BBC’s Panorama – The return of ‘slum landlords’

BBC’s Panorama – The return of ‘slum landlords’

11:42 AM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago 26

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A BBC investigation will highlight that council houses that were built to house tenants to protect them from ‘slum landlords’ have been sold under the Right to Buy scheme and are now being let by ‘slum landlords’.

Lord Richard Best, from the Affordable Housing Commission, says the housing situation has now gone ‘full circle’.

The Panorama programme is called ‘What’s Gone Wrong With Our Housing’ and is broadcast tonight (Monday).

The team also confronts one alleged slum landlord with allegations that he had illegally evicted a tenant – which the local council didn’t know about but is now investigating.

Built to protect people from slum landlords

The programme description states that millions of council houses were built after the Second World War to help protect people from slum landlords and were home to a third of the UK population.

Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s flagship right-to-buy policy boosted home ownership, but the council house sell-off is causing major problems 40 years on.

Panorama states that many former council properties are now in the hands of private landlords and, in some parts of the country, rents are going ‘through the roof, and slum landlords are back’.

The team then visits a council estate in Lewisham to tell the story of a council house tenant who bought her terraced home in the 1980s, before selling it and moving away.

Property is now home to six small flats

The former property is now home to six small flats and one of the tenants shows the woman his flat which is the converted kitchen.

Panorama says the six tenants are each paying nearly £1,000 a month, mostly with housing benefits.

The programme names the landlord and says he owns other converted houses in the block and is earning ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ a year.

Lord Best says: “This is an absolute disgrace. The plan was to get rid of those slum landlords in the first place.

“We created the social housing, and the wheel has turned full circle. This is like the days of Victorian slums of yesteryear.”

‘Fit and proper person test’

The reporter says that the landlord ‘shouldn’t even be a landlord or control the property’ because he illegally evicted a former tenant – and if he had told the council, he would ‘have found it difficult to pass the fit and proper person test’.

In response, the landlord says there are inaccuracies in the allegations but doesn’t specify what they are.

The landlord is approached in the street by the Panorama team but refuses to answer questions and Lewisham council says it is now investigating the landlord.

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Judith Wordsworth

12:31 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Right to Buy should never have been a scenario to buy your home at a huge discount, wait 3 years, then sell at a massive profit.
The % of the discount should have then been repaid, from the profit p, to the Council.

Personally, Council homes should never have been able to be purchased from Councils.

These sort of landlords bring the rest of decent PRS landlords to be sadly tarred with the same brush


12:43 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

So, they build houses to protect the renter (public) and now allow these "slum lords" are back in charge. The circle needs to be fixed. Laws need to be fair for both parties, tenants and landlords. 👍


13:00 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Judith Wordsworth at 27/03/2023 - 12:31
The fact it's a Council house is irrelevant here if the house wasn't sold off, the Landlord would have bought another property and done eactly the same.

The BBC are trying to imply the Landlord made a huge profit because it was sold under RTB whereas it was the orginal tenant who pocketed the profit (huge discount) when it was sold n.


13:00 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

The story confuses two issues. Right to buy was a great social leveller. It gave people, like the woman in the story, the chance to own her own home for the first time.
That has nothing to do with council/ government decisions not to use right to buy income to build new council houses.
So the right to buy issue here is something about the journalists' agenda. In reality, it is a story about landlords who buy homes at market value (private and former council homes) and convert them into HMO's and let them at the market rate. The sub-text here is presumably that the landlord in the programme lets property that isn't in a fit state and that he treats his tenants badly. If that is right, and it isn't just a political witchhunt, then maybe he shouldn't be a landlord as he gives us all a bad name. Then again, we don't know his point of view.


13:08 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Jordan at 27/03/2023 - 12:43
The general housing shortage plus lack of enforcement of exisiting housing law is giving free reign to the rogue Landlord.

If there were more properties available to rent then competition would drive out the rogue Landlords as teants would be able to choose decent properties/Landlords.

Of course, the Governments answer is to drive more decent Landlords out of the PRS through more regulation (that rogue Landlrods ignore) and higher taxes (that rogue Landlords evade). Eventually only rogue Landlords will be left which will not be good for tenants.

Luke P

13:08 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Judith Wordsworth at 27/03/2023 - 12:31It was always a pure lottery. Completely unfair to those *not* in a council house and unfair to the tax payers that funded the properties in the first place! There should have always been an (original price) buy-back clause on the houses.

That is all an aside, though. The 40 year old history of a property is irrelevant. It's not the landlords fault they're back in their hands. It was the council-tenants-turned-owner-occupiers that benefitted from the discounted that chose to cash in. In any case, they may have upgraded and boosted the market further up the chain, perhaps even benefitting an MP that was selling.


13:32 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by AnthonyG at 27/03/2023 - 13:00
We (4 kids) grew up in a large Georgian house in the middle of London in the 60s and 70s. The house was part of the Packington Estate and was acquired by one of the earliest housing associations when the lease expired. It provided much needed family accommodation, and any maintenance was done by us because it was our home. We didn't expect more from the housing association.

When we all left home [and bought our own houses], my parents were left in this large house, of which they used just 4 rooms.

Right to Buy did not apply to housing associations, so their answer was to give my Mother a significant sum to vacate, with which she was able to buy her first home at the age of 55, and the house stayed in the social housing sector.

Why can't the law be changed to make this type of arrangement the default?

It would keep the homes in the social housing sector, and remove the potential for profiteering, and these rogue landlords.

Simon M

13:38 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Judith Wordsworth at 27/03/2023 - 12:31
It's easy for the BBC to find an example to support a political argument that suits its agenda but RTB is more complex. The other side is rarely explained:

Under RTB they pay a % of the discount back for 5 years. There is a profit if they sell, but a fair comparison should take into account housing market inflation. If they've invested in their home, then that's a better outcome.

They have also given up their right to social housing and housing benefits, saving a long-term cost to the taxpayer. This means they also need to buy somewhere to live.

DLUHC says the idea of RTB was first proposed by Labour in the 1950s.

I remember street after street of run-down post-war council housing - if you walk down those streets today you can see the owners that have real care and pride.

The authorities should act against criminal landlords in the PRS. Too often today social housing doesn't provide decent accommodation either - and it is still subsidised directly and indirectly by the taxpayer.

Simon M

13:46 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by NewYorkie at 27/03/2023 - 13:32
There is a covenant to the deeds for the property to be offered back to the council for the first 10 years.

LordOf TheManor

13:57 PM, 27th March 2023, About A year ago

In addition to the good points made by Luke P and NewYorkie.....

With social housing, the government made the first big mistake of granting tenancies for life and allowed them to cascade down the family line. That was never going to encourage home ownership, was it?

Second big mistake: homes that housed a growing family of 5 should have been leased for 10 years to start with then reviewed every 5 years after that. When children have flown the nest, the house should have been freed-up for another family.

Third big mistake: council estates were made up of identical 3-bed houses, instead of a mix of home sizes. If they had developed 1 and 2 bed properties in the same estates, these could have been offered to the couples whose children had left home or to the single eldery person who was left rattling round in a 3-bed house with a garden that couldn't be managed. That would have enabled people to stay in the area where they had made social roots whilst still being housed by the council albeit it in a smaller property. The 3-bed homes could have then been offered to a new young family and the cycle repeated.

The goverment clearly had no foresight to start with and thus created the situation that Maggie Thatcher dealt with so badly.

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