Some tenants are effectively “professional crooks” taking advantage of Coronavirus law changes to avoid paying landlords, a leading letting agent says.
Benham and Reeves director Marc von Grundherr says: “The situation for landlords throughout the pandemic has been shocking and while eviction notice periods have now been reduced to four months, many continue to lose thousands in rental income every month due to rogue tenants and the long delays suffered while trying to evict them.
“We’re talking about professional crooks who have taken severe advantage of legislation designed to support those who are actually suffering financially and are in need of support.
“We had one particular case where a tenant moved into a new property at [London’s] Television Centre in October 2019 and only ever paid the first month's rent and nothing thereafter.
“The eviction hearing was on March 30 this year and we couldn’t get a bailiff appointment until August 25. The poor owner suffered a loss of over £50,000 plus to add salt to the wounds the tenant stole all the landlord's furniture.
“We have another property we are yet to repossess as the tenant has claimed on three separate occasions when the bailiff has been scheduled that both her and her partner have COVID-19. Therefore the eviction can’t take place adding a further two or three weeks for a new bailiff appointment in the process.
“These guys are utilising every trick in the book and so the reality is that many evictions are stretching on far longer than a year.”
Benham and Reeves calculates that when a six month timeframe was implemented on eviction notices early in the Covid period, the average rent across the UK was £985 per month. Those landlords unlucky enough to fall foul of a rogue tenant at this monthly rate of rental income will therefore have seen an annual loss in rental income to the tune of £11,820.
But the financial impact of a rogue tenant doesn’t stop at lost rental income, the London agency says.
A rogue tenant can also cause significant damage to a property and it’s not unusual that landlords will have to fork out thousands to refit their kitchen and bathroom, redecorate their property and even replace the windows. These costs can climb extremely high and even the average property will require a refurb budget in excess of £20,000 to rectify these basic bricks and mortar fundamentals.
Landlords also have to spend an average of £3,000 on legal fees to either evict or reclaim damages from a rogue tenant, all of which brings the average cost of a rogue tenant to £35,558 for the average UK landlord.
Landlords in London have faced the most expensive cost of evicting a rogue tenant during the pandemic due to the capital’s more expensive rent values, bringing the average total cost to £43,574.
von Grundherr continues: “Rogue tenants are a landlord’s worst nightmare and unfortunately this nightmare rarely ends when they are finally evicted. More often than not, the property is in severe disrepair when it is finally repossessed and this is sometimes done out of spite, or simply to strip the property of materials they can then sell on.
“What’s more, the landlord will have usually suffered arrears prior to starting the eviction process and is still required to make mortgage payments out of their own pocket during a period where their property is generating no income.
“Unfortunately, legislative changes in recent years and particularly during the pandemic have focussed solely on the well being of tenants and so the backbone of the UK rental market has been further weakened as landlords are left high and dry to pick up the pieces.”
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