On the day evictions expert Paul Shamplina talked to DealMakerz he was rushing around his office after returning from a day’s filming in London for his Channel 5 TV series Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords which is regularly watched by up to two million people.
In it he shines a light on the worst aspects of the UK’s private rented sector where tenants exploit landlords, and landlords exploit tenants.
It’s a weirdly intoxicating mix of fluttering court papers, careworn properties, angry landlords, heated encounters, locked doors, bewildered renters and burly bailiffs.
The programme sometimes teeters on the edge of being poverty porn but almost always portrays Shamplina as the shining white knight coming to the rescue of yet another naïve landlord.
But underneath his nightclub bouncer appearance on screen, there is a more serious character to be encountered in real life.
He’s been working at the coalface of the UK’s private rented sector for over 30 years, building a business that has gone from a one-man hands-on eviction service to a fully-fledged legal outfit employing solicitors and paralegals with a 500-strong case load called Landlord Action, one of the largest and most high-profile in the UK.
Born in London, he began his career as a court clerk in Brighton later getting involved in mortgage repossession hearings during the late 1980s recession for a large law firm in the seaside resort.
He then moved back to London and worked for a legal firm in Camden and, although not a qualified solicitor, was employed to do all the ‘practical stuff’ such as organising hearings and issuing claims, eventually getting more and more involved with landlords.
Shamplina then set up business as a qualified bailiff and general ‘jack of all trades’ including tenant evictions all on a fixed-fee basis, which at the time was unusual.
After hooking up with a large North London property portfolio, Landlord Action was born which, despite its unusual name, is in reality a legal firm specialising in evictions.
Although the TV programme shows Shamplina helping mainly private landlords on a fixed fee basis, half his company’s work is for large corporate lettings companies and insurance firms.
In 2017 he sold it for an undisclosed sum to property insurance firm Hamilton Fraser, which also operates a tenancy deposit protection scheme, a redress scheme and client money protection scheme.
While talking to Shamplina it’s clear how broken the UK eviction process is, a situation that is not going to be helped by the government’s decision to ban Section 21 notices.
“I think the Section 21 ban will be the worst thing to ever happen in the private rented sector, even more so than the ending of tax relief on mortgage interest and increases in Stamp Duty,” he says.
“I can see a mass exodus of landlords vacating; 90% of landlords out there have one or two properties and the government aren’t in favour of these small-time operators and want to make the industry more professional.
“But most of them just want to cover the bills, watch their investment grow, don’t really see themselves as landlords and will use Section 21 if a tenant gets into rent arrears.
“When this is taken away from them it’s going to get a lot more difficult for landlords to gain access to their properties if a tenant stops paying the rent and this is going to be the final straw for many of them.
“It’s not just this one thing – landlords have been ground down and dislike the government’s rhetoric which makes them feel like they’re doing a dirty job when most of them care about their tenants and the quality of the homes they supply to the market.”
Shamplina is convinced that the government wants to take control of the private rented market and deliver it to large corporate landlords and the build-to-rent sector.
His comments may be a little wide of the mark, but build-to-rent is growing. During background research for this article Dealmakerz was told off the record by one landlord association that build-to-rent is likely to eventually consumer up to half the private rental market.
The government has promised it will reform Section 8 notices when Section 21 ones are abolished but many in the industry, including the Residential Landlords Association, are sceptical.
Section 8 evictions require a lot more burden of proof if the tenant contests one and refuses to move out and, as the case Shamplina has just been filming showed, it can take four months to eject a difficult tenant who ignores the law.
“The property is in Hayes in North London and I think the whole thing has cost the landlord £20,000 including court, eviction and redecoration costs plus lost rent,” he says.
Shamplina says he gets peeved by housing campaigners concentrating on the ‘no fault’ element of Section 21 notices as if most landlords turf out tenants for no reason.
“In the vast majority of cases there is always a fault which is invariably non-payment of rent.
“The government have also suggested a housing court, but you don’t need one – we just need to make the current system work better and be more accessible for landlords; the court fees have jumped from around £100 ten years ago to £355 today.
“We also need more judges and bailiffs – landlords often have to wait weeks for a court date to come up, and even if they win it there aren’t enough bailiffs around to complete the eviction quickly.
“At the property we filmed today it had taken 10 weeks to wait for the process to be completed at Uxbridge County Court.
“At Edmonton, which is a very busy county court covering a huge area of London, there are only two bailiffs available for evictions and they have plenty of non-property work to complete too.
“I think the Section 21 ban will be the worst thing to ever happen in the private rented sector, even more so than the ending of tax relief on mortgage interest and increases in Stamp Duty.”
“I spoke at the recent evidence session in Leeds three weeks ago and told the government they must allow landlords to access the High Court where they can gain possession in a few weeks, rather than setting up a new housing court.”
One point made by Shamplina and other people who work on the front line of the private rental market is the curious imbalance in the government’s approach, led no doubt by political concerns rather than practical ones.
Most of the legislative changes being brought in are designed to bear down on criminal landlords, and yet Shamplina says the vast majority of problems he encounters are created by tenants who blatantly disregard the law.
But it’s now time for Shamplina to go as his kamikaze work schedule begins to bite. As well as his day job and filming, the 47-year-old has given evidence at most of the relevant lettings industry and government fact-finding events in recent years and is a regular on the UK property seminar circuit, banging the drum for Landlord Action and Hamilton Fraser.
“The industry is facing so many challenges from government that, if ever there was a time that it needs to come together it is now and have our voice heard,” he says.
The latest series of his Channel 5 programme is due to kick off in May.