Landlord Crusader: Why PRS landlords should protect social housing tenants

Landlord Crusader: Why PRS landlords should protect social housing tenants

9:42 AM, 2nd June 2023, About A year ago 8

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We all know that the UK is facing a housing crisis, and the blame for this is usually placed at the feet of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS).

That’s despite private landlords providing quality accommodation for millions of tenants.

The other issue is that the public and media tend to confuse poor social housing conditions with PRS landlords and use this as another stick to beat us with.

On top of that, councils are the ones who benefit financially from licensing schemes while neglecting their own housing standards. How can this be right?

Often seen as the enemy of tenants

Private landlords are often seen as the enemy of tenants, when we really aren’t.

We not only invest in properties that meet the legal requirements and often exceed them, offering comfort, security and flexibility to renters.

We also pay taxes, contribute to the economy and create jobs for local tradespeople and agents.

We are not responsible for the shortage of affordable housing, which is caused by decades of underinvestment in social and public housing by successive governments.

But we are still demonised by the media and politicians as greedy, exploitative and uncaring – and they say we charge exorbitant rents, evict tenants without reason and neglect repairs and maintenance.

These accusations are based on stereotypes and anecdotes, not on evidence or statistics.

In fact, most PRS landlords charge fair rents that reflect the market value and demand, have good relationships with their tenants and respond promptly to any issues that arise.

Real problem lies with social housing

The real problem lies with social housing, which is provided by councils and housing associations. Social housing is supposed to offer affordable and decent accommodation for those who cannot afford to buy or rent privately.

However, many social housing properties are in poor condition, overcrowded and unsafe.

They suffer from damp, mould, pests, faulty heating and plumbing, fire hazards and structural defects.

These problems affect the health and wellbeing of tenants, especially children and vulnerable groups.

Councils have a duty to inspect their own properties and ensure they comply with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which sets out the minimum criteria for a safe and habitable home.

However, many councils do not carry out regular inspections or take action against themselves when they find breaches.

Failed to meet regulatory standards

Which brings me neatly to Birmingham City Council who this week on Property118 are revealed to have failed to meet regulatory standards and to maintain adequately its own homes.

The Regulator of Social Housing says the council has breached the Homes Standard and the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.

It found that the council – or THE LANDLORD – had neglected crucial fire, electrical and asbestos checks and inspections for many properties in violation of safety laws.

And yet this council is empowered to run a selective licensing scheme that is meant to enforce standards in the PRS? Don’t make me laugh.

It’s not the only council being found out – the regulator regularly finds councils at fault.

All councils have a conflict of interest

To me, all councils have a conflict of interest when they act as both landlord and regulator since licensing schemes are supposed to improve the quality of PRS properties.

Leaving aside the money raising venture, councils appear to do very little to improve their own social housing stock while cracking down on PRS landlords.

They do so to protect private tenants – and this is done without any hubris about failing to protect their own council house tenants.

We all know that licensing schemes do not guarantee that PRS properties will be improved or maintained, as councils have limited resources and capacity to enforce them.

Licensing schemes also do not address the root causes of poor housing conditions, such as lack of supply, affordability and security.

PRS landlords who provide good quality housing

Licensing schemes are unfair, ineffective and counterproductive – and they penalise PRS landlords who provide good quality housing for tenants while letting councils off the hook for their own failures in social housing.

They also increase rents for tenants and licensing schemes do not solve the housing crisis, but rather exacerbate it because growing numbers of fed-up landlords are selling up with the burden of complying with a licencing schemes.

We need a different approach to housing policy that recognises the value and contribution of PRS landlords and treats us fairly and respectfully.

That isn’t the awful Renters’ Reform Bill in its current form.

The UK also needs more investment in social and public housing that meets the needs and aspirations of tenants.

It is crucial that we have a balanced and diverse housing market that offers choice, affordability and quality for everyone.

These last two issues are what this column is about – because it doesn’t appear to extend to the social landlords and the poor quality of homes they offer.

What we really need is legislation that delivers improved standards, quality accommodation and rights for both tenants AND landlords in the PRS and social housing sector.

This might be a wish too far when the public don’t appear to appreciate the difference between the two sectors.

Time and time again, council and social housing tenants are left at risk and the councils don’t get hammered with fines like a private landlord would.

So, if we don’t stand up to protect social and council housing tenants, who will?

Until next time,

The Landlord Crusader


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Comments

10:18 AM, 2nd June 2023, About A year ago

Is the shortage of housing caused by decades of underinvestment?
Does not the huge increase in our population have something to do with it?
With a population increase since the turn of the century of over 10 million caused by immigration, pressure on public services, general congestion, and a shortage of housing is a natural consequence.
Imagine the availability of homes to rent or buy, and their prices, if the population of England dropped by 10 million overnight (just a thought experiment).

TheBiggerPicture

10:21 AM, 2nd June 2023, About A year ago

Right again crusader.
The referee shouldn't play for one of the teams in the match. Even if it's a friendly.

Reluctant Landlord

17:37 PM, 2nd June 2023, About A year ago

BCC - it beggars belief that this now comes AFTER they have already been slated by the RofSH for worse before this.

So what IS the Ombudsman doing about this exactly apart from reporting this catastrophe? I hear nothing of fines, nothing of anyone taking responsibility, no sacking??? In fact no word from BCC at all! Dereliction of duty I would say with many, people who were supposed to be on watch.

Reluctant Landlord

17:51 PM, 2nd June 2023, About A year ago

I agree in part with your article, but the last sentence stuck in my throat.

'So, if we don’t stand up to protect social and council housing tenants, who will?'

Bearing in mind how well councils and HA's are 'looking after' their tenants, and at the same time making the environment totally toxic for GOOD private landlords to help, I am afraid now I passed the point where I feel any moral duty myself to 'protect' such tenants. Been there, done that and got shot down from both sides.

Zero assistance from the council/government who can't house people themselves, AND tenants who believe I am a combo of the Royal Mint and Social Services and who should be totally responsible for them like a parent, now they are within my 4 walls.

Think again. The tide has turned. Self preservation is the name of the game now.

LordOf TheManor

21:05 PM, 2nd June 2023, About A year ago

Couldn't agree more with DSR!

I'm experiencing a huge increase in requests from my ad-hoc work force asking whether I can help their friends++ find somewhere to live. They're working families but earning nowhere near enough to compete in the stampede for houses in the PRS.

These hardworking people should have recourse to decent social housing for their long term housing needs. It was never the function of the PRS to provide this.

I'm in the process of selling one of my houses that was home to a family for the last 7 years. I had to move them out due to their social needs being beyond my time constraints & repairs being increasingly difficult to schedule. The house would have gone downhill quickly due to their neglect cum permanent excuses & it would have been me in the firing line.

House is empty, now all thoroughly cleaned up. Repainted & looking presentable after a month of non-stop work.

To be re-let it would need a kitchen & bathroom refit, new carpets & modern blinds to replace curtain poles.

It's been a highly needy & exhausting tenancy to manage. Time-wise to fix up the house just isn't in my tank after that.

Even though I've got people I know begging me to keep it & re-let it to them as it is - I just can't do it.

Susan Adamson

8:19 AM, 3rd June 2023, About A year ago

With the Renters reform bill likely to be passed probably sometime next year, one of LL’s concerns is the lack of control over gaining possession, I’m not worried about removal of sec 21 ( I’ve never known a LL that wanted to get rid of a good, rent paying tenant unless they need to sell, I’ve been a landlord and letting agent for over 30 years) what concerns me is the likely possibility of tenants moving in for a couple of months and treating a property as an air b&b type of arrangement, most won’t but there will be instances of this.
Private rented properties are going to become a home for life, at least this is what the govt are aiming for, if a tenant pays rent and doesn’t cause a nuisance you will be unable to evict them unless you want to sell it or live in it yourself. With this in mind isn’t it time that the PRS now start to let properties without floor coverings/ window coverings and even cooking facilities? If a TT had to provide these things for themselves (as is usually the case with social housing) they would likely not move into properties for short periods of time, it would also save LL’s money - which is highly desirable, particularly right now.
I mean, what are the worst/common issues with deposit disputes? Carpets, cookers being dirty and LL’s having to replace these items every few years. If we all did it, this would soon become the norm. Anyone agree?

Bristol Landlord

17:33 PM, 3rd June 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Susan Adamson at 03/06/2023 - 08:19My places are all 4 bed Victorian terraced houses rented to 4 sharers as an unfurnished HMO but with fully equipped kitchen. I agree it may be time to start providing less of the most replaced items you mention, which for me seem to be kitchen appliances and carpets.
I already had a policy for the last few years of when a carpet was worn out it was not replaced but instead the floor sanded and varnished. Now the only carpet is on the staircase and tenants can provide their own rugs if they want carpets. This does make maintenance simpler.
I also don’t provide a microwave any longer, got tired of replacing them every couple of years due to tenant misuse.
May now be an interesting idea to not provide any kitchen appliances at all, though the issue is HMO regulations require I provide cooking and fridge facilities and all the other competing properties do have appliances included so many landlords would need to stop providing at the same time.

Susan Adamson

6:57 AM, 4th June 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Bristol Landlord at 03/06/2023 - 17:33
I agree it would be difficult for HMO’s as they attract more transient people, so you would probably have to provide some furnishings, houses are a different matter. When someone is granted a social house, they have to provide everything themselves and no one complains about this.
The policy to not provide floor coverings, curtains, cookers etc would have to become established as the norm, across the board.
It’s just an idea that I hope catches on, it will reduce abuse of ultra short lets ( remember, tenants do not have to pay for their own references anymore) also damage caused by pets would be minimised. I think it would save LL’s money and reduce dilapidation disputes as well as ensuring that the TT does not leave after a short time. The govt want private renting to be as secure for tenants as social housing so we need to level up the playing field here.

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