Housing and Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, during an online Q&A session with MPs on the Parliamentary Select Committee announced that the effective ban on evictions in the private rental sector may be extended by 3 months.
This comes as a blow to landlords with problem tenants, as well as neighbours next door to dysfunctional HMOs and properties with antisocial behaviour issues.
This won’t come as a shock to most landlords, as part of the government’s assault on the private rental sector. With the abolition of Section 21, changes to Section 8, growth of Article 4 dictations and the changes to tax legislation make this yet another ‘below the belt’ hit to landlords who currently operate. The government has already forced landlords to keep tenants that can’t pay in their properties.
We cannot discount the tenants who are genuinely struggling to pay due to the effects of the pandemic, for example those who have lost their job as a result. What the extension doesn’t account for are those who were due to be evicted pre-pandemic, already thousands of pounds in arrears who were granted evictions that were simply badly timed.
The semantics used also introduced a level of confusion. Many tenants automatically stop paying because they believe their landlord has a mortgage ‘holiday’, when in actual fact this is not a holiday, but a deferral of the payments – they still have to be paid. Many tenants see this as an opportunity not to pay, as well as wrongly thinking those rental payments have been ‘written off’ and not payable, largely thanks to the government.
Compounding the issue is the fact that landlords (many of whom are working professionals, not millionaires) are receiving no assistance from the government directly. This discounts aid such as Business Bounce Back and CBILs loans, which are reserved for sophisticated landlords, who need less help than the average landlord, who isn’t classified as self-employed by HMRC. Many aren’t eligible for any help via the Universal Credit system, either.
This is seen by many as a cynical move by an otherwise ‘finger-pointing’ government. Many landlords are already looking to pull out of the private rented sector and opt for shorter-term lets such as holiday-lets or serviced accommodation. As this trend increases, so will homelessness, as private landlords form the majority of the rental stock in the UK; which can only lead to further homelessness down the line.
The government can only punish landlords for so long.