Punishing private landlords – help or hindrance?Make Text Bigger
Everyone knows that rogue landlords bring down standards and should be rooted out, but have recent buy-to-let changes gone too far in punishing the good landlords who provide an excellent service and high-quality accommodation, as well as people who actively choose to rent not buy?
In the past eighteen months, the Government appears to have declared war against Britain’s estimated 1.8 million private landlords. Stamp duty has been put up, taxes have increased and the ever-changing rules and regulations have left many landlords confused and uninformed about their obligations. The outcome? Well, it’s still early days, but judging by the 49% fall in buy-to-let mortgage lending in the past year, I think it’s safe to say the market is shrinking.
One of the supposed driving forces behind the changes is to “level the playing field for homeowners and investors” by making buy-to-let less attractive, which in turn will create greater supply of properties for first-time buyers. But who is this assault on private landlords really helping…or more to my point, hindering?
To some people, getting that first step on the property ladder is very important and I agree that there should be more support in helping people achieve their home-owner aspirations. However, we must also remember that the private rented sector provides much-needed homes for those people who are not ready to buy, or quite simply do not want to purchase a property because they are happy having the flexibility of renting.
The UK has a lot more students, especially from overseas, who typically want to rent, young professionals are attracted by the freedom as their careers invariably change direction, and even retirees looking for opportunities to move closer to family or travel are opting to rent. Worryingly though, according to The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, rents are likely to rise by 25% over the next five years as landlords scale back their portfolios, leaving tenants fighting over diminished supply.
I have worked with thousands of landlords over the years, some of which it’s fair to say had failed in some part in their duty of care. But these are the minority and you can see examples of where they have gone wrong in Channel Five’s ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’, which Landlord Action features heavily in, trying to educate landlords and tenants on the pitfalls of buy-to-let.
However, I have also worked with far more excellent landlords who keep well maintained, beautifully decorated rental homes. They are fully compliant with regulation, have the necessary deposit protection and insurance in place, and attend to their tenant’s every request efficiently and professionally.
In addition, I bet there are also lots of landlords and tenants out there who will identify with a situation where patience and empathy has gone a long way. You see, landlords are a diverse group of people clubbed together under one title “landlord”. They can be teachers, doctors, nurses, retirees, the list goes on, but they are also all people. When a tenant has a genuine reason for why they are late with their rent, for example, through sickness or a problem at work, there are many landlords who will be willing to listen to their tenants and support them by granting a little extra time or setting up a payment plan to get them back on track. Remember, most landlords want tenants to stay in properties as long as possible, even by reducing rent, to avoid voids and re-letting costs.
Despite recent efforts to increase institutional investment and large-scale PRS developments, in the belief that the consumer (tenant) will be offered a better class of accommodation and local amenities, the sector remains dominated by small-scale landlords. However, the build-to-rent model, with market rents, may not be suitable for a large proportion of the PRS market, particularly low-income households.
If landlords continue to be vilified and punished, more and more will be forced out of the market. But without any guarantee that it will make a difference to the people who want to buy property, and certainly not in the same way as say reducing stamp duty would, aren’t we just shifting the supply problem from buyers to renters?
Yes, there are bad landlords but also good landlords who offer high spec accommodation at affordable prices with great management service. Let us not forget….there are also good tenants and bad tenants, just as there are good businesses and bad businesses – but those that perform well should be praised.
Maybe it’s time we stopped the “landlord bashing” and gave some recognition to the ones who are doing a great job in supporting nearly 20% of our housing market!
In fact, I think we should have a National Landlord Day to celebrate these unsung heroes and highlight the vastly positive experience of most tenants. A well needed shot in the arm for an increasingly beleaguered sector but I’m not sure how that would go down with the National press, Shelter or Generation Rent?
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