Another Friday, another Newsround:
Ministry of Justice launches legal support pilot for housing disrepair
This week, the ministry for housing has released a scheme that aims to provide landlords & tenants with tailored information, guidance and signposting to help resolve housing repair issues before problems escalate.
The support system asks the user questions about the issue they may be facing. After the questions, the system then signposts guidance that is specific to the user’s problem as well as information on people’s rights and responsibilities.
An excellent tool for tenants and also for landlords, to help them understand how the system works.
Note: the system is still in beta stage. It can be found here.
Police refusing to take action on property scams
Letting agent Phil Skorochat has exposed scams in Bournemouth where conmen have been copying items for sale or rent from a legitimate website and use them in rental listings in online marketplaces such as Facebook or Airbnb. However prospective tenants, after paying for the deposit and first months rent, turn up to find that the property belongs to someone else and they have lost their money.
Skorochod, head of Martin & Co Bournemouth, told the BBC
It’s very simple. People pretend or purport to be the landlord or the owner of the property, and then they set up an email address similar to the name the owner and advertise the property on Facebook or Airbnb, or any of these other online media platforms, and collect tenancies.
Skorochod has asked the Police to take action but says that they refuse to do anything, saying
We tried desperately to get the police involved. They don’t take details, they don’t come out, they don’t check the people. They refused to get involved.
The police apparently just say that it’s a civil matter and is not criminal. Which is extraordinary – how can conning someone out of large sums of money by fraudulent misrepresentation not be criminal?
There is a distressing video on the BBC here. which shows that both property owners and the people scammed suffer huge financial losses.
- So if you are a tenant – be very careful before you hand over any money. It’s best to rent through a reputable agent.
- If you are a property owner – if property is empty – make sure it is properly secured from entry (the property in the BBC video had had squatters) and set up a Google alert for the property address as this may alert you to unauthorised listings on the internet.
Official figures show a reduction in possession proceedings during the pandemic
New research, produced by the National Residential Landlord Association show that, contrary to what many people (and much of the media) think, possession proceeding have actually dropped significantly during the pandemic.
The research shows that there were 22,700 claims made between April 2020 and March 2021 – an 80 per cent drop from the total figure for 2019 which was 110,907.
Suggesting that landlords and tenants were, on the whole, able to resolve issues amicably. Although it could also reflect the fact that many landlords thought it was a waste of time issuing proceedings that were likely to take up to a year or more to complete.
However, it does show that far more cases than previously were resolved outside the courts, and landlords should take credit for this. Many have no doubt agreed to rent reductions, waivers of rent and the like.
It will be interesting to see, now the ‘eviction ban’ has been lifted since 1 June, whether the much predicted ‘tsunami’ of evictions will actually materialise. And if it does, how significant a tsunami it will be.
The report also looks at the arduous system that landlords face will going through a possession proceeding. The mean average wait time for a possession order was 10 weeks in the first quarter of 2019, whereas in the same quarter in 2021, it extended to between 15 and 18 weeks. This increase lends weight to the growing call from landlords to streamline the court system of the possession process.
Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive commented:
Whilst these findings show how landlords and tenants have responded with admirable resolve in the face of unprecedented challenges across the sector, they also reveal the dysfunction which continues to lie at the heart of the court system across England and Wales.
New Welsh Government grant to help tenants pay rent arrears
Tenants in the private rented sector in Wales with rent arrears now have access to the Welsh hardship fund which will be available from 1 July. This new £10 million grant will be available for applications by mid-July and will be administered by local authorities.
The grant will be available to anyone with more than 8 weeks rent arrears which were accumulated since March 2020. The debt must also have been caused by the covid-19 pandemic. The grant replaces the tenancy saver loan system which is currently implemented in Wales.
Welsh Landlords who have tenants in rent arrears should advise tenants to look into this here
So when are we going to have a similar grant scheme for tenants in England?
The Government calls for unique property reference numbers (UPRN) to be incorporated into the house buying and selling process.
At the GeoPlace annual conference last month, the Housing Minister called for the widespread adoption of the UPRN’s across both the private and social sector.
UPRN would provide an easier way to regulate properties, showing landlords, tenants and letting agents what each property has in terms of safety certification as well as licensing.
This would streamline the process as all parties would know that property is safe and legal to be marketed, both in the renting sector as well as the property purchasing market. This would hopefully make it impossible for any property to be let or sold with all the requirements needed.
We discussed this issue in the first Landlord & Lawyer podcast with Kate Faulkner which you will find here.
- Build to rent leading the way for tenants with pets
- Insurer Hiscox agrees settlement with action group over Covid losses
- UK charities warn of cliff-edge as ministers stall on housing funds for the homeless
- Hostels from hell: the ‘supported housing’ that blights Birmingham
- Energy efficiency now a major priority for investors
- Mandatory redress scheme membership for landlords WILL happen, says Minister
Newsround will be back next week.