Hindsight is a wonderful thing

The Government has tried to help most groups of people, says Frances Burkinshaw, perhaps some things would have been dealt with differently had we previously known about this virus.

Link to Frances Burkinshaw

These past weeks and months have been a strange time for everyone in the world. For many it has meant weeks of isolation, particularly for those with underlying health issues or the elderly. Many elderly people probably do not have access to the internet where the rest of us can interact with friends and family via Apps such as Zoom – thank goodness. All these people will have had to rely on the kindness of neighbours and local charities – which we all know – have been amazing.

Frances Burkinshaw image
Frances Burkinshaw

One thing that I know we can all agree on is that we hope and pray that we never live through another such pandemic and that life can return to some sort of normality in time.

We will, however, have learned many lessons from these difficult times and some of those lessons can be used in other areas of life – such as residential lettings.

There will be loads of research carried out and many reports published when Covid-19 is more under control. We always say that “hindsight is a wonderful thing”. Perhaps some things would have been dealt with differently had we known about this virus previously – but we didn’t and so a lot of the decisions were taken with little knowledge.

Section 21 concerns

Kneejerk decisions are always a mistake and I fear that the rush to abolish Section 21 Notices could fall into this category. It may well be that Section 21 should be amended or even abolished but not just because certain tenant rights groups shout the loudest.

Prior to the introduction of the Housing Act 1988 there was no Section 21 and lettings were very restricted, thus the market hardly existed. Without a doubt the increase in residential lettings has been a massive success. There have been a number of changes to the Assured Shorthold legislation and even several changes to Section 21.

We will have learned many lessons from these difficult times and some of those lessons can be used in other areas of life – such as residential lettings.

It must be realised that the vast majority of landlords and agents are good, decent people who treat their tenants with respect. Also, the vast majority of tenants are also good, decent people who treat their rented home with respect. That is the perfect recipe!

It is, of course, essential that the few bad landlords are caught and dealt with in the correct manner, hopefully by a banning order.

The point to make here and the synergy with Coronavirus is that we must not act in a kneejerk way. More research needs to be carried out to ensure that statistical evidence is found. Let us see whether changes can be made to Section 21 before abolishing it.

It will be essential for Property Courts to be created and for access to those courts to be fast and efficient. Since the normal County Courts have been closed during the troubles the queues for possession hearings will, no doubt, be enormous and take a long time to be dealt with.

Life after COVID-19

Life after COVID-19 is unlikely to return exactly to the way it was before and we shouldn’t allow residential lettings to return to the ‘bad old days ’ of sitting tenants. Without a doubt the market would shrink overnight with the availability of rented accommodation reducing dramatically.

During these difficult times Government has tried to help most groups of people with loans, grants and wages being paid. In my view they have done a remarkable job in such a short space of time. We keep reading, however, about tenants not being able to pay the rent and in such a situation landlords should seek a mortgage holiday. It must be understood that not every landlord has a mortgage. This does not automatically mean that all landlords are wealthy people – not at all! Many have chosen to invest pension pots in property rather than in government bonds or stocks and shares. If the rent is not paid many landlords will find themselves without any income at all.

I urge Government to take time to consult and listen to those bodies and people who really understand our industry and who have the best interests at heart of both landlords and tenants. After all, one cannot work well without the other!

Frances Burkinshaw is an experienced independent trainer available nationally for in-house or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or [email protected]

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