At the moment lenders are required to give tenants 14 days’ notice that their property might be repossessed.
Shapps, says: “I am constantly hearing from tenants who have found out that they have just a few days to get out of their home and have to deal with the stress and expense of finding a new place to live in double-quick time, through no fault of their own.
“Many of the lenders are now largely owned by the government and it is clearly in everyone’s interest to try to find better solutions to a fast-growing problem. With experts predicting that 75,000 houses will be repossessed this year, it’s easy to see how any of the more than 3m families who currently rent could get a nasty surprise at any moment.
However, Ian Potter, operations manager of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, says this is just another plain example of politicians failing to understand how the rental sector works.
He says: “Tenants, through no fault of the lender, often receive no notification of repossession proceedings as lenders are unaware of the existence of tenants in a property or who the tenants may be.
“Though ARLA, of course, welcomes any additional support for tenants in these tough times, the proposal to bring forward the planned extension of repossession notice to tenants will, in effect, be almost worthless because it comes at the wrong side of the repossession being granted.
“Tenants will receive up to seven weeks’ notice of an order being sought but that assumes that a repossession will be granted – and if it isn’t, and tenants walk away from the property, they will have walked away from a legally binding contract. It would be far more beneficial if the extended notice was granted after a repossession had been granted, which would allow tenants good time to find another property.
“Clearly, however, there is more to be done to protect tenants who are facing homelessness as a result of their landlords defaulting on mortgage payments – and ARLA will be advising the Government on the best way to do this in a budget submission in the next couple of weeks.
He says one realistic solution would be for the government to insist that local authorities take more action on the use of empty dwelling management orders to ensure that better utilisation is made of the housing stock in the country. ARLA calls on the Government to act quickly to mitigate the stress of tenants, as well as homeowners.