I have met many tenants – generally because they have fallen into rent arrears or are anti-social, lacking communication skills and refusing to engage with the landlord. I try to have a balanced view, give full consideration to poor life chances, but I am often left wondering why a sensible landlord would take tenants that stood little chance of making a success of a tenancy.
A landlord asked for some help with two of his tenants. A good landlord with nice properties in an attractive area, in 30 years he had only taken two tenants to court for eviction, so a landlord who has good management skills and chooses good tenants, perhaps also quite patient when his tenants have minor transgressions.
Why had he now lost patience with not one, but two, of his tenants? And why was I asked to get involved?
Personal security was one reason – he wanted to visit the tenants, both of whom were single mothers, and without witnesses to what would be difficult conversations, was worried it could leave him vulnerable to charges of impropriety (if not worse).
The main reason, however, was to show how serious the issues were – both owing in excess of £4,000. As rents were only £500 per month this was a considerable debt, and the landlord, still having a responsibility for repairs, gas services etc., could not afford to let the arrears increase further.
The first tenant, ‘A’ welcomed us into her home. She had been a tenant for three years and things seem to have deteriorated when she and her partner parted company.
The second tenant, ‘B’ had moved in only 8 months previously and aside from the first month’s rent being paid in advance, she had paid nothing since.
I was surprised at the similarity between these two young women. Neither had been asked for a deposit, neither seemed to have made provision to pay a deposit and offered to pay an additional months’ rent in advance.
Both lived in nicely decorated homes which they had done themselves. Both had photos displayed taken on foreign holidays (photos with dolphins), both had lounges with mounds of clothes on the floor and on tables and lounge furniture. Both expressed a desire to remain in their homes.
Both blamed housing benefits and feel that it was acceptable for the landlord to wait for the rent. Both had fluctuating incomes because of self-employed earnings and being on-call from a public house, where one worked 16 hours but would fill-in when required for additional hours.
One stated she had completed her first application in August 2016 and had received a letter which confirmed this; unfortunately, the letter she produced was dated January, which did not prove it had been submitted in August. The other was equally vague, relying on the landlord to advise her of various dates of telephone calls and visits.
It was left with both the tenants promising to make an appointment with Housing Benefit for the landlord and the tenants, individually, to have joint interviews, in the hope that something can be organised and the benefit finally be paid – though I have doubts that it will be back-dated as long as it needs to be.
The landlord is a caring and decent landlord, follows advice and takes care in who he allocates his tenancies to. Where he went wrong was that he took too much notice of his (usually right) gut instinct, that both were articulate, polite, pleasant young women, open and honest (he thought) and seemed ready for a good landlord and tenant relationship.
I could understand how the landlord would think they were good candidates. The landlord is now regretting his patience and faces losing a great deal of money, both in arrears and in the costs of evicting.
Always get references and check them well; get Guarantors if they are not paying a deposit. Take action as soon as the arrears reach eviction level.
Landlords do not go into private renting to become a charity. It is business, and tenants need to be aware of that instead of behaving like the victims of housing benefits and the landlord.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon