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‘Improved protection for private sector tenants’ read the headline in the Manchester Weekly News (18th October 2018) in a column written by the Citizens Advice Bureau.
A photograph of the writer, looking very firm, was attached. Clearly, a man to be trusted – he was wearing a shirt and tie. That does not really explain my irritation with the article, though irritated I was. How many people would have read that headline and had their negative opinions of private landlords victimising vulnerable tenants, enforced?
So what is this new protection? It outlined the changes, which landlords have been advised about for at least 2 years, as follows:
- The landlord has to use form 6a to give a section 21 notice – hardly a change, a notice has always had to be issued; perhaps I am naive but changing the name of a notice is hardly radical, no new protection there.
- The section 21 notice will only be valid for 6 months – this is a change, and for a good reason. Previously, landlords were able to give a tenant a notice at the start of the tenancy, to end on the last day of the tenancy. This was a safeguard for the landlord and often, these were not used. Now, the tenancy must run 4 months before a notice can be given and a Court order sought within 6 months of the issue of the notice;
- The landlord must give 2 months notice that they wish you to vacate – this has been the case since the introduction of Assured Shorthold Tenancies in February 1989 following the 1988 Housing Act; how does this improve protection for the tenant?
- The notice the tenant gives does not need to end on the last day of a period of tenancy – that may save the tenant a couple of weeks rent, but this would then penalise the landlord.
- The final point made was that the tenant may be able to allege retaliatory eviction and therefore challenge the eviction. I hate to think of a tenant who has kept a property well and paid the rent on time being evicted because they have upset the landlord. But that is rarely the case so doesn’t really need protection. There are usually a combination of factors that lead to an eviction. Decent landlords should not be put to the additional expense and hassle of a court case because the CAB encourage false claims of retaliatory eviction!
The rest of the article is correct information about the court process of gaining possession.
They correctly state that when a tenant receives a notice, they should take advice. I fully agree, but take it from CAB, housing aid, even Shelter. Unfortunately, many will go to the ‘no win, no fee’ solicitor. This is bad news for the landlord. They may have behaved perfectly correctly, but a solicitors’ letter will force them to take legal advice themselves.
They will hopefully win the case, but at what cost? The delays in Court process will have meant rent arrears have increased, unpleasantness in the neighbourhood; then add the cost of the solicitor’s services. Who has won? Generally the solicitors and then the tenant, in the property until the court orders possession.
Shelter appeared to be working far better with private sector landlords, but it seems that some CAB workers will still want to write a subtle ‘downer’ on the private landlord. I await with bated breath the article written by CAB that starts ‘Private Sector Landlords save thousands from homelessness’ – but I think that is still some way off.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon