Tenants live in constant fear. They do not sleep, and cannot eat. The event they dread could happen at any time, and might destroy their lives, launch them into homelessness, propelling them towards debt, unemployment and relationship breakdown.
And what is this dreadful disaster? Fire? Locusts? Flatmates who are dyed in the wool Barry Manilow fans? (NB – this happened to me – the horror…) Do they cower from those villainous, semi-mystical, usually mythical bete-noires, the rogue landlords? Do they dread famine, Michael Gove, or death? Homes sucked into a hellhole, like in Poltergeist?
None of the above.
Tenants are scared of receiving notice - of being asked politely, lawfully and reasonably to leave their home within the correct legal framework. For tenants, it’s the most common way of finding themselves homeless, desperate, pleading for help, and sleeping on sofas – if they are lucky. This, lamentably, is a fact.
It’s one of the reasons I am irked by the otherwise amazing Shelter’s ‘stamp out rogue landlords’ campaign. The threat of living in a shed is horrible, wrong and the vile landlords who do this should be imprisoned. But the simple fact of lawful, legal, rightful notice is an every day problem, and causes widespread harm.
When notice is issued without warning, or when tenancies are not renewed, it’s usually about money – mainly when letting-leaches whisper into a rentier’s ear, giving them promises of inflated profits, heedless of the cost of seeking new tenants, since agents coin it in from sundry, random fees.
There are also silly ideas about squatters’ rights. In truth, squatters have no rights, but certain novice, ignorant rentiers insist that unless tenants are moved on regularly, they will have permanent leave to remain. It’s about wielding power.
Sometimes it’s just disorganisation, with owners thinking about selling up, issuing a notice to quit, then just – you know, changing their minds, heedless of the effect this has on tenants’ lives, or security.
Sometimes the reason is tenants asking for repairs – retaliatory eviction, deliberately problematic, in cases. Timing seems spiteful, with tenants moved on with no care for school terms, no concern for times of the year when moving is a problem – I shall mention again, that in France, nobody can be evicted in Winter, even when arrears are severe.
A former neighbour was expected to move out on January 1, and the rentier would not budge. January itself is quiet when house-hunting, but this meant the entire, notoriously slow, month of December was spent frantically seeking somewhere to go. The rentier was dismissive, and simply referred repeatedly to ‘her rights.’ She wanted more money. The flat was unlet for months. The tenant endured a nerve-wracking, miserable xmas.
Tenants slip between homes, desperate to cope with news that is always delivered at the wrong time, such as when hours have been cut, money is tight or when renters are ill, rendering new owners/agents unlikely to house them. Rogue landlords are appalling, but blasé, deluded avaricious owners who give notice on a whim cause more problems.