More often than not, it is the voice of the tenant that is heard the loudest in the mainstream press, so it was good to see a more recent story detailing how difficult it has become for landlords to evict nightmare renters.
The story, covered in the Daily Mail, chronicled the 15-month+ battle being endured by Doctor Renée Hoenderkamp – TV presenter, resident GP for BBC Radio London and practising doctor.
Her story will be familiar to landlords across the country. After a run of successful tenants, a former friend moved into Doctor Hoenderkamp’s one-bedroom flat in London. The relationship between tenant and landlord quickly soured. Rent payments were missed, the tenant became uncontactable and upon visiting the property in person, Doctor Hoenderkamp found the flat had been maliciously damaged.
The tenant was served with a Section 21 eviction notice in October 2022 but at the start of 2023, the tenant was still in the property. A possession order was then requested but it wasn’t until March 2023 that the landlord heard back from the county court. Incredulously, the hearing date was June 2023 – nine months after the eviction notice was served.
The saga does not end there. Delays within the court system regarding uploading crucial documentation meant the possession order didn’t reach the tenant until 31st October 2023. With the tenant still in situ despite best efforts, Dr Hoenderkamp sent an application to the court for a bailiff, which wasn't acknowledged for weeks.
As of February 2024, the bailiff order had yet to be issued and the property remained occupied by the renter. Commenting on the case, Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, said he had 'never known the courts to be so slow', adding that similar situations had provoked landlords to sell up and move out of the property market. The sorry state of affairs has left Dr Hoenderkamp to claim ‘don’t be a landlord’.
Despite the Government pledging not to abolish Section 21 evictions until the court system has been reformed, there has been a distinct lack of detail and action on the matter. The hope is for four reforms: a digitisation of the court process making it easier and simpler for landlords to use; a system that prioritises certain cases, including anti-social behaviour; improvements to bailiff recruitment and retention, and a reduction in administrative tasks so bailiffs can prioritise possession enforcement.
In the meantime, the number of landlords serving Section 21 notices has risen, adding pressure to proceedings. Ministry of Justice data, released in November 2023, revealed that between July and September last year, 8,399 landlords in England started Section 21 eviction court proceedings against their tenants – the highest number for seven years.
It’s not just an issue with Section 21 notices. Even those tenants who commit the worst offences are proving difficult to evict. As reported by lettingagenttoday.co.uk, in one case a Section 8 notice was served in February 2023. The court application was made in March and the hearing took place in April. Bailiffs were appointed in May but by September, no date had been set and the rent arrears had topped £16,000.
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