In my time working with landlords, I have many times heard how unfair the eviction process is for them. They feel the tenants are always favoured, whilst they are looked on as black-hearted rogues, refusing to comply with the legal requirements when they want to re-possess a property, often with very good reason.
I have advised them of good practice, of keeping on top of their rent accounts and, not believing tenants! They still feel that the law in the eviction process is weighted for the tenants and against them.
The popular perception is that social landlords set the standard, that tenants will pay less rent, be more secure in their tenancies and not have to contend with the myriad problems they find in private renting, such as repair issues ignored and illegal and inadequate notice. Some social tenants may argue that their repair issues are not addressed, but surely none would say that they were not given full, legal notice – or would they?
A recent item in Inside Housing astounded me and put the idea of legal protection for social tenants in doubt.
WM Housing, a Midlands Housing Association, have evicted a number of tenants with only a weeks’ notice, or no notice at all. This is a very disturbing development, if other Associations choose to follow their lead using the same eviction process. Whilst few details were given of the evictees, and it may be that they were evicted for justifiable reasons, the concern must be that if they were then forced to rely on the private sector, how were they supposed to raise a deposit in a week or less?
Any tenant to be evicted is likely to be angry, distressed, even traumatised. If that is the result of eviction following 2 months notice, with the further period of a Court case, how much more likely is it that with considerably less than the correct notice, they do not know where to go? Some will end up on the streets, adding to the numbers of homeless that blight our city streets.
Fortunately, the regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency, have criticised WM Housing saying they may have caused ‘serious detriment’ by breaching the Tenancy Standard and not giving the 28 days notice that the law requires. WM Housing sought to explain their actions by stating that a Coventry supported housing scheme had not been giving 28 days notice and that this had been the situation for up to 2 years.
That would surely be a poor defence in law? I would prefer to say, ‘two wrongs can never make a right’, and something that is based on an illegal action cannot be considered to constitute a precedent.
I could not defend a private sector landlord that had acted in a similar manner. How many enforcement teams, delighted to take punitive action against a landlord, would believe that a social landlord could behave like this?
Unfortunately, whilst the private landlord is likely to find himself in Court, with his photo in the local newspaper with the obligatory ‘Rogue landlord’ headline, the social landlord will escape with little censure from the public, unaware of how many evictions the social sector is undertaking, and in this case, without the legal notice that is a requirement and a right of all tenants.
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