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Single Housing Redress Ombudsman – Consultation,
18th February – 16th April, 2018.

Some Home Truths.  PossessionFriend.uk

The consultation document refers to the ‘Broken Housing Market’. Whilst not explicitly laid at the door of the Private Rented Sector, the inference by virtue of the amount, scope and poorly drafted legislation infers that landlords are responsible for the previous governments policy of council house sale, rationale publicised as for the good of the working class, owning their own home. The true motive of course is vote-chasing, and nothings changed with the current housing debate.

The aim of a single Housing Redress is stated as ‘improving consumer redress’. This is one-sided and does not realise that the provider often needs redress that’s not catered for within the legal system, quite the contrary and is getting increasingly worse. ( e.g. Housing & Planning Act, Abandonment, see later )
The newly dressed MHCLG claims the biggest increase in new homes ! – one more than none is an increase, but the housing provision in the UK is nothing to boast about, with the PRS taking the strain. This is at increasing costs to landlords ( AND Tenants ) although media coverage of this effect is unbelievably conspicuous by its absence.
Another aim is to ‘simplify the process where people have a clearer route to redress.’ ? There are already routes such as Housing Health and Safety rating System HHSRS and various enforcement notices, recently strengthened by the Housing and Planning Act.

The fact – truth is that Local Authorities can’t enforce the existing provision due to lack of resources but aren’t even ‘performance-managed’ by central government who partly fund them. Central governments absence of management of L.A’s in this respect is incredible and wouldn’t be found in the private sector. No company would fund a subsidiary and say, here are tools and not manage their use.
Small parts of the Private Rented Sector are broken, its to be admitted, but this falls far short of blaming the Housing crisis at the door of landlords.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016, Civil penalties guidance acknowledges that 82% of tenants are satisfied with their accommodation, and staying in their homes on average 4 years. -Yet, there is pressure from the likes of Shelter ( to whom the government give disproportionate succour compared to landlord representative bodies ) to press for longer tenancies.

On the subject of tenancy terms and the use of so-called No-fault eviction Section 21 notices, they are only one of two complex, time-consuming and costly options for landlords to recover possession. No landlord is going to ask a tenant to leave an follow this costly procedure for ‘no reason’ ( think about it ! )
Invariably, such notices are used to deal with a serious business impediment of ‘Rogue-Tenants’ ( another conspicuously absent phenomenon for the media, which reflects the question of bias ) financially exploiting landlords due to the biased legal system in favour of tenants. I refer to the absence of a Rogue-tenant database. Criminal tenants ( although it seems a civil debt to owe rent to landlords, but criminal if money owed to HMRC, the L.A for Council tax ) are allowed by the current system to exploit landlords and by default, the level of accommodation available.

The state of the Civil justice system with its increasing lack of funding with the aim of making it self-funding is denying justice for landlords, exacerbated by the Debt Pre-Action Protocol introduced in October 2017, which is effectively a debtors charter.
It appears that landlords are expected to house the poorest of societies tenants (without discriminating over Housing benefit claimants ) reducing rent to below market value – if the Rent control lobby had their way and take the consequences of non-payment of rent ‘on the chin.’ All this without assistance from government who created the demand and now blame landlords for fulfilling societies needs. Its akin to blaming oil producers for more traffic.

Can anyone reading this appreciate the perverse circumstances that landlords have been ‘legally engineered’ into ?
It seems to have gone unnoticed that the months a landlords waits to obtain possession, either where tenants have abandoned the property or where they’ve stopped paying rent awaiting and delaying the eviction process, is time that the property is not available to let out to other deserving tenants.
There are about 120,000 Possession claims a year ( over half being made by social landlords ) and the average time from claim to Repossession for Private landlords is around 22 weeks. Add the 9 weeks of a Section 21 notice =
31 weeks that around 50,000 landlords are seeking Possession.

If we do the math, that’s 1,550,000 weeks a year that PRS landlords take to get a tenant who they, from a business perspective, at considerable cost ( legal costs, lost rent and void periods ) after attempts at negotiation with the tenant have failed.
[ why wouldn’t you try all reasonable persuasion Before going to these lengths and costs ? ]
To contemplate the amount of time tenants remain in a property after being asked to leave, Annually, is 387,000 months or 32,250 years !

That’s 32,500 tenants that could be accommodated each year.
The government has done absolutely nothing to address the abuse of rental property by tenants who on the one hand complain and campaign for higher housing standards, but won’t pay rent.
Another example of perverse housing logic is the claim for periodic Electric inspection certificates, when the fire service statistics show the highest cause of house fires to be due to cooking and smoking.
So, a Housing Redress Ombudsman is thought to be required because 18% of PRS tenants are not satisfied with their accommodation and L.A’s don’t / won’t deal with this !

There is a similar, disproportionate argument made out for licensing, because a small number of properties may warrant it, we’ll get All landlords to pay. ( conveniently dismissing the inevitable increase costs passed onto tenants – or don’t government know how business works ? )
To educate tenants on their course of redress, the How to rent guide provides information that complaints can be made to a Local Authority, so why do we need another layer of bureaucracy?.
The same Housing and Planning Act Civil Penalties says ‘Government wants to support good landlords ( but is doing the exact opposite ) … and avoid unnecessary regulation which increases costs and red tape for landlords and also pushes up rents.’

There is no evidence of this rhetoric, in fact, quite the opposite.
The reason for this is political vote-winning. The labour party appeal to significant numbers of voters [ tenants ] with policy suggestions of rent controls, ignoring basic economics of, if a commodity is desired it has to be paid for at market value / rate.
Most have heard of Newton’s third law of physics, ‘Every action Every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.’ No offence to Isaac, but not rocket science you’d have thought.

Take Sec 24 of the Finance Act, so called a stealth tax, which wasn’t really stealth, so much as Daylight robbery, there are even figures of estimated tax revenues to the government coffers. The story not covered by the media is how much rent increase have tenants so far been effected by preparatory funding measures and the effect has yet to begin taking effect. It seems Tenants have even been slow to pick this up and certainly organisations that represent their interests haven’t campaigned on this subject.

To add some balance and fairness, lets look at areas ( 18% ? ) where the PRS could improve. Some 60% of landlords are ‘Accidental’ inheriting family homes or as a proviso for Pension provision given the economic crisis in this field ( not of their making )

As a landlord advisor, trainer and independent Possession-eviction company, I see the level of knowledge amongst landlords as quite low. Again in fairness, there are two reasons for this. Firstly only 2% of landlords belong to an industry body – Landlord association, although Licensing schemes have required landlords to become accredited. This is the ‘sole benefit’ of licensing and does not out-weigh the many other negative aspects. Most licensing schemes are a government permit to charge landlords a fee for permission to continue their business. Landlords get nothing more in return for their money. Most licensing schemes don’t have property inspection however are charged a fee per property.

It may be wondered why government enacted such a licensing scheme, given that many have not resulted in a significantly greater number of property inspections nor prosecutions. Given the state of L.A funding shortages, any financial flow into L.A’s that replace government shortfalls of reduced funding is not going to be questioned, other than by landlords, who are pretty much ‘fair game’ for Local and central government, the media, and of course tenant representative groups.

Secondly, and especially in recent years, the pace of regulation and legislation ( and Government consultations ) have been exceptional. I would quote the quality as well as quantity of legislation. I’ll focus on three examples.

Firstly, Deposit protection legislation. ( especially Prescribed Information )
Initially legislated with best intentions in 2007, it is complicated and resulted in numerous case disputes and Superstrike case law that required an amendment to the legislation in the De-regulation act to ‘clean up’ its short-comings. The government approved schemes have been allowed to draft their own documents containing the Prescribed Information. For example, the Deposit protection Service has a single document, which although lengthy, comprises all the requirements.

My Deposits has a certificate and attached Prescribed Information pages, but Also, requires an additional leaflet called ‘Information for tenants’ which contains some of the Prescribed Information. These are needless complexities landlords could do without.

The second badly drafted legislation is the How to Rent guide.
Again well intentioned, the guide required to be issued before commencement of tenancy would, if a revised guide was published before the Fixed term went into Statutory Periodic, require a subsequent revised guide to be served at that stage. Expecting landlords to monitor a government website for updates to a document already provided is farcical, belies common sense and is a by-product of poor drafts-manship.
Thirdly, the Abandonment process under the H&P Act 2016 which comes into force on the 6th April 2018. Again the initial intention was to allow landlords a speedier method to recovering their property that had been abandoned by a tenant without the courtesy to notify surrender. ( thereby preventing the use of that property by another tenant – point again missed in all the debates )

The government led committee proposals were attacked by both Shelter and the labour ministers who eventually succeeded in adding such provisions that make the process virtually useless. ( see Parliamentary debate ) Housing barristers and a judge have commented that it is ‘ incredibly stringent, and fiendishly complex ‘ also, that ‘ unless your very, very confident, don’t bother. ‘
There is no parity for landlords and the political weight of debate vastly favours tenants despite the sparse government rhetoric.

There are civil penalties of up to £30 k per housing breach, in addition to prosecution ( which admittedly tend to often produce low financial penalties that don’t reflect the unwarranted rental profit from breaches – but that’s not 82% of landlords fault ) These penalties can be retained by L.A’s to offset their costs of pursuing breaches.
Few are using this, without leadership or management from the DCLG or now MHCLG.
With respect, the Housing minister needs to look at his own departments performance, management and leadership before contemplating additional layers of bureaucracy to duplicate and deal with the 18% or less of tenants ‘not satisfied’

That’s even suggesting that 18% of tenants are JUSTIFIABLY unsatisfied. Take out the Rogue tenants ( a concept lacking by government who back a rogue landlord database without even realising the concept of ‘professional – rogue tenants.’
That leaves the actual number of landlords that require intervention of which there is abundance of measures, not utilised.

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