Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Notice of Danger

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.


RenterGirl said...

SEO spammers - you WILL be deleted. Do not pollute this post.

Anonymous said...


Just a quick point, tenacies do not need to be "renewed", if the fixed term (that is the period during which the LL cannot seek possesion using Section 21) comes to an end the tenancy still continues as before. the only difference is that the LL can now use S21 to seek possesion.

If more tenants (and LLs) knew this then the stuipd state of affairs of having to resign an new agreement (and pay various fees) every 6 months would be much less likely. The only people who benifit from this state of affairs is the letting agents

And a note (sadly too late for your neighbour) about being forced to leave on an alkward day.

The expiry date given on the S21 (I assume the 1st January) is merely the date after which the LL can seek possesion (via the courts). Come 2 Jan, The tenancy still exisits and the LL has no more rights to enter, discontinue services etc than they did before (i.e. very few).

The LL can then, any time after the 1 Jan, go to court (or go through the accelerated procedure). This takes a few weeks.

Clearly this can still result in the tenant having to move out at an alkward time, but it does give some flexibility on the leaving date.

Anonymous said...

Why would landlords evict on a whim?

It doesn't make sense
-unless they are extremely rich and power crazed.

If it's about money then they can simply increase the rent rather than suffer a void.
-I'd agree about the dubious practices of some letting agents, but landlords are equal victims.

I've never heard of a landlord giving notice because they were concerned about squatters rights. If you claim it happens, then I believe you, but it can't be something that occurs often.

Giving notice because they want to sell up is a fair enough reason.

Tenants asking for repairs comes back to money. If they are reasonable repairs, then they will have to be carried out some time. It doesn't make sense to go to all the expense of an eviction as well.

If you dig deep enough, in 99% of cases of landlords supposedly evicting on a whim, there will be an underlying reason of non rent payment or some other tenancy breach.

It's nigh on impossible to gain possession on proper grounds anymore.

Before any changes are made to so called 'no fault' notices, the possibility for eviction for genuine reasons needs to be made a realistic option.

Regards, HB Welcome.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks anon1 for the advice. But tenants fear bad references, so leave placidly.

And yes HPC welcome - this does happen, for the reasons in the post ie mateur ill informed rentiers and voracious agents.

Rich Tee said...

"It's nigh on impossible to gain possession on proper grounds anymore."

Anonymous 05:40 was doing so well until they got to that sentence. It is ridiculously easy to get rid of tenants in Britain, far easier than in Europe and the USA. So disingenuous.

RenterGirl said...

I enjoyed the comment 'unless they are extremely rich and power crazed.' Like I said in the post - notice is issued, hoping for more rent, when this is unlikely. And rentiers/agents sometimes do anything rather than repair, and it makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Rich Tee said...

"It is ridiculously easy to get rid of tenants in Britain"

God bless your naive and innocent heart!

It restores one's faith in human nature.

Obviously you've never been involved in an attempted Section 8 eviction.

Unfortunately, the people that ultimately pay the price for this farcical system, are the decent ones that pay their rent on time and stick to their word.

The vast majority of honest, decent tenants should have their right to secure tenure firmly quill penned onto the Magna Carta.

They should be obliged to have 4 kids, 3 cats, 2 dogs, a pot bellied pig and an african green parrot that swears in 5 different languages; pay the rent a bit late at christmas (or when times are sometimes rough); not have to dispose of a dozen pages of absolute b@@@@@@s of prescribed information (that no one has ever read) about a bizarre deposit scheme; And have their deposit automatically returned in full after one year. And be allowed to paint the walls bright pink.
- if they so choose.

It should also be possible to evict the tiny minority of scumbags easily.

In Britain at the moment, the balance is very much in favour of the scumbags, decent tenants are the ones paying the price.

Regards, HB Welcome.

ABC said...

Yes, the 2nd anon strikes me as giving a very biased position on this, presumably from the pov of a landlord.

I'm no lawyer but it strikes me that any tenant (good or bad) suffers from the landlord's power under S21 of the Housing Act to give people notice _for no reason other than the expiration of the fixed term of a shorthold tenancy_.

I can't comment on whether a S8 eviction is hard or not but, even in those cases, if the landlord waits til S21 becomes operative he can get rid of the bad tenant.

I would suspect the rights that tenants in Britain have are amongst the worst in the world since after the 6 months of a standard shorthold tenancy, S21 can be invoked. In other jurisdictions, there is more security of tenure [which of course means that the equivalent of S8 will have to be used more often to get rid of 'bad' tenants since the landlord can't purely rely on the expiry of time].

If (as I hope does happen) a future gov't gives tenants more security of tenure, then I am sure anon2 will be complaining that this gives bad tenants more rights as well as good ones. I suspect that's inevitable - as legislation applies to all whether they are 'good' or 'bad'. I would expect landlords in Germany, France, or elsewhere have a similar concern that bad tenants are 'hard' to get rid of

RenterGirl said...

ABC - yep. The 'Anon' you refer to haunts most tenant blogs sharing such daftness. Landlords issue notice for bizarre, spurious reasons, and tenants have the lack of rights you mention. And, yes tenants should have the right to decorate.

Tracie said...

Hi, Have been reading through your posts for a little while now. Just wanted to say they are very interesting. Clearly your experience is more in the private sector market than in the social housing sector. I have lived in both, I have been fortunate that I have had decent landlords when in private who dealt with problems - some more quickly than others but don't think ever waited more than a few days- I appreciate that I was probably lucky in this. I'm now in a one bed social housing - proper one bed not a studio. Got to say get excellent service from my housing people on the whole, they even suggested I may get a new bathroom. Last year they put in new heating - result an extra cupboard for me. I think it is very sad you have so much experience of poor landlords. I hope you get more experience of reasonable ones.

RenterGirl said...

Tracie - it's not just me. Many stories come from friends/comments etc.

space cadet said...

I don't think HB Welcome likes being a landlord. Poor thing.

Barney from Newington said...

The problem with tenants having a right to decorate is that when you have had your six months in my property and left me with your "Thunderbirds are Go" wallpaper for some reason people do not want to rent my property until I pay a painter £1,000 to return it to magnolia.

space cadet said...

If you were a nice guy, you could reach a sensible compromise Barney. But you're too busy hating on tenants and missing the point. If tenants have some autonomy and are made to feel welcome, they're inclined to stay longer.

RenterGirl said...

Rentiers should allow a coat of emulsion. No tenant, when doomed to stay 6 months, would bother with wallpaper.

Anonymous said...

isn't the decorating bit already covered?

Although the LL may have a clause about "no decorating" or similar in the agreement (When I rented I had a clause forbidding any kind of picture pin or blu tac! Luckily I was ok with a few pictures propped up on my shelves) it is not enforceable unless the clause has something like "without prior written permission which shall not be unreasonably withheld"

I am told that if the "which shall not be unreasonably withheld" bit is there the whole clause is rendered null and void.

This also applies to other things like no pets. It's fine for a LL to refuse 2 bull mastiffs in a top floor studio flat (that would probably be considered reasonable) but not some gold fishes. Alternatively the same bull mastiffs might be reasonable in an isolated farm house.

So LL's can't ban any decoration, but they can require some form of discussion first (i.e. repainting will be fine but wood chip wall papering the place would not be).

Secondly, if a tenant repainted and left, the LL has the option to claim the redecorating costs off the deposit (same as if there was damage). As the deposit is regarded as the tenant's money until the LL can come up with a good reason for deductions this should add a layer of "reasonableness" to the situation i.e. if a tenant had been in for several years and the living room was now cream instead of magnolia, the LL might have a hard time getting the deduction, but if the tenant was there for a year and the rooms were a rainbow of neon colours, it would be easier for the LL to argue to get the redecoration costs.

remember just because the fixed term of a tenancy is 6months it doesn't mean that the tenancy ends or a new bit of paper has to be signed! Next time a letting agent tries to pull this demand to speak to the LL (legal right) and explain that you are happy to stay on an STP and that the LL has to do nothing other than call off the attack dogs (sorry, I mean agents). The only person who benefits from the resigning is the agent.

Anonymous said...


opps, sorry correction

the line above should read

I am told that if the "which shall not be unreasonably withheld" bit is NOT there the whole clause is rendered null and void.

space cadet said...

Can you realistically "demand to speak to the landlord" tho? I know many agents that would just tell to you go jump, at that one.

I would suggest all decorating is preceded by a conversation, if at all possible. LL's should encourage this. Otherwise, yes, look to the lease and see how you stand. I figure those landlords that can't bare to talk to their tenants deserve a bit of a surprise sometimes.

RenterGirl said...

Your advice is fantastic Anon, but many tenants fear bad/no references more, and move or follow 'instructions' assuming the owner has total power, and with dvice now at a premium. But I am hearing some odd stories about deposits and their retention. Will post soon.

Tesco Value Chef said...

I am going to go totally and utterly postal, Librarian-poo at its worst, the next time I have to move into a property painted in magnolia. I'd rather have Thunderbirds.

Where I live at the moment (been here less than a year, moving out next week because the landlord's decided to sell it) the walls are yellow. It's not a colour I'd have chosen but I absolutely love it because it shows some sort of individual character.

Anonymous said...

There is a new website I found that allows tenants to post a review of their rental experience online so future potential renters can get a tenants point of view before signing on the dotted line (www.cribnotes.info)

It's one way tenants can get better control over their rental decisions...landlords/letting agents with a bad reputation are less likely to get as much future business.

The site hasn't been around long from what I can tell but the more people who post reviews the better off all renters will be.

RenterGirl said...

TVC yep - it's so soulless.


And the tenant evalaution site has spoken of for some time.

Anonymous said...

Magnoila and brilliant white are the two "standard" colours. Most paint ranges hae these two "off the shelf" and so they are availible in big tubs and a good price. Pretty much any other colour has to be mixed or bought in smaller sizes, making it a bit more expensive. That, combined with the fact magnolia is boring and inoffensive is why most places are painted magnolia. Ironically magnolia's blandness may be offensive to some people! :-)

There is no actual reason why landlords can't provide refernces as well (i.e. past tenants). It doesn't generally happen, but there is no reason it couldn't.

One problem (and here we go again with the letting agants), is that a good chunk of LLs use an agent to handle everything. So the LL is actually irrelevent it's the agent who needs to be checked, and of course the agent would be the one doing the checking! That being said if you know your agent is "bingley and bangley" then you can ask them for references. As a proffesional agency they should be happy to provide you with references. if not then how professional are they?