Landlords are becoming increasingly lax at enforcing payments against defaulting tenants, a new survey has revealed. Since its peak in the third quarter of 2007, in which nearly 15,000 tenants were evicted, the number of evictions has decreased by more than 11 per cent to 12,300 in the third quarter of 2009. Despite an increase in the amount of tenant arrears, the survey shows that landlords are relaxing the rules on payments in order to keep their properties occupied. A National Landlords Association survey last year showed that 43 per cent of landlords had tenants in arrears at some point during the previous 12 months.
When the rental market was buoyant and property prices were on the increase, landlords were quick to move defaulting tenants out of their properties. Since 2008, when property prices fell significantly, there has been an increasing trend towards allowing defaulting tenants to stay despite them not keeping up with their payments. This has been seen as the lesser of two evils compared with having a vacant property.
In addition, a significant number of landlords have been driven out of the market altogether. This is reflected in Council of Mortgage Lenders’ statistics
, which have revealed that repossessions on buy to let mortgages were three times higher in the third quarter of 2009 than for the same period in 2007.
There is clearly a balancing exercise to be undertaken here. Landlords should be careful about giving tenants payment holidays or allowing too much time to pass without payments being made. As rent arrears increase, a tenant normally becomes much less likely to pay them off. If demand for the type of property remains strong and you are able to find a new tenant quickly, giving defaulting tenants considerable leeway is unlikely to be the best commercial option.
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