Tenants in arrears should have alternative homes by now – top agent

A vocal London lettings agent says it isn’t the responsibility of agents or their landlord clients to take the financial hit for arrears caused by the pandemic.

The director of London agency Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr, says: “There’s no doubt this is a terrible situation to be in. Unfortunately, it isn’t the responsibility of UK landlords to take this financial hit on behalf of their tenants and to expect them to continue to is somewhat unfair, considering they have already done so for some months.”

He says the five month eviction ban, ending this weekend, should have given tenants time to seek alternative living arrangements without the pressure of eviction. “In any other scenario, it’s unlikely they would have been afforded this luxury” he adds.

von Grundherr says it’s “incredibly unfair” not to consider the landlords’ plight as many are reliant on rental payments in order to survive “and have had no choice but to swallow this loss of income due to the eviction ban.”

While he concedes there will always be some unscrupulous landlords, most have been working on compromise payment arrangements where required.

“The reports that many [tenants] will now end up without a home are perhaps a tad exaggerated at the very least. In contrast, some landlords have been held to ransom by unsavoury tenants who have seen an opportunity to play the game knowing they can’t be evicted” he continues.

He says his agency has one tenant, in arrears, who has stated both to himself and his landlord client: “Go and speak to Boris, I don’t have to leave.”

von Grundherr says: “In this instance, the landlord is already £50,000 out of pocket and while the end of the eviction ban means he can now start proceedings, given the backlog, he is unlikely to even get a court date for three if not four months.

“Then if he gets an eviction date it is likely to take another three or four months to get the bailiffs in, so he may have to wait up to eight months to get his property back and by then he will be another £50,000 out of pocket.”

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