Unpaid rent, destroyed properties, anti-social behaviour, all very often intractable problems a landlord must somehow deal with right now. With even the best will in the world, and all necessary efforts to stay in contact and keep communication channels open, the nuclear option, eviction, is sometimes the only answer, the last resort.
Of course no landlord wants that, responsible long-term landlords want tenants to stay as long as possible, maintaining their income stream and looking after the property, getting along with neighbours and all is hunky dory! Covid has rather “upset the apple cart” regarding all of this and is challenging not just good tenants, but good landlords as well. It needs a bit of common sense and cooperation from both sides.
If a tenant is struggling to pay, then rescheduling payments or even waiving part of the rent, say 20 per cent off where a tenant is on furlough, would perhaps be a sensible solution. Creating goodwill should be the aim of all good landlords under the current difficult circumstances, but not all of that is appreciated or responded to.
This story is about a Dublin landlord who became so fed-up with some problem tenants he recorded footage of the property after departure: it shows large amounts of waste left behind as well as filthy work surfaces and flooring, a rubbish-strewn kitchen, pet faeces in the living area and a marble bathroom destroyed by hair dye. The tenants left owing rent arrears of €45,000.
The Irish Republic has an acute rental housing shortage, while rents are soaring because of it, and tenant friendly legislation introduced some years ago, with partial rent control, some argue, exacerbates the situation.
This was an experienced landlord who let the Dublin house back in 2017 for €3,300 per month. All went well for the first eight or nine months, until the tenant simply stopped paying rent in around April of 2019. According to The Irish Times the landlord ignored the arrears for a month, but when no rent was paid the following month, the letting agent acting for the landlord wrote to the tenant requesting payment. No response! So the agent then suggested to the tenants that they vacate the property, with no penalty for breaching their contract. Again no response.
One thing about the Irish system now also in common with the Scottish one is that landlord – tenant disputes have been taken out of the hands of the courts and given over to specialist rent tribunals. You might see this as a good thing, in fact the English landlord associations have been lobby for a similar system in England for some time.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), the name of the Irish agency established to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords, was applied to by the landlord in this case. When it came to adjudication – a process which took some six to seven months, with unpaid rent of €3,300 racking-up each month – thankfully the ruling went in favour of the landlord.
That of course is not the end to the sorry tale the landlord had hoped for. The tenants, as is their right, appealed this against the tribunal ruling and the case was then submitted for another tribunal hearing.
So much for the neat solution of having a Housing Court in England: if this case is anything to go by it’s no better than the courts!
But wait, that’s still not the end of it. With the Irish Republic in the EU, legislative matters tend to be quite convoluted and difficult, and under the Human Rights umbrella, the tenant took up a claim for discrimination against the landlord to the Workplace Relations Commission. If the WRC had found in favour of the tenant it would have resulted in a €50,000 fine – but fortunately for this landlord it didn’t.
Now the landlord awaits a tribunal date as he can’t get a court order to evict without going through the tribunal first and he thinks it will cost him “at least €50,000” to put the house right. In the meantime, the bank is talking about pursuing him for mortgage arrears and is threatening repossession.
The landlord told the Irish Times:
“I don’t believe they should be able use the system to stay in a property rent free,” adding that even if the RTB rules against the tenant at the tribunal, pursuing the unpaid rent may require going to court to get a judgment against the tenant, and then hiring a private investigator to track them down.”
This tale of woe is being mirrored to varying degrees across the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic, lock-down and the eviction moratorium. Some landlords are suffering unacceptable amounts of loss of which the above case is just one example.
One of yesterday’s stories on LandlordZONE about English landlords seeking help and guidance from the Scottish market, as it has been dealing with tenant friendly legislation for longer, says nothing of how to deal with this kind of unreasonable and the intractable behaviour of rogue tenants. No amount of transparency and good communications on the part of the landlord could solve this one.
It seems so unfair that those unfortunate landlords who come up against this, being stuck with difficult and unreasonable tenants, are being left high and dry, simply because of a blanket band on evictions and a court system that’s simply not working.
The Irish Times was told that this landlord’s experience appears to be far from the exception:
“While in the UK it’s possible to pay an extra 4-4.5 per cent to insure yourself against rent arrears, no such product currently exists in Ireland, which can leave landlords vulnerable.”
“No-one is talking about this – everyone is talking about landlords gouging people,” said a Dublin docklands agent, Owen Reilly, adding that while the market is obviously dysfunctional for tenants, it’s also not working properly for the landlord.
It’s so depressing from a UK landlords’ point of view that a Housing Court or Rent Tribunal as it operates in Ireland, with some claiming an average of 12 weeks waits before a hearing, is not the magic solution it promised to be, and there are calls there for it to be scrapped.