Don’t let fact get in the way of a good story…

Many years ago, when I had still had hair (on my head), the world did not grind to a total halt because the ‘snowflake’ generation cannot cope with er, snowflakes and Jezza and Max were still young fascists-waiting-to overthrow-the Establishment/comedy value operatives for the Eastern Bloc, there were only 2 TV stations: BBC 1 and whatever franchise of ITV your TV transmitter could reach. In those days if the BBC reported something it was true and a fair reflection of what was happening. Now we have 24 hour news-24 hour news (possibly accurate but with the strong possibility of having been ‘enhanced’)-24 hour fake news-24 hour bull”£*%. How Lord Reith must be lying peacefully in his grave. Not.

Last week’s edition of the modern day bastion of true and accurate reportage-Panorama-concerned the Private Rental Sector (PRS) and Section 21 notices. Put more simply, “The landlord wants his/her house back”. The programme appeared to suggest that the system needed to change and tenants were unfairly being ‘evicted’ from their homes. Of course they are. Let us be clear, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is a fixed term contract where both parties can walk away at the end of the contract (the clue is in the title people). Like any contract, it is there to protect both parties. Eviction is a rather unfortunate word to hear but is invariably employed for maximum emotional effect (cue the helpline number for Shelter running across the bottom of the screen.) Not true, yet. A Section 21 notice has to be issued within strict guidelines as does the tenancy agreement.  If the notice is issued, it is signalling that the contract has ended (as detailed in the AST agreement) and the landlord does not wish to issue a new contract.

In response to the concerns raised by the programme, Mark Pilling, managing director of Spicerhaart Corporate Sales warned against scrapping Section 21. I agree with Mr P.  He said, “In our experience the reasons for a Section 21 are usually either because the tenants have missed rent.. or are not treating the house well”. Actually, I think that a Section 8 would be more the ticket here, but I don’t wish to appear churlish. He elaborated, “The landlord may also need to use Section 21 because they are struggling financially and need to sell the property”. Indeed they might, but what business is it of anyone bar the landlord  as to why he/she is legally and compliantly taking their house back? Mr P lost a little of his earlier lustre when he said that “When tenants are being evicted through no fault of their own, but rather because of their landlord’s circumstances, it must be very upsetting for them”. Tut, tut, Mr P., a very amateurish (and erroneous) statement. I don’t dispute that realising that they will have to find somewhere else to live may well be upsetting for tenants. As upsetting I should imagine as it is for the landlord when he/she discovers that the tenants have trashed their property and legged it. Interestingly, Panorama made no mention of the difficulties landlords face to remove tenants from their properties despite their having flouted all the agreed terms of the contract. In simple terms, it is far easier for the tenant to do the offski than it is for the landlord to get their house back.