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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Don’t evict anyone during virus crisis says leading lettings expert

A senior lettings expert with almost four decades experience says evictions should not be considered during the virus crisis, irrespective of the ban ending this month.

David Alexander helped set up DJ Alexander in 1982, and it describes itself as one of the largest family-run property management companies in the UK.

Now he says that as long as the continued impact of the pandemic remains, then action on evictions should not be considered. 

While the longevity of the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain, with unemployment potentially about to rise, and the future of the economy up in the air, now is not the time to disrupt tenants’ lives with the prospect of evictions he insists. 

Alexander, now also a joint managing director of PropTech platform apropos, says: “It is essential that agents and landlords work closely with tenants to develop and maintain a strong relationship to produce the best outcome for all involved. Excellent communication is essential in ensuring that everyone understands the current circumstances and is prepared to liaise and negotiate to find solutions which are appropriate for each individual situation.

“In March, our firm wrote to all of our tenants asking them if they were facing any issues or problems due to the pandemic and encouraging them to get in touch as soon as possible to see how we could resolve these issues. This ensured that tenants felt comfortable about communicating and clear that their concerns would be listened to with a sympathetic ear.”

He says that as a result of the contact, his firm is currently working with 500 tenants and landlords with the consequence being a mix of reduced rents, agreed payment plans and, in some cases, cancelled rents altogether. 

“Working out what solution is best for each individual tenant and landlord is the key to good relations in the private rented sector. These are temporary solutions for unusual times and we would, when the situation improves, always work with landlords and tenants to maintain regular payments to avoid arrears becoming an issue” he maintains.

“The best landlords understand it is more important, at this time, to ensure that tenants are not worrying about rent when so many other aspects of their lives may be under threat. Obviously, many landlords have major issues of their own and it is important to respect these. but developing long term, mutually beneficial relationships is crucial and requires understanding, communication, and trust.”

He says that in the past there’s been a tendency to portray the landlord and tenant relationship as an ‘us and them’ situation but in reality landlords “must understand that their property is not just giving them with an income but is providing a home and a roof over someone’s head who requires respect and understanding.”

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    I had to read this twice! Crazy path for this organisation. If my letting agent had this attitude Id have to sack them immediately otherwise Id be bankrupt.
    If you cant afford the rent then its time to go back to Mum & Dad & allow someone who is working with a family to have a roof over their head. Is this a spoof article have I missed something?

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    Is it not in the landlords best interest to know if the tenant is not going to be able to pay rent or agree on reduced rent for a period of time or a payment plan if they had planned on moving back in with mum and dad for instance and facing a void period during a time the property could not be re-let? Im a landlord who also works in lettings and there have been huge numbers of properties vacant over the past months since lock down, now we can re-let some of them we cannot achieve the same rents as pre Covid times

     
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    @Jane McCabe - liking your own post is no recommendation.

    In my area rents are rising and I can only speak for my area. During lockdown I had one property empty. Another had tenants in who were waiting to move into their own home. Now they have left and the flat is being refurbished before being let at an increased rent. Another flat was vacated at the beginning of this month and re-let within a week at an increased rent.

     
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    Jane McCabe Unless you are working in Central London or an undesirable part in the country you should be letting properties at increased rents.
    "Is it not in the landlords best interest to know if the tenant is not going to be able to pay rent or agree on reduced rent for a period of time or a payment plan"
    Course we would like advanced warning but contacting a tenant in March giving them the perfect time to opt out is a recipe for disaster. You should think through the psychology to know why!
    I instructed my agents NOT to do this under any circumstances or they will lose the all properties they manage.

     
  • girish mehta

    Sounds good In theory if you have lots of money and want to give it away or spending someone’s money. Typical agents talk. They eod not offer their services for free. Ask them to forgo their commissions to sellers and landlords.
    Not living in real world. Letting is a business and landlords have expenses and mortgages on top of countless legal responsibilities. When no rent comes the mortgage company will not write-off the mortgage payment.
    This is the tenants problem and government and council needs to manage their benifit and rental payment
    Landlords are paying their fair share of taxes and investing in better housing for their tenants. And government and councils treating landlords as cash cows

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    But thats what Im saying a LA wont get paid as they are on commission or is he going to be advocating a standard fee to his LL's. Recipe for disaster

     
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    That is not "typical agents talk" and if it is, then you are with the wrong agents!

     
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    Sounds like David Alexander is angling for a job with Shelter - the charity that DOESN'T do what it says on the tin.

    No good landlord gives notice to a good tenant without a good reason. "Obviously, many landlords have major issues of their own and it is important to respect these."
    Landlord at Tesco checkout, "What do you mean I cannot buy these groceries with respect?".

    For someone who has been successful, this article just turns you into a numpty. Even GR's own self-selecting survey on Twitter shows that less than 20% of tenants had a problem paying their rent.

  • James B

    In pleased I’m not one of his landlords !
    No wonder he has so many tenancies in trouble if he’s writing to them asking if they need assistance? That’s a green light to tenants to write back and say yeah why not ... maybe he has vested interests here on the tenants side with his other career

  • Paul Barrett

    This could be the 'Ratner' moment for

    D J Alexander

    Idiot businessman of the year!!!

    LA shouldn't concern themselves with tenant woes.
    Tenants will come.
    But they won't if the LA DOESN'T have any LL.

    So perhaps LA need to consider that LL are the foundation of their business!?
    You can have as much empathy as you want towards tenants but without LL then well you can't really be a viable LA.

  • jeremy clarke

    He says that as a result of the contact, his firm is currently working with 500 tenants and landlords with the consequence being a mix of reduced rents, agreed payment plans and, in some cases, cancelled rents altogether.
    In my mind, that is a lot of landlords who should be looking for another letting agent PDQ! We deal with c160 tenancies and have zero arrears, zero payment plans and 100% happy landlords!

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    It is alright for him as he likely has buckets of money.

    I wonder if he would have the same opinion if his only source of income had been taken away for nearly six month and now suggesting it should not even be reinstated.

    I bet if he was in that position he would be screaming his head off to get the non payers evicted and for him to start to get paid again.

    As a Letting Agent - Will he forgoe his landlord's fees? O course not - NO WAY.

    Tosser.

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    So ... we let all rents lapse and the tenants live free, then? Sounds utopian. Get real.

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    What a nonsense comment.

  • dale james

    OK So you are not going to like this! Mr Alexander's comment is coming from knowing the 'direction of travel' in the lettings business after working under a National Government Licensing Scheme for many years. I have been in the same situation in Wales for 6 years now and totally understand his viewpoint. We have had to evolve and change, even change our core philosophy of what we do. Of course Agents have a Fiduciary Duty to their landlords under contract but there is also a Duty of Care to the tenants. As agents we are employed not only to do the usual risk management for the landlords, advertising etc but to supply a good level of Customer Service to the landlords customers - his tenants. It is a huge responsibility for us anyway but you have to admit that most agents' customer services lurch between Wall St 'Greed is good' and Fawlty Towers! in the eyes of tenants. Working the figures out from Mr Alexander I see that he only has issues to be resolved with 7% of his tenancies, the national average is apparently 20% of tenants in arrears, so he is doing rather well. There is a change coming and we must be ready to grasp it and evolve as a business, this may mean that our choice of tenant has to be better from the start and that we treat those tenants better to encourage a loyalty to our services.

    Paul Barrett

    You have NO fiduciary duty towards tenants.
    You do as the LL directs you.
    You are the LL agent.
    You act for the LL.
    Your prime responsibility is to extract the full contractual rent from the tenants.

    Plus you need to ensure that all services for the Tenant are managed as well as making sure the tenant complies with contractual obligations.

    You owe tenants nothing apart from the above.

    If I thought you were doing something in acting for me that compromised my income you wouldn't be my LA for long.

    So forget any fiduciary duty towards tenants..
    That duty is only for LL

     
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    I had agent call me up who 'forgot' her position and thought she was working for the tenant and just tell me what was I had to do & get it done now attitude.
    Didn't end well for her that day!

     
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    @Paul Barrett the phrase is, "He who pays the piper, calls the tune."

    Before the Tenant Fees Ban, I always felt that both were our clients. However, now our only client is the landlord since we do not get paid by the tenants.

    I believe this is known as the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  • dale james

    Yes, I did say that we have a Fiduciary Duty to the landlords as well as contractual. I did not say we had a Fiduciary Duty to the tenants. However, in law we have a Duty of Care to landlords, tenants, contractors ... even neighbours ie., everyone! The collection of rent etc is in all our Terms of Business and of course it is a priority. A bigger priority is for landlords to present their product (the property) in good and 'lettable' condition, at a market rent, to fully vetted tenants and tie them to a carefully set up Tenancy Agreement. Even before the Tenant Fee Ban we did not have a contractual agreement with the tenant (and therefore the tenants were never our clients) and whilst it was economically very good to charge both sides it has always been a bit dubious under the Law of Contract! We had it too good for too long and now we have to grow up and evolve the business model.

    Paul Barrett

    As good business practice it makes economic sense to impose a duty of care on yourselves regarding anyone connected with the business.
    Attempting to do so will hopefully avoid getting a bad reputation.
    All business from day one is invariably attempting to build up 'goodwill'.

    After all 'goodwill' has a monetary value!!

    Always better to trade as fairly as you can while not compromising your bottom line

     
  • dale james

    Well said! I wish everyone the very best .... it's getting tough out there I know!

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    What utter garbage. Jane McCabe is right - can’t afford rent then move in with mum and dad! Why sacrifice poor little landlord? Why doesn’t tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda give free food out to those that are homeless? They are billion pound companies - won’t affect them! None of charity organisations are having a go at these big supermarkets.

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    No Shes 100% wrong Mohammad. Agree with rest of your statement though

     
  • Paul Barrett

    Govt is waging an ideological war against LL to eradicate them.
    It considers the CV19 issue as a great opportunity to get rid of even more small LL.

    If Govt had it's ideological ideal outcome ALL private LL would be put out of business tomorrow.

    LL should under no illusions that this Tory Govt wishes you out of business.

    It is not the slightest bit interested in the mass homelessness that would result it just wants all LL gone.

    But Govt knows that LL will keep their businesses afloat with their own private resources.

    It knows most LL cannot afford to default on BTL mortgages as it would bankrupt many.

    It is relying on LL subsidising feckless tenants to ensure they aren't made homeless with Govt ensuring this occurs with the eviction ban.

    The behaviour of this Tory Govt towards LL is simply scandalous!

  • dale james

    It certainly seems Government no longer wants the smaller landlord. Media are demonising landlords at every opportunity; I have presented to around 5,000 landlords in the last 6 years and most are just trying to provide themselves a pension or are 'accidental' landlords. Most are unable to keep up with the waves of legislation that spew out of the politicians who do not know enough about the subject of lettings to even have an opinion on the subject unfortunately. I think only 3 of the delegates I have encountered were 'intentional' rogues! In short, it is very difficult to continue as a private landlord these days and we need some good old fashioned common sense from Government ..... in the absence of that, we have to work best with what we have. Here lies the opportunity for Letting Agents to step up to the mark ......

  • girish mehta

    Agents are employed and paid by landlords and not Tanents. Then why is he contacting Tenants to and managing their expectations and billing landloards. Should he not manage landloards interest and not time on issues that he does not concern him

    Unless his agency is going bust and looking high paying jobs with one of these charities

    Looks like the new regulation regarding fees have effected his business and is looking for exit

    Landlords do not need agents who do not work for their interest

    Do not employ their services.

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    Yes def cannot have this company managing your portfolio. Equivalent to a window cleaner with a cracked bucket - nonsense

     
  • dale james

    Kind of missed the point! His agency is actively managing the tenancy when engaging with the tenants on the landlords behalf, this is not saying to the tenants to not pay the rent but letting them know that rent is still due and they must engage in the process of managing their debts. Rather than putting your head in the sand until tenants stop paying - get ahead of the game. It's my experience so far that the tenants that take advantage of the situation are the same ones that gave landlords troubles in the past! ie landlords and agents should have taken action before this pandemic or better still not rented to them in the first place as a result of better vetting. Do landlords want an agent that 'lets sleeping dogs lie' or actively engaging before there is a bigger problem?

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    I say evict everyone who does not pay.

    PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    Yes David, Totally agreed, Private landlords operate a business, not a social service !

    The government and Local Authorities are supposed to be looking after Welfare, not Private landlords. Instead, L.A's are gambling away Tax-payers money on business - Commercial properties because the rent return is higher and they don't have to put up with the crap from residential tenants - leave that to Private landlords and when they can extract some further cash from them, - issue a Civil Penalty.

    As for those that are NOT owed the Outstanding rent they rely on for their own living expenses to say, oh, just let em off. - armchair critics / commentators with no skin in the game.

     
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    @PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend I think commercial landlords may be feeling the pinch too. This working from home will have repercussions. My partner mainly works from home anyway but now almost all his firm work from home. Having invested moiney in enabling staff to work from home, firms now realise that they really only need a limited number of staff in the office so can save money on rent, business rates, heating, lighting etc.

    A very strange future for all.

     
  • girish mehta

    It’s the government and everyone peddling misinformation that is the problem.the government, council and dwp do not want to pay for the homeless. They want these people to vote for them to keep in power. The government needs to have a proper well funded and well thought policy over long term
    The housing have been neglected since sixties.
    You will not see progress till there is will and commitment from everyone. At moment they divide different sections of community through misinformation and fake reports then pass legislation to get more taxed for short goals.
    Property is a high value transactions and you can’t have government policy on shoestring . Due to high value of transaction you need to get reasonable return for your investments. The housing will get worse and it suits government short term agenda so they can get more tax.
    Things will not improve and will get worse. The large cooperations will not invest in build to rent if the returns are less and will demand higher rents in return . This will then lead to higher social housing benefit bill
    It is all geared towards short term solution to suit their agenda.
    With reducing returns for small landloards and heavy taxation and unfavourable tax and justice system this will only get worse. With higher rents .
    It a matter of time the landloards will pull out and invest overseas loosing government more tax revenue
    The issues regarding Covid and Brexit has not come into effect on economy and now companies laying staff and people on willing to go back after furlong
    This a big political storm of short term thinking from government

    Civil unrest to follow due to people loosing trust

    Tough choice and things going to hard for young under 50 as the world economy slows down

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    The LA is paid by the LL. That is the law now. You as an agent cant charge the tenant for anything other than lost keys pretty much. Better to focus on us than the tenant.

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    As a long term landlord, I contacted all my tenants in March to acknowledge the difficulties that we were all about to encounter. I said that if they had any issues with rent payment, not to stop paying but to speak to me first. So far only three have come forward and we have agreed short term plans to help them.

    If they're not going to pay, I'd like to be prepared for it (in terms of cash flow management).

    Luckily the vast majority have continued paying rent at the full rate on time, as a percentage I'm down no more than 102% on the last six months.

    I agree that rent has to be paid - I'm in business as a landlord - but if eviction is suspended (and takes time and money anyway), I'm happy to liaise with my tenants and hope we all come out the other side. Fundamentally I want them to stay, not go. None of us wanted the pandemic, but some of us are perhaps in a better position to see it out.

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