11:04 AM, 6th April 2023, About 11 months ago 18
It has been a busy time for landlords with several stories that would normally make my blood run cold, but let’s start with a question: ‘Since when did a rent freeze mean no need to pay rent?’
I ask this, because this was one of the takeaways from the issues in Scotland where the number of repossession cases is rising, and various groups are confused about the reason why.
That’s because Scotland introduced a rent freeze which then became a rent cap which will run for several months yet.
However, I was taken by the fact that a large number of tenants in Scotland had managed to interpret the rent freeze legislation unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon as a reason for not paying rent.
At no point did the legislation highlight that tenants were not to pay rent – just that the rent wasn’t to be increased.
This brings me to the second issue, and it’s the problem of perception. Let me explain.
Since the media portrayal of landlords is overwhelmingly negative, I can only surmise that tenants took from the extensive media coverage of a rent freeze in Scotland, that there was no need to pay rent.
Because why should they when landlords can afford to not only not increase rent, but not even be paid rent at all.
This is absolute nonsense and is something to bear in mind because while Michael Gove says that there is no rent freeze or rent cap planned for landlords in England, I’m not quite so sure.
With various charities, organisations and media outlets all highlighting problems with poor rental accommodation, I think the government will come under pressure to be seen to be doing something.
And with the Renters’ Reform Bill due to make an appearance in the next two months, or so Mr Gove says, all landlords need to be wary of what will be included in the planned legislation. I’m not holding my breath.
The issue of perception also hit me while watching BBC’s Panorama programme about what has happened to former council houses being turned into HMOs – and the return of ‘slum landlords.
Firstly, there was no mention about of profits enjoyed by former council house tenants when they sold up, and not always to a landlord.
Since then, landlords have undoubtedly invested heavily in former council housing stock and will have changed these into HMOs. That’s a business responding to a demand.
But again, the BBC’s perception is that the landlord is always wrong and while the journalist confronted a landlord accused of exploiting tenants in the street – and he did not respond to the allegations – the idea is still that landlords are abusing the housing situation and poor tenants.
There’s also the issue of new EPC regulations finally being resolved, and it looks like we will have to meet a minimum rating of C by April 2028. I have several issues with this.
Leaving aside the cost of the improvements, there’s still the issue of time and having enough people in the workforce to carry out the work and the materials to complete it.
I’ve no doubt either that the work will be expensive, certainly dearer than most landlords are planning on, but there’s also the worry that lots of landlords will simply bail out of the private rented sector rather than upgrade. This will cause chaos.
Not only will tenants not get a house improvement to a C, but they will also be handed an eviction notice because the landlord wants to sell the property and move on with their life.
After selling up, the tenant will undoubtedly have to pay a higher rent because they will be competing with lots of other tenants for the ever-decreasing number of rental properties.
They could of course, in years gone by, apply for a council house but most of those have now been sold on. And they haven’t been replaced.
The government hasn’t asked landlords what they think about the EPC improvements or, crucially, tenants because this is all about meeting a nefarious target and we all have to submit.
I also had to smile when I read the Property118 story about Lewisham council having to invest in 300 homes so they can deal with the number of homeless families and landlords taking possession of their own properties.
Again, perception and lack of joined-up thinking.
If you make it expensive for landlords to run a property with a selective licensing scheme, or crack down on law-abiding landlords offering quality homes, what is the consequence of that?
Perception is an interesting issue and I’ve touched on the negative coverage of landlords several times before and here we have a situation that could get very much worse.
Indeed, it will get worse because no one ever joins up the dots when they deliver their clever legislation to meet the demands of a vociferous minority.
And that’s a shame when the vast majority of landlords offer quality homes to tenants with very few of them ever showing gratitude for someone putting a roof over their head. Albeit, the tenant has paid for the privilege of living in a home, but the landlord has worked hard and taken the risk in buying a property.
It was also nice to see that Shelter came up with some quack statistics about tenants who complain being two and a half times more likely to be evicted. Really?
Again, who are they asking? The people calling their ‘helplines’ or tenants living happily in a rented home? This notion that all landlords are bad must stop.
And it doesn’t help when the media just carry one side of the story – with the notable exception of the Daily Mail.
So, perception works both ways and for those organisations calling for a quick implementation of the Renters’ Reform Bill and/or a rent freeze then you need to appreciate this: Your perception of landlords as soulless, rich scavengers who are just interested in money is very wrong.
Be careful here because our perception of you isn’t wrong – and when lots of us decide that the media/public perception of landlords has worn thin and we sell up, just appreciate that your antagonism created a situation that saw landlords leave the sector so that tenants have fewer homes to choose from and more expensive rents.
Perception? If you perceive us as the ‘baddies’, wait until we are gone and there are no homes – unless you have a well paid job for the big corporate landlords because, believe me, they will not want anything to do with tenants on low wages, benefits or a record of rent arrears. Que sera, sera.
Until next time,
The Landlord Crusader
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