A mum of two young children is among tenants who have received eviction notices at flats in Cliftonville because the landlord has decided to sell up.
Charlotte Croxon has lived at her flat in Godwin Road for 19 months after being in temporary accommodation. She is one of 12 families to receive notice to quit from three properties in Godwin Road owned by the same landlord. It is understood tenants at other Cliftonville properties belonging to the same landlord have also been given eviction notices.
Charlotte, 28, says she has no idea where she and children India, 6 months, and Hendrix, two, will end up and has been left “feeling vulnerable.”
Charlotte, who is also a carer for her dad, and the other families in the properties have been told to leave by April 6.
She said: “I had no clue this was going to happen. When I got the letter I thought it was just me and phoned my dad up crying. I thought I had done something wrong but when I phoned the agent they said it wasn’t just me but couldn’t give me more details. I went and knocked on everyone’s doors and that’s how I found out.
“It was only 18 months ago when the council put me here after being in temporary accommodation. In that time I have made it our home.
“Thanet council said the date might extend another 4 weeks as (the landlord) will have to get bailiffs in but they have also told a lot of us that there just isn’t enough temporary housing in Thanet.
“My son is being screened for autism and he doesn’t transition very well so I am really worried about how he is going to react to all this and I am worried about where we are going to go.
“I know the council has a duty of care to put us somewhere but where will that be? It has left me feeling really vulnerable.”
Charlotte says she receives £650 per month housing benefit but finding 2 bed properties for that amount is virtually impossible.
She added: “I have applied for about 10 properties but one flat had 200 people going for it. I’ve also had to apply for flats that are £850pm and that means I am really going to struggle.”
New regulations prompt landlords to sell
The Godwin Road properties are managed by Lovetts, an independent agent based in Cliftonville and with offices in Birchington.
Managing Director Richard Crosby says new regulations, such as those requiring higher ratings on Energy Performance Certificates, are seeing landlords sell up in droves.
He said: “So many landlords are selling up because they need to spend a fortune for the EPC ratings to go to a C instead of D or E, I’d say about 65% of them are still D and E and it means a huge outlay. At a recent landlords’ forum it was said the average outlay is £5k-£10k per property.
“This means more and more landlords are leaving already, we are losing 2-4 a week and 17 notices were served last week from just one landlord. That’s 17 tenants losing homes and 17 properties gone from our portfolio,
“It is really difficult. We have people phoning us in tears, some who have been in their homes for years, and we as a business are losing our portfolio.
“We have registered the tenants with us to try and find alternative accommodation. The landlord has quite a large portfolio and has done for 25 years but all the law changes have prompted them to make this decision.”
But the availability of properties is thin on the ground.
Richard said: “We would normally have between 20 and 40 properties but at the moment we have just 10.”
Increasing demand as evictions rise
Thanet council says there has been an increase in demand for social housing, particularly due to the impact of the covid pandemic. Reasons for the need often include relationship and family breakdowns, growing pressures on the private rented sector and increased unemployment which has had a significant impact on people being able to retain accommodation.
Thanet currently has 1,638 families on the housing register with an average wait of three years. There are currently 160 households in temporary accommodation and 82 households placed out of the area.
And demand is increasing with Thanet council saying an increase in notices to quit being served since October 2021 is likely due to factors including increasing property prices, changes to tax rules, the increase in the conversion of rental accommodation into holiday rental properties and the possible abolition of ‘no fault eviction’ Section 21 notices
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We do all that we can to provide appropriate support for people in need. Our Housing Options Team has successfully prevented 1,013 households from becoming homeless during this time.
“In situations where emergency accommodation is needed, we always look to provide this within Thanet, whenever possible. The increased level of need for temporary accommodation has meant that suitable accommodation is not always available.
“There are also some cases that require specific types of accommodation and, if that is not available in the local area, we do have to place people further away. Our aim is to rehouse people back in Thanet as soon as there is suitable accommodation available.
“The number of out of area placements has increased due to COVID-19 and a reduction in suitable rental properties. Currently, we have 82 households placed in accommodation outside Thanet and we continue to work in partnership with local letting agents to identify suitable, affordable properties to enable these households to move back to Thanet as soon as possible.”
‘Further reduction of privately rented accommodation’
Thanet council housing staff are currently trying to help the tenants served notice from the Godwin Road properties.
The council spokesperson said: “We are aware that notice has been served via the managing agent on the properties in Godwin Road in Cliftonville. Officers from our Housing Options team are in the initial stages of booking in households for advice and support and have begun to work with the landlord to try to identify whether support can be given to help to sustain these tenancies.
“We have seen an increase in notices to quit being served since October 2021. This is likely due to a combination of factors which include increasing property prices, changes to tax rules and the increase in the conversion of rental accommodation into holiday rental properties.
“In addition, some landlords may be considering selling their rental portfolio due to the possible abolition of Section 21 notices, which will make it more difficult for them to evict tenants. The impact of this will be a further reduction in the amount of privately rented accommodation available.”
Thanet Labour councillor Helen Whitehead has written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to outline her concerns over the impact of whole property Airbnb and short term rentals on Thanet’s rented housing supply and a possible solution.
.She said: “Airbnb has become symbolic of a particular kind of economy. Airbnb as originally intended didn’t involve full term rentals; it was an economy based on room rentals, and accommodation that wasn’t suitable for full term accommodation. We still see both of those on short term rentals platforms, such as Airbnb, but we also see entire flats and houses; and for some areas this latter category can become an issue.
“A solution that works relies on looking at all sides of an argument, and every thread that needs to be tied off to produce an answer that will actually hold.
“The answer here lies in central legislation; and so I’ve written to ask that nationally, the government introduces a C5 Use Class, that can be used by councils if needed under Article 4 of our legislation, to require full time Airbnb’s to apply for planning permission.
“This has two significant advantages, if government decide to put it through. It not only allows councils to effectively monitor the numbers involved in short term rentals, and continually assess whether or not there is a significant impact on availability of long term accommodation and allow councils to require planning permission for change of use if so, but it also recognises the importance of having an available legislative response that is effective, proportionate, visible and accountable.
“Introducing this Use Class would enable our council to monitor and act proportionately and effectively, whilst still supporting the tourist economy that has always underpinned our area. We have to support our community and ensure that long term housing is available, both through the council and privately; giving our council the power to act when needed, and also monitor and observe the impacts of short term rental accommodation on our towns and Thanet as a whole.”
She added: “I have, as always, also requested further central funding for the building of social and genuinely affordable housing, to reduce the housing list and reduce reliance on private developers to produce affordable housing, because it’s this lack of supply that underpins our housing issues.”