Shelter’s harassment of letting agents is futile, so why are they doing it?

Shelter’s harassment of letting agents is futile, so why are they doing it?

7:36 AM, 2nd November 2018, About 5 years ago 11

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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

On 22 August Shelter misrepresented the results of a second mystery shopping exercise. Click here   The same day, Beales declared on TV that Shelter was looking for others to sue. 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.

It can take several months to get a non-paying tenant out, Click here,  and Shelter will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to thwart the process. Click here

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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Dr Rosalind Beck

9:04 AM, 2nd November 2018, About 5 years ago

Excellent work again, AL.
Actually, Polly Neate was on TV a couple of weeks ago, again repeating the lie that 'the loss of a private tenancy is the main cause of homelessness.' She then went on to moan about how she lives in London, because she bought years ago, but her children can't afford to live there - as though the family is poor. She gets £120,000 a year so I would suggest she give some of that to her children and quit moaning. Only a tiny proportion of landlords would receive £120,000 as profit/salary a year and yet she attacks us like we're all Rockefeller. What hypocrisy. It is also clearly a diversionary tactic - they attack landlords and letting agents to take the spotlight off their destructive and disgraceful organisation.

Old Mrs Landlord

14:24 PM, 2nd November 2018, About 5 years ago

To my mind the reason Shelter want to recruit this army of SJWs is to raise their pubic profile and extract more money from government and others who donate. Of course, if the way that money is actually spent were more well known, fewer would be inclined to give their hard-earned cash. The dissemination of lies and bile against private landlords is disgusting especially considering that taxpayers, including of course landlords, are contributing to their funding. As you say, landlords are not charities or part of the welfare state and must run their businesses within the law to try to make a profit. In current circumstances this means avoiding the risk of renting to those who are dependant on unreliable benefits payments. With the government having introduced taxes which will bankrupt some landlords the rest of us must be discriminating in our choice of tenants in order to stay afloat. Shelter's actions are merely hastening the departure from the sector of landlords who have just had enough of the onslaught of vilification and avalanche of government and local government regulation.


18:50 PM, 2nd November 2018, About 5 years ago

There is a simple solution, landlords don’t take UC tenants as they fail credit checks, any company does credit checks on a potential new customer, to cover themselves. Shelter can quite easily become a guarantor for all UC tenants. This means LL’s will take them on and shelter can stand by the claim that they are no more likely to default than any other tenant. I wonder why shelter won’t .............

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

9:34 AM, 5th November 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by AJ at 02/11/2018 - 18:50
Now that (Shelter guaranteeing rents for benefits claimants) would be a far better use of their £60,000,000 + of annual funding in my opinion.

Mike D

11:08 AM, 5th November 2018, About 5 years ago

The real point here is that shelter is a Leftwing ideology driven organization. It has a biased agenda against business, profit and capitalism. Its See's landlords as the problem of capitalism of greed & profit. Like Corbyns Labour, it doesn't understand costs, expenses and how bad some tenants actually are.....
If it was their money, they wouldn't be able to sustain HB & UC tenants either, especially the bad ones, the hypocrisy is as much as they don't understand the real numbers and costs, and they wouldn't put their money where their big mouths are.....

Appalled Landlord

11:57 AM, 6th November 2018, About 5 years ago

Some examples are given in the article below of arbitrary deductions by the authorities to punish claimants for missing appointments:

“claimants can lose up to 100% of their benefit if they fail to fulfil a "work-related commitment" such as turning up for a job interview or training on time.”


15:13 PM, 10th November 2018, About 5 years ago

Shelter are contributing to landlords reluctance to take HB tenants by backing defaulting tenants when Landlords need to get them out. Well done Shelter!

Sean Graveney

19:53 PM, 10th November 2018, About 5 years ago

Where does the term redshirt come from? Never heard it and not sure what it’s implying.

As said above, don’t know why agents don’t just go with the stock line of ‘We run credit checks on all applicants and only accept those who pass’. Harder to argue with that and a reasonable approach to business anyway.

Appalled Landlord

21:31 PM, 10th November 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Sean Graveney at 10/11/2018 - 19:53
I coined the term redshirt to resemble blackshirt and brownshirt. The term redshirts implies an organised group that sets out to impose its will through harassment and bullying. Shelter’s strategy document says it wants to recruit half a million supporters. I assume a red shirt will be part of the welcome pack, to be worn on manoeuvres.

Sean Graveney

1:08 AM, 11th November 2018, About 5 years ago

Thanks - I’m not sure if evoking the terminology of nazi Germany/fascist Italy will win any supporters but who knows, maybe the actions of these volunteers will resemble those groups. I must admit to not having read the document so not sure what their plan is for these supporters.

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