Landlords! We have lost the moral high ground and it’s not coming back

Landlords! We have lost the moral high ground and it’s not coming back

11:33 AM, 18th November 2022, About 2 years ago 22

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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:

  • Polly and Shelter run a hotline with tenants complaining about the quality of their home, but they will only hear about awful landlords – those callers won’t be saying how great their landlord is
  • Shelter et al will bring in the PRS for criticism even if the subject is quite clearly about social housing providers.

Presenters and journalists never quiz deeper

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.

Two-year rent freeze for London’s tenants

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.

Scottish landlords leaving the PRS

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:

Time for a character to step out of the PRS shadows

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

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18:36 PM, 20th November 2022, About 2 years ago

A huge round of applause to the likes of TV Presenters Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley for speaking up on behalf of PRS landlords. Big hat tip too, to the likes of Ben Beadle and his team at the NRLA for doing a sterling job on behalf of us landlords.

Let's not forget: the BTL system is a business that was encouraged by the government back in the mid 1990's in order to fulfil their own failings when the Thatcher administration starting to sell off social housing stock i.e permit council house tenants to buy the homes they rented from the local authority at a heavily discounted purchase price to the prevailing true market value. And now, this government and landlord hostile campaign groups want to persecute us for providing roofs over the heads of people and their families.

In true business fashion, when a business's cost increase, what does that business do? They pass on their cost to the consumer by ramping up the price, reduce their service, or shave off costs elsewhere in order to survive. Take a look at your shopping basket for instance- I went to M&S yesterday and the ready meals have gone up from £4.00 to £5.50 in the blink of an eye. "Shrinkflation" has also crept in. The family pack of lasagne used to feed 4. Now I'll be lucky to feed 3, as the weight content has diminished but the price has also increased. To put it into perspective, what does this government and the likes of Generation Rent and Shelter expect us to do? Eventually give our hard earned, valuable assets away free of rent?? When landlords can no longer afford to maintain their properties to the so called "Decent Living Standard" due to the Majors proposed rent freeze, the tenants will end up suffering as well as landlord. That's what's called a "Lose, Lose" situation...No one ends up winning. Come on government: step up and create fairness within the PRS. It's not such a difficult task. It just takes some joined up thinking and common sense. The problem is, is this government even capable of applying both joined up thinking and common sense? Based on past performance, I'm yet to be convinced.

John Grefe

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9:47 AM, 21st November 2022, About 2 years ago

Hi. I'm an old boy who remembers the Labour party setting up rent controls during the 80's(?). It was to help tenants against those horrible landlords. Result! Landlords left the renting market and guess what, tenants found it difficult. But the Tories didn't reverse it that quickly!! Khan, like alot of good intentioned people don't learn from history. Yes bring in "laws" against bad landlords because they make it difficult for the better ones. Thanks for listening

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