Five families in Combe Martin say they are being forced out of their homes following sharp rent increases from their new landlord.
Residents in 2 Borough Road are in despair concerning the new fees – with one family seeing rent increases of more than £ 300.
On February 4, tenants received an email announcing that ownership of the building had changed hands and that rent would be increased.
Within the email, residents were given three options: to accept the increased rent, to reject the increase and “leave immediately”, or be issued a Section 21 eviction notice.
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Tenants say they fear the flats will be converted into short term holiday lets and would not be accessible to local renters.
Director of Cranley’s Properties LLP, Colin Davison, says he intends to use the flats as short-term lets to house individuals in the “medical, care and building industry”, rather than for use in tourism.
Resident Fiona Ward has lived at her flat on Borough Road for five years. After receiving notice that her rent was increasing by £ 320 a month, she was emailed again two days later and handed a Section 21 eviction notice.
She said: “The experience has not been pleasant. I’ve spent a lot of time crying. I feel he has been dictating and demanding rather than asking us for anything. If we allow landlords to continue buying up properties, turning them into B & Bs and kicking everyone out, it’s not going to stop. It’s just going to get worse. “
“If you look anywhere, it says that landlords can increase rent by however much they like but there doesn’t seem to be anyone around if I want advice. If I fought this notice, I’d have to be physically evicted and that would then be on my record. It’s not just this landlord -the whole system is broken. “
“I don’t want to stay here now. This was going to be my forever home but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. “
It’s property – not coronavirus – that is emerging as the hottest topic in Devon now the dreadful pandemic rumbles towards its conclusion.
As city dwellers head to the glorious South West to holiday – and live – in their droves, there’s clear winners and clear losers.
Are there too many second homes? Are landlords taking advantage of a staycation boom and prioritizing AirBnb guests over permanent tenants? Is Devon in the grip of a housing crisis?
These are questions we’ll be asking in challenging content under the campaign Priced Out Devon.
But it’s never going to be all doom and gloom.
We’ve gathered homes under £ 150k in the county that are perfect for first time buyers and we’ll have regular updates on new build developments with affordable homes – and there’ll be more positive content like that to come.
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With tenants given eight weeks to find new accommodation upon receiving a Section 21 eviction notice, tenants say they are worried they will be unable to find anywhere to rent in their local area.
Between April 1 and November 9, North Devon Council has confirmed that 1,134 customers have approached them at risk of homelessness, with 151 placed into temporary accommodation.
Research collected by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows the demand for social housing is growing nearly six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas such as Combe Martin. The charity claims at current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take 121 years to clear.
Residents on low incomes are finding themselves priced out of their communities, with applications rejected on the basis of annual income, pet ownership and reception of Universal Credit.
Paula and Lisa Roche have lived in the village for four months. Paula works part-time, while Lisa is on Universal Credit on medical grounds.
Paula claims their offer to pay the increased rent was rescinded by email upon discovery of Lisa’s benefit income, with Cranleys Properties LLP stating they failed the criteria of the building’s mortgage terms. She also says the new landlord has pressured her to leave the property by email and arranging to enter the flat without her permission.
Mrs Roche said: “The landlord keeps saying he is actively looking for hospital staff and key workers, but on that basis, I’m a key worker and I’m losing my home. I can’t find anywhere else on part time wages. . “
“There are absolutely no houses to rent in the area and even if there were, I will have to pay so much in storage and moving costs that it will be impossible to pay a deposit.”
“This is a system where as soon as you tell a landlord you are on universal credit, they treat you as if you are untouchable. We are human beings at the end of the day.”
Twelve-year resident, Wendy Fern, cares for her mother in the village and says she may be forced to sleep on her sofa if she can’t find suitable housing.
She said: “The eviction has really hit the wind out of our sales because we have looked for accommodation many times and they’ve either been gone or the applications have been closed. There’s nothing out there.
“The reason why we’re angry about this is because of how it has been done. There was no introduction, there was no opportunity for us to have our say or have a conversation. We just received an email one day telling us to pay up or get out. “
Mr Davison, Director for Cranleys Properties LLP, said: “I am shocked at the response from the local community to the entire situation and very saddened.
“I look after other properties across the UK but have recently focussed on those which are in an area of acute need for housing for medical professionals unable to work in a care home or hospital as well as the building trade to which supports this – the very objective to which I am seeking to widen the opportunities in the area.
“This being a former guest house and not very suited for long term living accommodation, especially with the reported neglect on the condensation and the directive from the Government to force landlords an average of £ 11,000 to improve the EPCs (to also help with housing standards) ).
“Most landlords like the last one with very low incomes (he informed me he had not put the rents up on properties in 15 years), so they are forced to sell as will be unable to rent properties with the new regulations.”
“Speaking to various tenants, they did not like the property, it was described as their forever home for one person who signed a 6 month AST due to expire this month, but until that time had not been the sole occupant. They are substandard and need some work to make them appealing for the young medical professionals which we now have had two families moving in this weekend.
“Those will then support the very people in my home area of North Devon to which I wanted this housing to assist.”
He added: “As for being unprofessional. I was unable to meet tenants before my client was purchasing this, I was refused access and still am by one tenant. Following the video of one occupant, I offered a charity to be set up and provide her with the gap in what is the market value rent (as determined by the bank’s valuer) and what she has coming in. I cannot have someone who is not working and earning the minimum wage. It would breach mortgage terms.
“In regards to Mrs Roche, one is on disability benefits and sadly the tenant fails the criteria of the mortgage terms, and therefore she had to be issued with the notice.
“The balance between the landlord and the tenant is a careful one. Both need to be fair and not take advantage of the other. If you hurt one you will only affect the other. I recognize the news here was a shock despite it being well” known as for sale over a year and everyone knew of both market rents and they would not have this situation continuing.
“Private landlords want to get the best for their return and are incentivized to keep their market rents. When you see someone renting for £ 300 below the market rate, you know there has to be a lot of investment needed to bring things back to standards . “
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