Stanley Property London

Patrick's Property Politics

I do feel rather old...

Friday 13th May 2022

By Patrick Bullick

...and not just because I have recently turned 57, and probably look it.

 Another reason is because I actually thought Prince Charles looked quite young when giving the Queen's Speech on Her Majesty’s behalf. Perhaps that was actually because he had the air of a truculent teenager - hating the Tory twaddle he was reading.

Reason three – is because I remember why Margaret Thatcher passed the 1988 Housing Act. Prior to 1988 landlords could not easily get their properties back from private tenants. The net result was that few people wanted to be landlords, as they might never be able to get vacant possession. Plus, their property was down-valued by having what were known as ‘sitting tenants’. Sitting tenants do pay rent but those rents are governed by the Fair Rent Act - fair to the tenant that is.

Sitting tenants still exist today. Clinging on to flats and houses which they have been renting cheaply since before that great date in 88. It is neigh on impossible for a landlord to get rid of a sitting tenant, even when they are clearly not using it as their main residence, as happened with a flat my mother had.

Anyway, the reason why I raise this is not because I am particularly averse to any particular sitting tenant. In the aforementioned, grudgingly delivered, Queen’s Speech, The Govt. has (again) announced that it intends to completely get rid of Section 21, which is the statutory 2 months' notice that a landlord, wishing to get their property back is obliged to serve on the tenant.

Pushed along by the likes of Shelter, their argument is they wish to stop ‘no fault’ evictions. So how does the landlord get their property back? Only by showing fault? This is a nonsense. Most tenants are perfectly good, paying their rent diligently on time and causing no nuisance. Property lawyers will end up being as aggressive as divorce and litigation lawyers, and they are no fun.

By all means lengthen the notice required - as happened temporarily during Corona Chaos. 

By all means lengthen the landlord's minimum commitment from 6 months to 12 months, or even two years. But let us not go back the seventies and eighties when getting vacant possession was a nightmare and as a consequence, there was only a very limited private rental sector.

How does it help tenants to cause a limit to the already short supply of rental properties?

 As with any shortage of supply, prices will go up. Funnily enough, London landlords in particular, might welcome this restriction on supply. It will serve to push up rents even further, thereby increasing their returns.

We older agents remember the way round sitting tenancies in the London market was to do ‘company lets’ with ‘permitted occupiers’ and where the company was too small or bought off the shelf for the purpose, those permitted occupiers stood as guarantors.

We can always revert to that - if we must.

PB.

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