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Dear Mayor of London, it really gets my goat that you trot out the verbiage from various renters groups...

I had to write to the Mayor of London because it really gets my goat that he and others trot out the verbiage from the various renters groups, that 30,000 or so tenants have been ruthlessly and thoughtlessly thrown out of their homes over the last 5 years by rogue landlords, through no fault of their own. They want more restrictions on landlords and fewer on tenants. This will lead to fewer houses available to rent. This in turn will lead to rents rising and that will hurt the very people, the poor tenants, who the renters groups purport to help.

So I had to send him the following email.

Dear Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London,

There has been much emotive talk about Section 21s and I wondered if you know what a Section 21 is?

They were introduced in 1988 along with Assured Shorthold Tenancies because, at that time, the Private Rented Sector couldn’t attract sufficient people to invest in rental properties to provide much needed homes for those people who, for one reason or another, needed to rent a home.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies did encourage more investors into the sector because prior to that it was almost impossible for a landlord to regain possession of their property. With ASTs came the assurance that they could. This also provided assurance to mortgage and loan providers that their borrowers could, if necessary, regain possession of their property.

At the end of an AST, which can be for any length of time up to 3 years, the tenant is able to simply hand back their keys and their agreed contract, their tenancy, comes to an end. The Landlord however, cannot rely on the effluxion of time, i.e cannot rely on the end date of the contract to signify the end of the tenancy. (Unlike any other contract that I can think of.) Instead, the Landlord must issue a Section 21 notice to the tenant which is a notice that at the previously agreed end of the tenancy, the contract ends and the Landlord will regain possession. This protects the absent minded tenant from forgetting that their tenancy is for a finite time and that their contract will end in two months’ time. So a Section 21 is not a “no fault eviction” it is a proper notice that the tenancy will end. Without a S21 the Landlord cannot regain possession even though the contract has come to an end. (I won’t here go into details of when the fixed period of an AST ends and the tenancy becomes periodic as different rules apply)

Landlords can also use one of 21 grounds for repossession supplied by Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 at any time during the fixed or periodic term of a tenancy). However, these mean going to Court, with the associated costs and the time delays involved. (It is not uncommon for the Court process to take over 12 months and cost the Landlord tens of thousands of pounds) So often a Landlord will prefer to use a Section 21 (after the fixed contract term has ended) instead of going to Court for reasons such as the tenant conducting serious anti-social behaviour, for not paying rent, for damaging the property, for indulging in illegal activities for example. If the Landlord did go down the S8 and court route, it would cost the Landlord more money and time and it may result in a CCJ for the tenant, making it very difficult for the tenant to rent in the PRS again.

A landlord will very seldom evict a tenant for no reason. They do not willy nilly issue S21 notices on the spur of the moment. Landlords invest in rental properties to provide homes for tenants and to make a profit. If they could not do either of these they would not be a landlord. Consider what a landlord wants. They want a tenant to look after the property in “a tenant like manner” (Lord Denning), pay the rent in full and on time, and stay for a long time. What they don’t want to be doing is issuing S21 notices and losing rent!

A Landlord will only issue a S21 if the tenancy has come to an end or if the tenant has acted against the contract in some way. There is talk of Landlords using S21 as retaliatory eviction, and there is no doubt this happens, but the incidence is so small that to punish the owners of the other 5,000,000 properties in the PRS for the relatively few involved in this type of eviction would be to take a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Should S21 be abolished, leaving a S8 as the only alternative to regain possession of a property, it would then be evident what the causes of the repossessions are, be they due to non-payment of rent, damage to the property, anti-social behaviour, illegal activity or  any of the other S8 reasons, and Shelter, Generation Rent and the Renters Reform Coalition et al. will have to stop crying wolf that Landlords randomly evict tenants in their thousands for no reason, but that it is done for perfectly legitimate reasons. Who would support tenants involved in illegal activities, non payment of rent, damage to properties or anti social behaviour in their neighbourhood?

Renters action groups and others claim that what renters need is the Renters Reform Bill.

This bill will result in fewer properties to rent and thus increased rental prices.

Since the Renters Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament, and Landlords could clearly see that with the withdrawal of S21 it would become very hard to regain possession of their property when it was necessary, many of them decided the RRB would be the straw to break the back of the PRS and the time had come for them to sell up and leave the PRS. This is what is happening and is the reason for the increase in the issuing of S21s in the last year. This increase (up to 60% in some areas) is a symptom of the Government’s meddling in the PRS and not a symptom of heartless landlords and investors wishing to evict tenants. It is a sign that there will be fewer properties available to rent and simple demand and supply says that will mean higher rents.

It is time for the Government, the media and the renters groups to stop demonising and punishing landlords and investors.

It is time to realise that landlords are a vital component of the housing mix in this country, and that the overwhelming majority of them provide decent, warm, comfortable and safe housing to decent, law abiding, tenants who look after their homes and pay their rent on time.

It is time to realise that all the extra costs imposed on Landlords always end up in higher rents.

Sadiq, you have said “… I am doing all I can to build a better, fairer London for everyone by supporting tenants but I cannot act alone…”

You are right.

It is time to work in partnership with the very people providing the housing for your tenants. The landlords and investors of the PRS.

Yours Sincerely

Mike Pogson

Hartland Residential

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