Shelter’s harassment of letting agents is futile, so why are they doing it?Make Text Bigger
Shelter’s campaign against letting agents started with an attempt to establish a legal principle in an action against a single-branch agency. This failed – even though Shelter had a barrister working for nothing – because the case was settled out of court. Click here
The campaign was expanded under the new CEO, Polly Neate, and the Director of Communications, Policy & Campaigns, Greg Beales, who were appointed in August and September 2017 respectively.
This year Shelter conducted a mystery shopping exercise. Beales wrote to Ludlow Thompson (LT) on 16 August claiming that 9 out of 10 branches stated that it was LT policy not to let to tenants on housing benefit. Click here
LT denied it but in a blog the next day, Beales started a campaign of harassment against the firm. Click here Shelter instructed readers to contact LT by tweet or email to tell them to stamp out discrimination. Click here
In September and again in October Shelter incited its supporters to harass LT by phone. Last month Shelter claimed that the three waves of harassment had succeeded. Click here
This update shows a photo of a group of redshirts outside one of LT’s branches
Now Shelter has started a petition naming seven specific agents – Bridgfords, Dexters, Fox & Sons, haart, Hunters, Ludlow Thompson and Your Move – for allegedly discriminating against tenants on benefits. Click here
It includes Hunters although that firm had zero failures in the mystery shopper exercise. Click here
The CEO of Hunters denied discrimination. Dexters have denied having a policy of avoiding benefit claimants. Ludlow Thompson and haart had already denied having a blanket ban, pointing out that some of their current tenants claim benefits. What is the purpose of a petition demanding that they stop doing something they are not doing?
The new management of Shelter knows that landlords have good reasons for preferring tenants who are not claiming benefits:
Housing benefit is restricted to the bottom third of local private rents. Benefit claimants struggle to afford a home and the situation will worsen because benefits are frozen until 2020. This is the thrust of an undated report which Shelter published in June 2017 “Shut Out: Households at put at (sic) risk of homelessness by the housing benefit freeze”. To download it Click here
Anyone receiving housing benefit is going to be transferred onto Universal Credit, which has entailed weeks or months of rent arrears for those already transferred, and arbitrary deductions by the authorities to punish claimants for missing appointments.
HB and UC is paid to the tenant, not the landlord, and paying the rent is not always the top priority of some claimants.
So the pool of landlords is limited to those who are prepared to spend their time and money in collecting the (frozen) rent – and dealing with government bureaucracy in order to do so – or in removing a non-paying tenant. Those with mortgages run the risk of repossession by the lender in the meantime if they cannot keep up with their payments.
Landlords have the right to reduce their risk to a minimum. They need to avoid losing money – they are not charities. They have no obligation to house the homeless – the PRS is not part of the Welfare State
Shelter’s campaign of harassment against letting agents for alleged bans on HB tenants is not going to recruit new landlords to add to the pool of properties available to them, so it is futile. Its management must know this, so why are they doing it? Is it for publicity, to recruit activists?
Shelter published its latest strategy document last month, Click here, It says “we’ll seek to recruit 500,000 supporters to defend the right to a safe home. We will harness the power for change of our services, shops, campaigners, donors and partners” and “there’s still more to do. To achieve it, we’ll need to inspire a new wave of grassroots supporters – a mass movement for change whose voice will be heard everywhere, from Westminster to local town halls”
Why does Shelter want a mass movement of half a million redshirts, and for what purpose does it want to harness their power? For mob rule on the High Street? To seize second homes? To intimidate landlords? To intimidate councils? To harass MPs?
One reason for the increasing shortfall between HB and rents is the restriction of mortgage interest relief, Section 24. This is a tax on interest, so landlords have had to increase the rent for the first time in years in order to be able to pay it, making themselves no better off. HB claimants cannot afford the increases and are being made homeless.
If Shelter wants to stop the increase in homelessness, it should be campaigning against Section 24, not inciting direct action against letting agents. The latter is just hastening the advent of its own Oxfam moment when the public, disgusted at its antics, stops donating.
Some may think that Shelter has lost its way, and is a lying, bullying organisation that has become morally bankrupt but I couldn’t possibly comment.
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