Landlords must get with the times: the NLA’s response
After the news that the government planned to abolish 'no-fault evictions', our postcard campaign to save Section 21 was signed by over 7,800 people. But not all landlords felt the same way. Andrew, a longtime NLA member expressed the desire to provide an alternative view that was in favour of the Government’s decision to revoke S21. Read his blog here, or read on below to see the NLA's rebuttal.
Landlords must get with the times. On that we can agree. However, it would be easier for landlords to do this if their investments didn’t feel so threatened. It must be remembered that the majority of landlords own only one or two properties, rented out as an alternative to a pension fund or because they were unable to be sold for whatever reason. It should also be noted that 84 percent of tenants are satisfied or very satisfied with their current accommodation*.
Times, and the private rented sector (PRS), are changing. There are more families than ever living in the PRS, more older people, more children. When the PRS was overhauled in the late 1980s, it was designed to provide housing for those who didn’t want the responsibility of owning a home and those who were just starting out; young adults flying the coop. The main benefit of the PRS for these groups is the flexibility it offers. While the average tenancy lasts for 4.1 years*, the short fixed-term agreements allow those who wish to move to do so as an when they wish. This is perfect for someone trying to find their first few jobs, who must be open to relocating. The two-month minimum notice period required under section 21 isn’t as big an issue for these groups. In fact, in the most recent English Housing Survey*, 69 percent of tenants said they felt their notice period gave them enough time to find new accommodation.
The notice period is an issue for families who require stability for their children. But good landlords don’t evict tenants without a reason. The English Housing Survey* shows that of the 12 percent of tenants who were asked to move by their landlord, the majority (69 percent) were asked because the landlord wanted to sell or use the property. Meanwhile, research by YouGov**** has shown that 37 percent of landlords used only section 21 because of rent arrears of at least two months in the last five years. So while blame may not be apportioned, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
If you’re to blame landlords for massively hiking rents to unaffordable levels, you would also be mistaken. Firstly, our research** shows that 60 percent of landlords haven’t changed rent levels in the last 12 months, while 10 percent have decreased rents. Of the 26 percent who increased rents, the majority did so to cover increases in running costs and taxes. Secondly, if a landlord were to hike rates above market rates, their tenants would be well within their rights to have that increase reviewed by the Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal. The tribunal will compare the new rent to current market rates to ensure it’s a fair increase.
In the commercial sector, tenants do have longer leases and get to modify the property to suit their business. However, commercial tenants have greater responsibilities than private tenants, particularly around health and safety, as well as for repair and dilapidations. As employers, a commercial tenant is responsible for the health and safety of those who work in the rented space. They’re responsible for gas and fire safety, which fall to landlords in private residential tenancies, and also have to undertake health and safety risk assessments. Similarly, tenants are generally responsible for any maintenance or repairs required within the rented premises, while the landlord is responsible for any communal areas and the external building. In private rented tenancies, the tenant has to keep the property in good condition, but the landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance. Private tenants must also leave the property in reasonable condition, allowing for wear and tear. Commercial tenants, on the other hand, may be responsible for removing the modifications and could face claims in excess of 12 months’ rent.
Tenants in the PRS have a lot of protections. What’s lacking is enforcement. Local authorities just don’t have the funds to properly enforce the legislation and regulations that already exist, leaving tenants vulnerable to exploitation by criminals operating in the PRS. These tenants don’t have an intimate knowledge of their rights and responsibilities or of how and where to get help when they need it. Likewise, there are some landlords who aren’t up to date with their rights and responsibilities. The Government has introduced a plethora of new regulations in recent years, which has only served to make it harder for landlords and tenants to understand what’s required. The PRS doesn’t need more regulation. What it needs is better enforcement and better education for both landlords and tenants.
*English Housing Survey 2017/18
** NLA Landlord Panel Survey Q2 2019 (738 respondents)
***Colliers International Property Snapshot June 2019
**** Landlord and Courts conducted by YouGov on behalf of the National Landlords Association December 2018 (3088 respondents)