11:33 AM, 18th November 2022, About 2 weeks ago 22
While landlords have never been flavour of the month, we have lost the moral high ground over standards in private rented accommodation and it’s not coming back.
It’s hard to believe that landlord associations do not do more proactive PR work in reaching out to media organisations and that those media outlets don’t bother contacting landlords for our side of the story.
It struck me this week while watching Shelter’s Polly Neate on BBC Breakfast (again) talking about the awful death of a two-year old in social housing that had an incredible issue with mould.
Polly, rightfully, criticised the social housing provider but then went on to say that the situation is much worse in the private rented sector.
I have two issues with statements like this:
I do have a third issue in that presenters and journalists never quiz deeper to find out whether the problem being discussed effects ALL landlords or just a few. They seem to accept landlord criticism at face value.
The difference is never made clear that decent, hardworking landlords are never given credit for providing quality, safe homes for tenants. It never happens.
I could gloat about the news on Property118 that Shelter’s staff are going on strike for more pay because they can’t afford to pay rent – I could highlight why this has come about (read last week’s article) but I feel sorry they can’t afford to pay. Good landlords offer good homes – and most won’t be charging the market rate.
However, when asked about the two-year old’s sad death, Michael Gove said it was incredible that the chief executive of the social housing provider was still in their job. And he is right.
I don’t like to agree with Mr Gove on anything but the problem here is that he is probably thinking that the situation is worse in the PRS. It must be – because that’s all he ever hears.
So, let’s talk about Sadiq Khan and his bid to bring in a two-year rent freeze for London’s tenants.
Yes, the mealy-mouthed politician was deriding landlords while calling for a rent freeze to help tenants. Not landlords – we are so rich that we can easily absorb mortgage rises, apparently.
However, I caught his interview on Good Morning Britain and was staggered when presenter Susanna Reid said tenants would undoubtedly be happy with a rent freeze – but what about landlords?
Khan started his well-rehearsed offering and said that 40% of landlords own their property without a mortgage and said: “The choice is this, people being made homeless because they can’t afford to pay their rent or landlords making a bit less profit. I know what I’d choose.”
Hurrah! Down with those nasty landlords providing homes for people who can’t afford to buy or get social housing.
The issue of banning evictions came up and then came a bombshell.
Susanna raised the problem of Scottish landlords leaving the PRS and Khan raised the 40% of owned rental properties again but was stopped by Susanna saying that if landlords can’t cover their costs, they will simply withdraw their properties from the market.
I was stunned. Am I hearing this right? A journalist who is asking the questions you never hear on the BBC? A journalist who is showing the consequence of what might (will?) happen if rents are frozen.
Khan wriggled and squirmed with his stock reply and seemed to think that landlords who decided to withdraw their property will ‘earn zero’. The prospect of landlords selling up altogether rather than leaving a property empty has obviously never reached his ears.
He also raised the prospect that 40% of Londoners are facing homelessness and dismissed the rising mortgage costs that landlords face.
Watch this because I can’t believe that someone on our side of the fence would be so strident or effective in tackling Khan and his nonsense idea of a rent freeze:
This last point leads me to wonder that if a landlord association won’t step up to defend the PRS at times like these, perhaps it’s time for a character to step out of the PRS shadows to go on TV (not me! I don’t think I could keep my cool…).
For example, Tim Martin owns Wetherspoons and will stand up to discuss the pub and beer industry and Brexit – and other issues.
Is there not a landlord with a large portfolio who speaks at public events not willing to go on TV and tell people what the consequences of a rent and eviction freeze will be? No one?
I appreciate that criminal landlords won’t be reading this because they don’t care about the properties they offer or the welfare of their tenants. They care even less about how this feeds into public perception of our industry.
The drip-drip of negative stories about landlords hasn’t even reached a peak because I look at the upcoming Rental Reform white paper and I’m horrified at the prospect of MPs, media commentators and the likes of Shelter, Crisis and Generation Rent lining up to condemn private landlords everywhere.
And there won’t be a squeak from landlords in the media because we won’t be asked.
If ever there was a time for the PRS to stand up as one, that time is now. We are like a rabbit caught in headlights – except it’s not a car that is bearing down on us, it’s a massive juggernaut that won’t stop until most of us have called it a day and sold up.
What a terrible, avoidable situation this is.
Until next time,
The Landlord Crusader