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By Phil Spencer

Founder, Move iQ

TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Phil Spencer: Agents can help ensure court evictions remain a last resort

Last month, we were all caught by the surprise news that the government was extending the temporary ban on evictions just a few days before it was due to be lifted.

Following news of the extension, which runs until September 20, the government also announced that from August 29, landlords must provide at least six months' notice before seeking possession of a property through the courts unless it is for an issue such as anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or six months’ accumulated rent arrears.

Meanwhile, when evictions resume in courts later this month, landlords seeking possession will have to provide additional information about their tenant's circumstances, including how they have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although it was designed to protect tenants during an uncertain period, the eviction ban has posed many challenges for letting agents and landlords.

Seeking possession through the courts should always be viewed as a last resort and there are plenty of steps that can be taken to handle tenancy issues before they escalate.

Avoiding a court eviction is usually in the interests of both landlords and renters, so what can letting agents do to facilitate harmonious tenancies?

Communicate, communicate, communicate

When times get tough, having an existing relationship in place can reduce the chances of landlords needing to pursue an eviction.

Communication is and always will be the key to a healthy tenancy. Finding out about a tenant's circumstances can help you to put necessary measures in place.

If a renter trusts their agent and landlord, they are more likely to come to you with a problem, meaning you won't be left in the dark. Speaking informally is a great way of building relationships with tenants, but naturally everything must be followed up in writing.

If agents act as an effective conduit between both sides of the tenancy and inform landlords of problems before they escalate, they can really prove their worth. 

Repayment plans and rent reductions remain useful

At the height of lockdown, many landlords offered tenants rent reductions or organised affordable repayment plans to help them pay back what they owed.

While we may now be starting to see the other side of the pandemic, these measures can still be effective - particularly as the furlough scheme finishes at the end of next month.

Offering renters in arrears the chance to pay back some of what they owe through reduced payments or a repayment plan can help to rebuild trust.

It also means your landlord can start receiving regular income again, rather than getting nothing at all for an extended period before pursuing the expensive and time-consuming court eviction process.

Ensure landlords are aware of new evictions process

As outlined above, the evictions process will be very different when it resumes later this month. It is therefore going to be a vital task for agents to communicate the complexities and differences of the new process to landlords so they know what they are dealing with.

With a huge backlog of cases to be heard, court evictions are likely to take longer than usual, so educating landlords on the latest developments and the options available to them can discourage them from making rash and potentially costly decisions.

Of course, if your landlord is dealing with severe rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse, a court eviction will be a serious consideration and the required notice period will be shorter. However, agents should be working with their clients to find solutions to smaller issues where possible.

Utilise available products and technology

Now is also a good time for agents to think about the technology available and how it can help them to solve problems and allow landlords to feel they don't have to pursue a court eviction.

Having a digital record of all payments and communications can give you a good idea of how a tenancy is progressing, allowing you to spot trends and potential issues before they escalate.

What's more, having the information available at your fingertips is useful if you need to provide evidence in the future. There are digital systems which can help you to issue rent reminders and contact tenants through different mediums, which can help you to get a grip on minor rent arrears.

You can also help tenants to manage their own finances by insuring their rental payments and point landlords in the direction of the best rental guarantee products on the market.

The end of the evictions ban will be significant for landlords who have been unable to resolve serious issues for a number of months. However, despite evictions taking place again, agents should continue to work with landlords and tenants to find alternatives.

*Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Coming soon: Move iQ Pro, Phil’s resource to support the property community. Stay tuned ready for launch – sign-up here.

  • David Porter

    Thanks, Phil. It's always good to start the week with some unsolicited advice about how to do my job from a tv presenter.

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    Well said, David.

    Spencer’s advice is unwanted, unwanted, unwanted.

     
  • Paul Barrett

    In my 10 years of experience COMMUNICATION has NEVER elicited payment of rent arrears.

    Not even Civil Recovery action has succeeded.

    The facts are COMMUNICATION rarely achieves anything.
    Indeed some tenants might use such COMMUNICATION as harassment by a LL.
    Far better NOT to Communicate and just use the standard repossession protocols.


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    Truly if you think that professional respected agents don't know this its a big shock. This article is condescending and completely unhelpful. The reality is that most tenants have, in our experience, behaved in an extremely communicative manner, Landlords have been prompt to state they will be reasonable and wish to work to assist. We wrote to all our tenants prior to the pandemic advising them they could contact us throughout on our mobile phones with any issues. However, there is always one, who despite being offered all sorts of available options, and stated he doesn't want to do anything but pay the full amount, has not paid a penny. They are both working full time and taking advantage of the situation because they know they can. This is costly, stressful and deeply upsetting. If you do take the insurance route please check the small print in relation to late rental periods. The reality is the back log is something none of us can quantify. The government is penalising hardworking landlords and expecting them to take the hit of not paying housing benefit and not having enough properties to house people in..................

    Paul Barrett

    Yep effectively it is sequestration of private property by Govt; a Tory Govt!!!!!!!!!

     
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    @Paul Barrett - they may carry the label of "Tory" but we have not had a true Tory Government since Maggie was PM.

    Paul Barrett

    True!!

     
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    But keep in mind Mrs Thatcher instigated selling off council houses without allowing Councils to reinvest the funds to replace the consequently diminishing pool of social housing. She heralded the basis of many of the problems of which we, as LL, are now experiencing the ‘rewards’. There were aspects of ‘Mrs T’ which were admirable but this policy was not one of them.

  • Paul Barrett

    So do you believe had these 2 million council homes not been sold that they would all be occupied by hard working British citizens! ?

    I think NOT.

    We have seen what goes on in the recent C4 TV programme.
    An illegal Syrian economic immigrant was given a council flat!
    There are 400000 EU nationals currently occupying social housing.
    A disgrace.
    With 2 million additional social homes we'd just be housing more of the buggers.

    The indigenous British citizen would be way down the list.
    Remember there are 40000 illegal economic migrants waiting to be housed currently in 4☆ hotel accommodation.
    So at least most of the council homes were bought by British nationals and they had some advantage out of them.

    Council housing is only fair if NOT based on need.
    Until that is changed back to as it was which was a queue then any new social housing won't be assigned to British nationals.
    So why bother?
    We don't want to encourage them.
    We want to ideally deport them.
    Fat chance!

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