The government is certainly not making itself popular with the majority of residential landlords in the UK. With a big majority in Parliament, it probably thinks it doesn’t need to curry favour with them, which it will of course when the next election comes along.
At the start of the current crisis, the government decreed that no evictions would occur as a result of non-payment of rent. With the possibility of people being furloughed or unemployed, it didn’t want people being made homeless through no fault of their own.
The government’s approach was generally regarded as a good political move. Helping vulnerable tenants certainly reads well in the press. Cynicism aside, it would help stop unscrupulous landlords from evicting tenants, a worthy aim and one that could be applauded by most people.
Unfortunately, like a lot of things governments introduce hastily, it wasn’t thought through properly or administered correctly.
No provision was made for private landlords to receive financial assistance in the same way that employers and employees were assisted. The government is spending billions of pounds supporting all sectors of society, but private residential landlords were expected to fend for themselves with no support whatsoever. They were advised to come to a rental arrears payment plan with their defaulting tenants and seek assistance from their mortgage lenders if required. Neither of which helped the many landlords who rely on their investment property to support their income.
The sad but inevitable result of the no-eviction ban is that some less principled tenants have simply decided to stop paying rent irrespective of their financial position. There is little that could be done about it other than comply with government regulations and wait for the ban to be lifted.
There is nothing wrong with the government protecting the position of vulnerable tenants, but some measure of financial support should have been offered to landlords. The private rental sector provides much-needed housing and the government will never reach its intended target of 300,000 new homes a year without its support.
The government has now relaxed its eviction rule and landlords have rushed in to serve notice on defaulting tenants. The result is a huge backlog of cases that the courts will take a long time to clear, which of course, means further delays in securing vacant possession. More funding for the law courts, etc.? Don’t hold your breath.
We are fortunate that most of our tenants have fulfilled their rental obligations. Not everyone has been so lucky. The good news is that the worst appears to be over and there is still good demand for the right properties.
In the light of the current crisis, the plight of private landlords may be seen by some people as a trivial issue. However, the ongoing housing shortage is certainly not trivial. The treatment of private landlords directly impacts the appeal of housing as an asset class. Make it less appealing and there will be fewer investors resulting in fewer houses being built. The government would do well to remember this before the next election.