Councils using ‘Intelligence’ to track down low EPC properties and fine £5,00015:08 PM, 29th March 2021
About 2 weeks ago 36
Professor Danny Dorling is well known for his extreme left wing views on the housing market and pushing his politics at every opportunity within the circles of power and academia.
The Professor was recently on the Jeremy Vine show espousing extremely anti-landlord rhetoric. After the show Dorling was engaged in conversation and didn’t just decline to respond to points made by a Property118 action group member, but actually chose to completely ignore them blindly disregarding any evidence which doesn’t support his ideology when it comes to capitalism in the housing sector.
We have been authorised to publish a follow up email sent to Professor Dorling by angry Property118 action group member and landlord John McKay.
My friend has been kind enough to forward the emails that you and she have been exchanging. I must say that I am somewhere between shocked and amazed at what I’ve read.
Let me start by saying that I would normally read anything I send to a stranger several times over to ensure that I am not saying something that could be taken as offensive. However on this occasion I shall not invest that time as it is clear that you are unable to answer any points or arguments that my firend makes, and unfortunately your responses to her leave much to be desired in plain etiquette. So, whilst it is not my intention to insult, I will speak my mind and you may make of it what you will.
Your ability to completely ignore anything my friend says that doesn’t fit with your ideology reminds me of a piece of the film ‘The Sentinel’. Kiefer Sutherland plays a character called David Breckinridge and arrives at the scene of his murdered FBI colleague. He meets an aggressive ‘know-it-all’ homicide detective who seconds before had been mouthing off as to how the FBI weren’t any good at solving this sort of crime. The detective tells Breckinridge that the FBI agent was shot in a robbery and he knows this to be true because after so many years in the force he has a gut feeling about it. Breckinridge replies that the problem with gut feelings is that you only notice the evidence that supports that gut feeling. He then very rapidly talks through the evidence, mostly unnoticed by the detective, and explains why the death was clearly an assassination. In the film the detective has no choice but to accept the facts that have been laid out in front of him, but that is where things differ from the situation we have with you. You simply choose to ignore anything that doesn’t fit with your distorted view of things. How do you mentally deal with this Professor Dorling? Do you have some sort of delete button in your head that removes anything you care not to consider?
I am a landlord with many years of experience under my belt, and there is my first point. I work in housing people. I do not sit and read or hypothesise about it. I do it! Just like I couldn’t learn to drive from a book or perform intricate surgery either, without quality hands-on experience my understanding, thoughts and ideas are worthless. As I understand it you have no such experience in housing, is this correct?
The comments you make are particularly irksome as they come from someone in upper education. I have long felt that such individuals are a drain on society as they demand such enormous wages for working only half the year. I assume that you are a higher rate taxpayer, would I be correct? I do wonder how you justify such an income for such little output. And when you make snide comments about what a landlord makes it is somewhat hypocritical isn’t it?
As a full time landlord with many tenants I am currently in the lower rate band, but more on that later.
So moving on, one of the points that my friend has so ably made, but you dispute, is that of the considerable addition to housing stock that landlords have made. I’ll give you a few examples of my own and I’ll start with my 5 HMOs. Before I bought these houses there were a total of 8 people living in the large under-utilised properties. Now there are 26 which represents a 225% increase. Before you jump to conclusions about over-crowding and squalid conditions I can tell you that exactly half of those rooms are fully en-suite and a further 3 have part en-suite facilities. 6 of them are equipped with costly stand-alone kitchenettes. These are good-sized high quality rooms at low cost, which is probably why I have had one tenant stay in his room for as much as nearly 9 years to date. I have several others that are very long term too. One of these individuals actually sold his own house as it was too expensive to run and now lives on a very low budget in one of my houses.
There are literally thousands of HMOs around the country that therefore house multiples of thousands of people. Think of the demand on starter homes if the landlords hadn’t bought and converted these houses! The prices of such homes would have shot through the roof and therefore forced up the price of all other homes. Landlords have helped to keep house prices down and not forced them up as you would seem to believe. Can you really not see that???
Incidentally I spent over £100k on converting the last two HMO properties I bought. Why should I not see a return on this money?
Then there are the numerous houses I purchased that had been long-term empty. I’ll give you just a couple of examples or I’ll be here all day.
One of these places had been unloved and unoccupied for over 14 years! Now it’s a home to a young family of 4, who couldn’t possibly hope to buy a place in the town they live in on the wages they get paid. Their rent is low but may now well increase due to a taxation policy you support. The house was in a terrible state when I took it on. There had been a burst pipe in the roof some years previously and the mould in the property was everywhere. When I had finished the renovation it was beautiful.
For good measure I’ll mention that I have never competed with a first time buyer (FTB) on any property, indeed come to think of it I have rarely competed with anyone. The properties I generally purchase need lots of work and have been long-term empty. I have brought them back into use after lavishing cash on them. The only property I would even consider being a FTB type is a smallish 3 bed terraced place with garage attached. This house is on an estate that was terrorised by travellers, but that’s a long story. Most houses there were boarded up and a couple had been burned out. Local estate agents would not even venture on to the area in case the gypsies vandalised their cars or even threatened them physically. I took an enormous risk in buying the place and spending money on it, knowing that I might have to defend it, and myself against the travellers, or that I wouldn’t get a tenant, but I took that risk. One by one the houses have been bought up and the estate is on the up, but it’s been a very slow process. I bought my house and have improved it with new doors, windows, fascias, soffits and a complete refit inside. The house next door was bought by an owner-occupier and hasn’t had a penny spent on it. It’s an eyesore.
However you take the view that this property should be expropriated, when the Council wanted absolutely nothing to do with the estate and the gypsy problem. What a strange view you have on things. I have bought a house back into use and by doing so have helped a whole estate to go the same direction. If it were not for me and others that took risks the estate would have fallen further into the ghetto that it was.
My own home had also been long term empty before I purchased it. It was near derelict and is without a doubt the biggest project I’ve taken on to date. I’ve bought this property back into use, but better still is that when it is finished, we will also have converted the adjoining barns. The property will be far too large for us and at some point we will move, but it will make a perfect home for a family who need a granny annexe. Therefore I will also have freed up another property and perhaps given someone an opportunity to care for ageing parents too. You for some reason think this is a terrible thing.
These are just a few examples and I could give you many more. I like many other landlords have taken a great deal of pressure off of the housing market. Tell me Professor Dorling, with your high salary and loads of free time, what have you done to alleviate the housing issues?
Now here’s another point. You seem to think that landlords provide sub-standard accommodation but that is just a stupid and ill-informed view. Can you tell me Professor Dorling that you do an annual gas safety check on your house? Do you carry out regular tests on fire alarm systems in your home as well as maintenance for them? Do you do periodic inspections on the electrical installation of the property? Do you perform PAT tests on the appliances? I’m guessing that a truthful answer to each of these questions would be NO. You see landlords do all this sort of testing (depending on the property) and therefore provide the safest housing in the land. Have you taken that into account at any point???
I’ll give you another example of people that I’ve helped as a landlord. In the days that we were allowed to do Sale & Rent Back I bought a few properties in such a fashion. Every one that I bought still has the original owner/vendor/tenant. In each case they’d got into significant financial difficulty and were at serious risk of having their home repossessed. I bought the houses and rent back to them at a low rent and every one of the houses has been improved considerably. I’ve helped them to maintain their lives and that is a good thing. Have you ever done anything that comes close to that Professor Dorling? It was my intention to never increase rents on these tenants, and one of them (an elderly married couple) pays only about 60% of market rate. Now I am forced to increase what I charge or evict. If I evict this couple it would likely kill them and that is no exaggeration. They are frail and in ill health, but that is of little consequence to you. You want the tax change that may well force others in a similar situation to lose their home. Do you understand the impact that can have?
Ok, one thing I haven’t done is purchase off-plan because to me the risks are too great, though I know plenty of landlords that have. They’ve put down deposits that have provide the builders the finance they need to continue with their developments. When a new-build property is bought it instantly loses value, much like a new car leaving the showroom. Therefore the landlord is at an immediate disadvantage, but he has still provided the necessary cash for the house to be built, and perhaps others on the development too. Have you ever given a builder an interest free loan Professor Dorling? I suspect that you wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.
Then of course there are landlord friends that I know that convert old commercial buildings into residential property. Some of them did a fantastic conversion of a very dilapidated Edwardian office building near me and made it into 5 extremely high-spec one-bed apartments. The building is listed so it presented some interesting challenges, but they did such a good job they now specialise in similar conversions in various locations across the country. They have plenty of competition from other landlord developers doing just the same, yet you dismiss their efforts saying landlords do nothing to add to the housing stock. Just what have you done yourself to add to the stock Professor Dorling, please tell me?
I know 4 landlords that at this moment are building various numbers of houses. It couldn’t be much clearer that they are adding to the housing stock could it? Have you ever built a house Professor Dorling? I’d bet money that you haven’t, yet you criticise those that are. Why do you think this is OK?
Let me tell you about another couple of landlords that will I think put you to shame. One not only supports a charity that homes the likes of ex-prisoners, drug addicts and so forth, but they also have a charity of their own that homes other vulnerable people. And of course there’s another close friend of mine with a handful of HMOs that are only used to home vulnerable and troublesome youngsters. It is a sector of the market that is fraught with problems causing most landlords to steer clear but he’s taken it on. Yes he makes a small profit. He has to live, but he and his wife live modestly and she has a good job. Anyway, whatever profit he makes is irrelevant. What he does is immensely more useful to society than marking a few essays now and then isn’t it?
Now largely due to S24, a tax measure you support, this man is quitting and moving away. Yes somebody else may buy the places and operate in a similar way, but it is very unlikely because it is so difficult. So well done Professor Dorling in supporting this tax change. What do you think will happen to these youngsters now?
When S24 was announced I was extremely worried because I thought I was going to have to evict several families. Now 18 months on, I can advise that I’ve taken measures to ensure that the impact on me will be minimal. Unfortunately one of those measures was to scrap a policy I’ve had in place since I started in this business, and that was never to increase rents on a sitting tenant no matter how long they’ve been with me. So now I’ve issued rent rises between 5 and 12.5% and I’ll continue to raise rents year by year to offset the tax. You see my gearing is low and so are my rents, so it really isn’t a problem for me.
I’d even go as far as to say that in the long term S24 will be good for my business because it will drive out competition and drive up rents. However I’d scrap the tax change tomorrow if I had the power, because of the terrible effects that it will have on the poorest in society and people that have invested their life savings into buying a property to let out.
Right now in one of the areas I operate (Peterborough) landlords are pulling out of the housing benefit market. The Council have been told by many of us that it’s because of the punishing concoction of Universal Credit, Benefit Caps and the forthcoming S24. As a result we have a truly bizarre situation where a corporate landlord (who will not suffer the S24 tax change) has seen an opportunity and is evicting 74 families so that their homes can be used as hostels for the homeless! Can you believe it??? Some of those tenants have been in their homes for 20 years. It’s a disgrace, but we’re going to see more and more situations like it. Indeed the corporate landlord is doing something similar in Luton and it’s a direct result of S24. In Peterborough the action will mean that the company is doubling the rents they charge but that is what corporates do, they squeeze and squeeze. Like I said above I had never increased rents on a tenant in situ and that is the common policy for most full-time landlords.
When the Peterborough story hit the news, the City Council explained why they were taking up the offer of these hostels and why landlords were pulling out of the HB market. Before I go any further let’s get one thing straight here…. They’re pulling out because they cannot afford to stay in. S24 would bankrupt some. The two MPs that cover the city were condemning in their comments, yet the Council is Conservative as are the MPs. One of the two members of Parliament – Shailesh Vara – actually said that he didn’t believe that landlords were moving away from HB tenants. I find this most surprising as he is my MP and I’ve written to him numerous times as well as having a meeting with him to explain the devastation that S24 will cause. One landlord friend also wrote to him after he made his remark. He told Mr Vara that as one of the biggest private landlord providers to the HB market in the area (which he most definitely is), these were exactly the reasons he was now no longer accepting HB. S24 will raise his tax bill by £36k pa and he is now forced to upgrade his tenants. Last time I spoke with him he hadn’t even had a response from Vara. The two MPs wholeheartedly support the tax change it would seem and Mr Vara has admitted to me that it is nothing to do with helping people on to the housing ladder and it is completely about tax-take.
So Professor Dorling, you stand alongside these two Tory MPs with their endorsement of the most socially destructive tax that has been introduced in years. How does that feel? You claim to be some sort of socialist but you want people to be evicted and rents to rise, and both are happening right NOW! Perhaps you should join the Conservative Party.
Elsewhere in the country we know of a council building a shanty town of portacabins to house the homeless and another private landlord in Hatfield has informed the council that she is quitting altogether because of S24. She, like my friend, is one of the biggest providers to the social market so you can understand the impact that this will have. Or can you?
In Cambridge the number of people that are sleeping rough has increased exponentially and I note that your own city of Oxford is closing shelters, thus exacerbating the problem further for the streets there. With S24 looming you can bet things are going to get worse, yet you apparently support this. So please tell me, as you support a tax change which by its very nature is going to hit hardest on the poorest of society, what are you personally going to do to help the homeless situation in your city? Will you be taking them off the streets and into your house? Will you be giving a large chunk of your hefty salary to homeless charities? Will you perhaps go out and distribute food to the individuals?
When you are next walking the streets of Oxford and come across a homeless person, perhaps sleeping in a shop doorway, stop and look at their face. Look at the hopeless expression in their eyes as I have done. Think about how you personally may be partly responsible for putting them into this position. Then go back to your nice home paid for by subsidies from the UK taxpayer via the University, and of course also from the students that will in many cases carry the debt of your home and lifestyle for the next 30 years. And then think further about S24 and how the very organisation you work for is one of the richest land owners in the country.
And whilst on the subject of students think what S24 will do to their rents and how they will end up carrying greater debt out into the working world. For some of course the prospect of the extra debt will mean they will not go on to further education. That is what you wish for them it would seem. Somewhat ironic for someone in your position isn’t it?
No doubt you will say that S24 will not increase homelessness because if a landlord sells up then an owner occupier can buy, but that’s just not the way things work is it? It’s always the poorest in society that feel the pain as they are less able to deal with any financial pressures. How does this fit with your socialist views and your support of S24 please?
I told you above that I am currently a lower rate taxpayer, but now I will be shifted into higher rate on fictitious income. I’ve also told you that I’ve taken measures that minimise the impact on me but I know the impact on millions of tenants will be severe. Frankly I don’t care one bit what you think of me or landlords in general, but you are apparently an intelligent and educated man. That makes your views even more dangerous to society because people will listen to what you say. Let’s hope for the sake of the lowest income individuals and families that they only listen with one ear Professor Dorling. Every time you look at a homeless person in future, I want you to remember that you may well have helped to put them in that situation. That is the plain truth of it. Yet as always you will of course just ignore the facts because you couldn’t possibly have got it wrong could you? You are an academic with a closed mind. What a paradox.”
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