news.

Anonymous said...

Again, the anons above aren't me (not that I disagree with the statements)

I am Anon1

@Dazzla

That is a good point about the cash flow. I know the LL has 10 days (from the end of the tenancy) to either pay back the deposit in full, pay back with agreed deductions or pay back the undisputed amount and pay the disputed amount into the arbitration. It works slightly differently with each scheme but IRC the 10 days to either have it sorted or enter dispute may be law rather than an individual scheme thing. I'm not sure how any deposit scheme could work without some delay in paying back deposits although the quicker the arbitration the better (obviously).

Your insurance based scheme might help in this respect. No deposit would be needed only a premium paid on the start of the tenancy and (presumably) every year after. When a tenancy ended if the LL felt there was damage they would claim against the scheme. The loss adjuster would come and look and if there was (in their opinion) damage a pay-out would be made. I can see some potential drawbacks.

I imagine the insurance companies would require background checks and references on the tenant (something I know you weren't keen on)

There would probably be a claims excess, and most LLs will want some form of deposit for that, taking us back to square one.

The insurance companies would jack up the premiums (or refuse) if a prospective tenant had several past claims. It could be argued though that this is simply the cost a tenant with a past history of damage should bear. Although first time tenants with no "no claims discount" may also get hit.

There would be an additional on cost (of the premiums) which would be added to the rent. A tenant who looks after a place well would probably do better with a deposit (which they would get back in full, cash flow issues notwithstanding) than having to pay an annual premium which is lost money.

The preservation of a no "claims discount" may then end up as a stick for LLs to extract cash at the end of the tenancy "pay for a new carpet or I'll raise a claim and you may lose your no claims discount" sort of thing.

The statistics from the deposit protection companies show that around 2% of deposits end up with disputes. That's not to say deductions (the 98% includes cases where the tenant has agreed to the deductions). But does that low % not point to the fact that disputes over the deposit (and by inference the number of tenants who think the deductions are unwarranted) are not commonplace.

After all sometimes tenants do damage places (damage when moving out and rubbish left behind are not uncommon) and do agree that the LLs deductions are fair.

Anonymous said...

Anon1
@SpaceCadet
You are right, ultimately an AST tenant does not have the near infinite security a shorthold tenant does (ie no section 21).

But those more secure tenancies still exist, they are just not the default anymore (some housing associations still use them).

The AST does not offer the same security but the fixed period is not necessarily 6 months, it can be almost any length.

Of course some tenants are reluctant to sign themselves up for long periods (someone mentioned gym memberships, a good example of where long commitments are not good for the consumer)

But to put the boot on the other foot.

Say you've just bought a house after much saving and a small win on the horses. You have lovely neighbours you are friends with and life is good.

Then you get the opportunity to do some work in NZ (you're a special effects artist and they are filming "Lord of the Rings 4").

You can't afford to leave the house empty because you have mortgage so a solution is to rent the house out.

Do you use an AST or a plain ST (i.e. no S21)?

Your gut says "I should offer the tenant security that I wont throw them out", after all you have been a tenant and know what having only 2 months security is like.

But if you give up S21 by using a ST, you might not be able to move back in when you return, the tenant might say "I like it here, I'm not moving" and that's it.

What about if you decide you want to sell the house, because you've decided to settle in NZ. You need the money locked up in the house for your new home but are trapped in negative equity because the value of your house has fallen because you have a sitting tenant.

Would YOU honestly choose a ST over an AST?

Anonymous said...

Anon1
@SpaceCadet

Landlords can serve notice at any time after the tenancy has started, but simply serving notice does not and cannot end the tenancy. Notice is just that, notice that the LL intends to go to court to seek to have the tenancy ended. In the case of S21 the notice can be served at any time after the tenancy starts (not before any S21 served before the tenancy starts will be invalid and the judge will not end the tenancy).

Although a S21 notice can be served at any time the important date is the "expiry date". That must be at least 2 months from the date of service (any less and the notice is invalid) and cannot "expire" before the fixed term has ended. Once the "expiry date" has passed (and only then) the LL can then go to court to ask the judge to end the tenancy. The LL cannot ask to go to court before the "expiry date", if he does when he gets there the judge will throw it out. It can take 4-8 weeks to get a court date. If the S21 notice is valid (all the details must be correct and the dates must be correct), then the judge has to end the tenancy, however they do not have to end the tenancy there and then, they can end it up to 6 weeks later that the court date.

From shelter:
**************
If your tenancy is for a fixed period of time such as six months, you can only be evicted during the fixed-term if your landlord has a legal reason or 'ground' to do so. Your tenancy agreement should clearly state which reasons your landlord can use to evict you.

If a landlord uses certain grounds for eviction, the court will have no choice but to make a possession order and order your eviction.

This applies if:

1) you have rent arrears of at least 8 weeks, 2 months, 3 months or 1 quarter (depending on how frequently your rent is due) when the landlord gives you notice and at the date of the court hearing


2) your landlord's mortgage lender is repossessing the property.

The landlord can also ask the court to order you to leave for reasons including if:
- you are constantly or regularly late with the rent
- you have broken the terms of your tenancy – for example by subletting when you are not allowed to
- you have allowed or caused the condition of the property, communal areas or furniture to deteriorate
- you have caused nuisance or behaved in an antisocial way.

In these cases the court will only make a possession order if it considers it is reasonable to do so. The court can take your circumstances into account when deciding what is reasonable.
***********

Note that it's always the court that decides to end the tenancy, so tenants are not at the mercy of the LL but the court.


Anonymous said...

Anon1
Just as an exercise:

How many people here have been forced to move? By that I mean actually served a correct S21 notice and then the LL getting the tenancy ended by the court. I don't mean being asked to leave or being told that they will be served a S21 if they don't do X (or conversely do Y). I actually mean being forced to move, not moving after being asked or hinted at?

How many have had bad deposit experiences (I expect this to be a higher number, the deposit situation has been bad in the past, but I suspect it has changed considerably since the new deposit protections have come in)

I'll go first:

In 10 years of renting (London)

I have had a dispute with a landlord (over rubbish collection) where they threatened to evict us (just a letter saying they would evict us so not proper notice) if we didn't agree to £75pcm extra for rubbish collection. We managed to sort that out by pointing out that they couldn't evict us (we were still in the fixed period) and that it would be simpler if they worked with the council to sort the rubbish collection, which was subsequently done. I ended up staying in that flat (and thee one above it) for another 4 years. To be fair the LLs were a bit short tempered but stuff did get done and they left us alone.

Our last flat was put on the market and the LL (or rather agent) informed us they were planning to sell, but nobody made an offer (not even us) and in the end we signed for another 12 months before leaving.

I had all deposits returned in full with no fuss (although we did a bloody good job of cleaning if I do say so myself)

I would point out that I did pay several "resigning" fees each of around £50-100 (split between several housemates). It was annoying but it was(is) one of the costs of renting (not that it should be of course).

space cadet said...

Yes, AST's are all the rage. And many landlords love a break-clause, to get round the fixed-term issue. Again, all at their own discretion, no regulation in place to control these things. My landlord sneaked one in once, to the renewed contract, without even mentioning it. But, yeah, let's all go to court, damn it and argue the toss. I feel better already. Fingers crossed we win. Or that landlord with a key doesn't just come round and change the locks. But, that's illegal.. yippee, call the police, they're on your side remember. They're all so clued up on landlord-tenant law. And I've got time to piss away on court cases.

As for the New Zealand hypothesis, well, thankyou. You demonstrate perfectly what's wrong with the lettings market. It's all you you you isn't it.

RenterGirl said...

Ah the 'pro' landlord lobby find this blog again. There are laws and rules, and tenants have it easy and we're all safe happy, and secure, but if we say we're not, we're lying/not aware of our rights. Then tenants could fight in court, but have to spend time working and need reference from their previous landlord... who has given them an NTQ which if they contest... And only some of their deposit has been retained, so that's better than all of it and need it back now. Lw is one thing - reality is different.

Anonymous said...

Anon1
@SpaceCadet

I think you misunderstand me. I'm not saying "let's all go to court, damn it and argue the toss". I'm saying the existing laws have strong protections for tenants. The LL must go to court to end the tenancy so the courts have oversight. If a LL tries to act outside the courts the tenant can tell them to get stuffed.

If your complaint is that LLs ignore the law anyway (say by changing the locks, which would be illegal eviction) then what good would increasing the tenant's security by removing S21 do? After all a LL could still change the locks on a tenant with a regulated or assured (I got the term wrong in my last post it's assured, not short hold) tenancy. If a LL does something illegal (change locks) or tries to serve an invalid notice then the tenant should pull them up on it, call the police, go to the (rather well done) Shelter website. All the legal protection in the world is not good if the tenants don't know about it or won't use their rights.

Telling tenants that they have few rights and that LLs hold all the cards allowing them to do as they please is doing vulnerable tenants a disservice. If tenants were made aware of their rights there would be less abuse by bad LLs who depend on their tenants being kept in the dark.

My little NZ hypothesis was to illustrate why S21 is needed from a LLs point of view.

Seriously, as someone who is clearly passionate about tenants rights, how would you act if (however you got there) you became a LL?

Would you offer your tenants 12, 18 24 month fixed terms?

Would you offer them assured tenancies?

Remember with an AT there is not really any extra security for the LL, the tenant can still give 1 rental period notice.

The same goes for the long fixed terms. Would you hold your tenant to the fixed term if they had to suddenly move back home to care for their sick mother? If not how is the security better for the LL?

What if was your sick mother and she needed extra nursing care and the only source of money you had would be the sale of the house? Would you refrain from using a S21 then?

Anonymous said...

Space cadet said;
"if a landlord wants a tenant out they should be required to provide a good reason"

They do have to provide a (very) good reason if it is during the agreed term.

The tenant has agreed to stay 6 months/12 months/2 years or however long.

If they want the security of a longer tenancy they should sign up for longer and possibly pay more, if that is what they want.

You can't have your cake and eat it.

Anonymous said...

Anon1

I'm pro LL (being one) but I'm also pro tenant (having been one).

There is lots of discussion on how insecure tenant's feel. if that's how someone feels then I can't contest that.

What I am wondering is how often these insecurities actually occur rather than how often we hear that they occur.

Lots of people are afraid of flying (my wife is one of them) yet the most dangerous part of the journey is the drive to the airport (I wish she was more scared of that bit!). Just because people are insecure about their tenancy doesn't mean they are as insecure as they think.

As I asked earlier, how many people here have been evicted or asked to move on? What were the reasons for the eviction?

I have stated my experience, but that's a sample of one, I may have ben the luckiest tenant in all London. What are other people's experiences?

Will anyone here "pro" tenant commit (should they become a landlord) to giving AT's or 24month fixed terms with no break clauses?

I really wish I could offer 24month fixed terms. The one time I did I got my fingers burnt badly. In hindsight all the signs were there and I should never have given in to the demands, but he was fixated on his (perceived) insecurity so I gave him 24months fixed as a sign of goodwill. Never again.

RenterGirl said...

In 2015 Labour will enact shelter's 'stable renting contract.' Oh don't invoke 'my mum needs to sell up for her care home' as justifiction - letting is business nd if you don't mean to let tenants stay, say so. Other anon - landlords can fail to renew tenancies on a whim. It's wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hello Anon1,

'What were the reasons for the eviction?'

Nearly always non-payment of rent coupled with refusing to communicate.

'Will anyone here "pro" tenant commit (should they become a landlord) to giving AT's or 24month fixed terms with no break clauses?'

I have done, with good existing tenants intending to stay long term (kids in schools, work etc). Invariably they have preferred the non-commitment of going periodic with a verbal assurance they could stay as long as they wanted. This with no 'set-up' costs etc or rent increases. Most are still with me many years later with no intentions of moving.

I really wish I could offer 24month fixed terms. The one time I did I got my fingers burnt badly. In hindsight all the signs were there and I should never have given in to the demands, but he was fixated on his (perceived) insecurity so I gave him 24months fixed as a sign of goodwill. Never again.

Why not, if you are referencing etc properly? If you are still concerned then take out rent and legal insurance (charging accordingly) and/or a guarantor. Long term good tenants should be the Holy Grail for a landlord.

Regards, HB Welcome.

Anonymous said...

"In 2015 Labour will enact shelter's 'stable renting contract.' "

I don't share your optimism RG, even if they do get back in. They had 13 years to do something about it and did nothing.

Shelter's proposals are seriously flawed, I doubt any party will take them up.

I'm in agreement about the need for long term tenancies though.

Regards, HB Welcome.

space cadet said...

Yes, periodic tenancies that are allowed to run and run unless there is real "good reason" to have them terminate. And when I see "good reason" defined in law, then I will take you seriously. Sensible notice to terminate should be due, on both sides. Periodic tenancies are normal in Europe. You want me to sign away for 5 years? And if it's my mother that is dying? That I must be with and care for? You think your ill relative is any more important than mine? Owning the commodity doesn't buy you moral high-ground. If you want to to rent a home to people and then get it back at a moment's notice, then I suggest: that is having your cake and eating it.

RenterGirl said...

Been researching some of these Anons. They bait tenants on many other sites too.

RenterGirl said...

Oops delted loads of spam and mistokk another Anon for spam. Easy mistake. Gist ws he wnts me to commit to.. something that will never happen ie me owning then letting property. If this occurs, I will hopefully use a Shelter stable renting contract, but will of course be letting for as long as I can. You say somehow 'aha' aand continue arguing with yourself, then pop over to the other sites you troll obsessively.

Anonymous said...

anon1

Spam is really annoying and mass deletion of posts can lead to accidents.

By chance, the post text was still in my notepad window so I've reposted it below.

Renter girl was correct in her summary of my question but there was more context than can be conveyed in a single line.

Anonymous said...

@rentergirl

thanks for the tip on the shelter stable letting contract.

It has some very valid points, particularly around ways to accommodate the need to repossess a property for sale.

My (failed) experiment on giving tenants more security revolved around giving a 2 year fixed term, but resigning (and rent reviewing) the contract every 12 months with the new contract superseding the old one, so the tenant always had at least 12 months from the end of the fixed term. Before someone jumps down my throat about resigning fees the only fee I charge is the fee (~£30) for the deposit protection (which needs to be paid every time a new fixed term is issued).

I have now reverted to the 12month fixed terms.

Unfortunately in that case there was a complete breakdown in the tenant LL trust relationship. In that circumstance I felt that, despite my best efforts, I was unable to offer the tenant the service he felt he was entitled to. In the end the tenant took my offer of giving one months notice at any time in the fixed period (he still had 18months left) and handed in his notice. I genuinely had nightmares about what would have happened if he had decided to stay. He was making my life, my families and his neighbours (my other tenants) life a misery and I subsequently found out after he left he had been doing the same for several other people in the area.

I think some incentives to offer a stable letting contract, probably in the form of some kind of tax break, would be vital (as shelter mentioned). That way the tenant would not have to pay more for a stable contract yet there would be a financial incentive for the LL to do it. Possibly something around the classification of building works as business expenses not capital improvements.

Overall though LLs will be wary of giving up S21 (as I said before, it's human nature to want to play with the best hand available) so there will have to be significant incentives to entice LLs away from AST/S21.

As an aside, I'm not sure what research you have been doing but I can assure you I am not trolling or baiting. I am trying to engage in a civil debate. I have learned a few things from this discussion, that I will try and fold into my letting going forward. I hope others have come away with the something as well.

Anonymous said...

opps above was Anon1 as well

RenterGirl said...

Ah - the problem lies is in the phrase about landlords wanting control of their home. Herein lies the porblem - once rented it is NOT their home. Renting is a business.

space cadet said...

I don't imagine I am the only one who is tired of your excessively long posts Anon. You sound like the proverbial dinner part bore, who just won't sit down. (if you'd even signed the posts, then i'd be less confused) You've lost my attention now, and i won't be harangued by someone I don't know or care for (yes, that's really what you're doing). If it's vindication or a pat on the back you want (certainly sounds like it) suggest you go elsewhere. I had the choice to be a landlord once, and opted out. Suffice to say the sector needs urgent regulation and that requires extensive consultation. I'm no expert, I just have a bloody good idea what "fair" means.

Anonymous said...

Anon1

@SpaceCadet

I'm sorry if my posts exceed your attention span. I happen to think the issues around renting are a bit too complex and nuanced to be reduced to simple slogans. Possibly part of the problem is that the subject needs a mature and reasoned discussion with both parties willing and able to put aside childish preconceptions of the party's position, listen to what is actually being said and come to common ground.

@Rentergirl
You are right, renting is a business, and from a business point of view, any business will try to get the most beneficial terms (cash on delivery, pay suppliers on 60 day credit, give no liability away etc). My heart says give the tenants longer fixed terms, my business head says, give them the minimum required, you can then provide security by simply not evicting them but if I have to (because one becomes a business threat, not because I take a personal dislike to them), I can.

On the business front maybe that's the carrot to encourage the shelter lets? If you use them you could declare the renting as a business and then it would be treated as a business (development and improvement costs out of before tax income for example). If you stick to the old regime ten you don't get treated as a business and the tax incentives aren't there.

RenterGirl said...

A pompous tedious self-righteous bore with a sense of entitlement calls clever people stupid. Words fail. Begone. Deletions will ensue.

Anonymous said...

Anon1

@SpaceCadet
My apologies, my last comments were a little close to the bone.

@Rentergirl
I think the rental market does need changes, but I suspect it will be very hard with zealots on both "sides" at loggerheads.

Dazzla said...

I think Anon1 should probably put his Apprentice DVDs away and get out a bit more.