Supplementary written evidence submitted by the National Residential Landlords Association [IOC 315]

 

1.0              About Us

 

1.1              The National Residential Landlords Association is the leading voice for private sector residential landlords. It was formed in April following the merger of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and National Landlords Association (NLA).

 

1.2              The NRLA represents the voice of 80,000 landlords, by far the largest organisation in the sector. The membership owns and manages around 10% of private rented housing in England and Wales equating to half a million properties.

 

1.3              It provides training and support for landlords to ensure they fully understand their responsibilities and are equipped to provide good quality housing for their tenants. It also campaigns for policies that seek to improve the private rented sector for the benefit of tenants and good landlords alike.

 

1.4              This follow-up submission should be read alongside our original written submission provided in April 2020 for the Committee’s inquiry[1].

 

2.0              Executive Summary

 

2.1              Since the NRLA made its original submission to the Committee, it has undertaken extensive research to understand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on both landlords and tenants. This has found that:

 

 

 

 

2.2              The ongoing ban on evictions is causing considerable difficulties, with landlords unable to take action against anti-social tenants and those who might be committing domestic violence. Likewise, many landlords are facing financial difficulties as a result of continuing to not receive any rental income from tenants who were building rent arrears prior to the eviction ban beginning.

 

2.3              The NRLA proposes that measures should be put in place to protect those currently shielding from eviction when the ban is lifted.

 

2.4              Alongside this we are calling for:

 

 

 

 

 

-          Cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.

-          Possession cases which were started prior to the lockdown but were then paused.

-          Cases where rent arrears were built prior to the lockdown.

 

 

2.5              We recognise and accept that section 21 repossessions will be ended, but argue that this needs to be within the context of the wider package of measures, including court reform, envisaged within the Renters’ Reform Bill.

 

3.0              Research Findings

 

3.1              Since the NRLA made its original submission to the Committee, it has undertaken extensive research to understand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on both landlords and tenants.

 

Tenant Survey

 

3.2              The NRLA commissioned the marketing research firm, Dynata, to understand the impact that coronavirus has had on tenants in the private rented sector. The fieldwork was carried out between 20th and 25th May 2020 and it is based on the responses of 2,027 tenants in England and Wales. It found that:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landlord Survey

 

3.3              The NRLA undertook a survey between 1st and 4th May 2020 to understand the impact of coronavirus on landlords. 4,566 current landlords participated in the survey. It found that:

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.0              Impact of Extension of Evictions Ban

 

4.1              Since the Committee’s interim report was published the Government has taken the decision to extend the ban on evictions by a further two months until the 23rd August. In the meantime, it has established a Judge led working group to establish the mechanisms required to protect those most affected by coronavirus, such as those who are shielding, and to allow the courts to function effectively when repossessions can take place again.

 

4.2              The NRLA has every sympathy for those struggling to pay their rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and is encouraging landlords to show as much support and flexibility to their tenants as they are able. Our research as outlined above clearly shows that in the vast majority of cases landlords are responding positively to requests for help from tenants.

 

4.3              That said, the decision to extend the evictions ban is causing considerable concern for many landlords who rely on rental payments as their sole, or main, source of income and those affected by tenants engaged in anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.

 

4.4                The consequences of the extension include:

 

 

 

 

LIVES BEING BLIGHTED BY ANTI-SOCIAL TENANTS

 

Following the announcement of the extension of the evictions ban a number of people took to Twitter to share their concerns at the impact it would have on the fight against anti-social tenants. Examples include:

 

 

 

 

 

LANDLORDS UNDER PRESSURE

 

Mrs R

 

Mrs R is a single parent who finds herself potentially unemployed as a new job she was about to start fell through due to the pandemic. She does not make any money on the property as it is in negative equity and has kept rent levels the same for a decade.

 

She submitted court papers to repossess the property because a tenant had not paid rent since around November last year and has convictions for harassing the neighbours. The evictions ban means that the tenant continues to stay in the property, living without paying any rent despite him receiving furlough money.

 

 

A Landlord Responding to an NRLA Survey

 

“I do have a deferred mortgage payment agreement with my Lender, but the balance of the rental income is what I live off, plus my State Pension. I am now having to borrow money to live…. Therefore- I am suffering.”

 

Peter (not his real name)

 

Peter has provided guidance recommended by the NRLA to support his tenants.  However, he had to begin evictions proceedings in January against one of his tenants due to the non-payment of rent, a process which has been halted due to the eviction ban.

 

Peter says of the tenant: “He has continually been anti-social, paid little rent, although the application for direct payment was quick, easy and successful. Arrears still exist, as does the antisocial behaviour. He also admits people into the house, parties and socialising daily…This tenant is aware that eviction is not possible until an order is made and bailiffs attend. He is hiding and protected behind all Covid laws…it’s been negative, disruptive, anti-social and potentially dangerous to tenants in my case. Ministers should allow evictions for specific cases.”

 

 

 

 

 

5.0              Protecting Those Most at Risk from COVID-19

 

5.1              The NRLA recognises that in order to allow the majority to enjoy a return to relative normality in respect of the courts, it will be necessary to provide greater assurance to the most vulnerable as a result of Covid-19. Those who are shielding, as defined by the NHS[7], and those who might be self-isolating for the required 14 days when a tenancy is due to end should continue be protected from evictions until such time as medical advice deems it no longer necessary.

 

5.2              Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 should be amended to the effect that a notice under subsection (1) or (4) of section 21 may not be given in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy of a dwelling-house in England at a time when the a member of the household, named on a valid tenancy agreement is required to medically shield defined by inclusion on the NHS Shielded Patient List.

 

5.3              Subsequently, Form 6A, which landlords are required to complete when seeking possession of a property under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, should be amended to add inclusion in the Government’s shielding list of ‘circumstances in which the law says that you cannot seek possession against your tenant’.

 

5.4              This should operate for a time limited period either until the end of the year or perhaps for a set period of months, with the opportunity to review in light of the ongoing health advice at that time. 

 

6.0                Roadmap for the Private Rented Sector

 

6.1              Alongside the above, we are calling for the adoption of the following five point plan:

 

 

 

-          Developing government guaranteed interest free, ring-fenced loans for tenants to solely pay for all or part of their rent. The funds would be paid directly to the landlord to cover the rent due. The tenant would pay back the loans over a period of time appropriate to their circumstances, potentially a number of years.

 

-          Increasing the Local Housing Allowance to the 50th percentile.

 

-          Converting Universal Credit advances into grants.

 

-          Suspending the Shared Accommodation Rate for under 35s as called for by the Social Security Advisory Committee[8].

 

 

 

-          Cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.

-          Possession cases which were started prior to the lockdown but were then paused.

-          Cases where rent arrears were built prior to the lockdown.

 

 

7.0                Section 21

 

7.1               The NRLA recognises that section 21 repossessions will be abolished, but argues that this should take place within the context of the Renters’ Reform Bill.

 

7.2              Abolishing section 21 will require an alternative system to be in place which enables repossessions in legitimate circumstances in a timely way with clear and comprehensive grounds upon which they can do so with time frames behind each. The NRLA is engaging constructively with the Government on this.

 

7.3              Underpinning all of this is the need for comprehensive reforms to the way the courts operate in cases of repossessions, recognising that abolishing section 21 will inevitably lead to growing demands on them at a time when they are already struggling to cope.

 

7.4              We welcome the support that this Committee gave for the proposal for a dedicated housing court in its report on the private rented sector in 2018. In light of this, it is extremely disappointing that despite the Government’s consultation on developing such a court having closed in January 2019 no response has yet been provided to it[10]

 

 

June 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Available at: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/3236/html/.

[2] Surviving Economic Abuse, New report demonstrates need for ‘Whole Housing Approach’ for victim-survivors of domestic abuse, August 2019, available at: https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/new-report-demonstrates-need-for-whole-housing-approach-for-victim-survivors-of-domestic-abuse/.

[3] Victims Commissioner, Anti-Social Behaviour: Living a Nightmare, April 2019, available at: https://victimscommissioner.org.uk/news/anti-social-behaviour-living-a-nightmare/.

[4] Ministry of Justice, Mortgage and landlord possession statistics: January to March 2020, May 2020, table 5, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884729/Mortgage_and_Landlord_Possession_Statistics_Tables_Jan-Mar_20.ods.

[5] Ministry of Justice, Mortgage and landlord possession statistics: January to March 2020, May 2020, table 6a, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884729/Mortgage_and_Landlord_Possession_Statistics_Tables_Jan-Mar_20.ods

[6] MHCLG, English Private Landlord Survey 2018 - Main report, January 2019, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/775002/EPLS_main_report.pdf.

[7] See https://digital.nhs.uk/coronavirus/shielded-patient-list.

[8] Social Security Advisory Committee, Letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary, 27th May 2020, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/888504/ssac-letter-to-secretary-of-state-covid.pdf.

[9] Ministry of Justice, Mortgage and landlord possession statistics: January to March 2020, May 2020, table 6a, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884729/Mortgage_and_Landlord_Possession_Statistics_Tables_Jan-Mar_20.ods.

[10] MHCLG, Considering the case for a Housing Court: call for evidence, November 2018, available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/considering-the-case-for-a-housing-court-call-for-evidence.