Section 21: why is it a vital tool for landlords, a case study of five landlords
Landlords have lost faith in Section 8, so are using Section 21 as a backstop. Below are five real-life examples of scenarios where Section 8 isn’t an option.
We will be presenting our members’ experiences to the Government in order to show why the abolition of Section 21 will be damaging for the private rented sector. We’ve had a huge response so far. To add your story, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the fight to #SaveSection21 by signing the campaign here.
1. The stoner
Cannabis smoking in residential properties is a fairly common problem in the private rented sector, and can have detrimental effects on both the building and other tenants living in the same flat or block. This issue is commonly heard on our Telephone Advice Line calls, and some common observations are:
Cannabis smoking is particularly common in shared houses and blocks of flats
Smoking inside presents a fire risk, posing a threat to tenants’ lives as well as your property
The smell is unpleasant for other tenants and homeowners in the same building.
Case study: One member describes how hard it was to gather evidence of cannabis smoking; as it is a largely smell-based issue there is no way to photograph or film it effectively. After speaking with the offending tenant, they would usually agree to not smoke indoors, but continue anyway. Often, landlords only find out when other tenants let them know - other times you will notice a strong smell on your visits.
Our member recounts that for fear of revenge from the offending tenant, other tenants never agreed to put anything in writing or stand as a witness; they would rather move themselves to get away from the unhealthy environment. This meant their tenants were not happy, and the landlord had a high churn which was bad for business. With the use of Section 21 the landlords has managed to get the weed smoking tenant moved on, and chose not to use Section 8 as they did not feel the court would accept a lack of physical evidence, and that the lengthy process would have a negative effect on other tenants.
2. The drug dealer
Whilst renting to drug dealers seems like an unlikely problem to run in to as a landlord, the majority of cannabis farms are run out of private residential properties. Furthermore, we recently ran a campaign with the Home Office to create awareness of the County Lines drug issues, which highlighted:
Drug dealing is particularly common in shared houses and blocks of flats
The comings and goings of multiple people through the day and night is a giveaway
The tenant does not want to be disturbed and tries to prevent you from inspecting your property when given reasonable notice .
Case study: Members have reported that other tenants in the block or house are often too scared to report the issue of drug dealing. They would not agree to give any kind of written statement, but some will complain verbally in private to you about it – they will often hand in their notice to vacate at the same time. Needless to say, gathering the evidence to support a Section 8 claim against this type of individual can put the landlord themselves at significant risk. Many landlords are scared of the possible repercussions of informing the police of the drug dealer’s suspected activities, which leads them to serve a Section 21 rather than risk needing to prove criminal activity.
3. The drunken partner
Tenants don’t always get along. For the most part, they’re unlikely to involve you in these issues. However, if things get out of hand, you may end up being called at all hours. In these situations, you’re probably not the only person to be disturbed. These cases include:
When one tenant locks another out of a room or the property
When tenants get into an argument and start shouting at each other
When tenants start damaging the property, furniture or fittings to spite their housemates.
Case study: One member received a text at 11.55pm from a tenant saying the woman in the downstairs flat had locked her partner outside - he was now trying to kick the door down and shouting. The landlord called the tenants to find that he was under the influence, and had allegedly been violent towards his girlfriend. Because both tenants were emotional, these calls took over an hour and a half. Meanwhile, the tenants in adjoining flats sent messages to the landlord to report the man was damaging the property. The landlord called the police and advised the tenants to do the same.
The police attended three times and spoke with him, but no arrest was made. Despite being told to keep the noise down by neighbours, he carried on his attack on the building – smashing items in the garden, punching walls and windows, and slamming the gate repeatedly. Because no charges were made against the tenant, the landlord felt unable to support a Section 8 claim.
4. The energy waster
This scenario only affects properties that are rented with all or most utility bills included in the rent. These can include HMOs, or flats in converted houses where some of the amenities are still common, and therefore paid by the landlord and ‘included’ in the rent. Tenant activities that could be detrimental to a landlord in this category include:
Leaving the heating on high or turning heating up rather than wearing a jumper
Running water wastefully
Using heating to dry washing while not ventilating the property.
Case study: One of our members was managing an HMO with all bills included. One tenant was incredibly wasteful. The tenant would turn the heating up to 30C. He deliberately left the gas hob lit all day while he was out. He would buy frozen fish and defrost it by leaving hot water running over it while he waited in his room for it to thaw. When the tenant moved out, our member’s gas bill for that property dropped by £300 per month. The problem they faced when considering a Section 8 was that it was hard to gather any evidence of what the tenant was doing - he denied doing any of it or would apologise when caught, but continue in his energy-wasting behaviour.
5. The damage-causing tenant
Damage caused by tenants is one of the most common frustrations for landlords, and is often accompanied by tenants denying liability. Even with inventories, tenants challenge the cause of the damage, and in shared houses it is even harder to apportion blame.
Tenant damage can range from minor to serious, and include things like:
a glass hob being cracked
damage to walls after hanging up photos or shelves
damage to bathroom fittings – cracked cistern/sink etc.
Case study: One member experienced a problem with tenants complaining about damp and demanding a reduction in rent. Upon inspection, the member realised their tenants were hanging clothes up to dry inside without opening windows, and the ventilation vents taped up. Our member paid to remove the mould that had grown, but as the tenant did not change their behaviour the problem kept recurring – a costly and needless cycle.
In these instances it is at the court’s discretion whether or not there is sufficient evidence that the tenant is causing damage. If landlords did choose to pursue a Section 8, they would have to be incredibly diligent to build a case prior to any notice being served, during which time their property is being gradually destroyed.