10:16 AM, 9th December 2022, About 2 months ago 14
It has been another interesting week in the life of a landlord in the UK – and none of it good.
My attention has been drawn to the use of statistics to prove that all landlords are bad – and how the media swallows these figures without closer examination.
So, let’s look at my old friends at Shelter.
Property118 reports that Shelter claims that 941,000 tenants are at risk of eviction – which is, they say, one in 12 renters.
This was reported as a fact. Not an estimate, as a fact.
My first thought was that is a hefty number to be bandied about and if correct, the PRS and landlords really are in trouble.
So, a quick read of the article and a visit to the Shelter site reveals that we really should take these figures with a pinch of salt.
Well, this might sound hard to believe but I used to be a statistician and I know that you can find out from a small random sample what you need to know. However, it needs to be truly random – it’s why those hair shampoo adverts on TV only have a survey of 90 people saying how great the product is.
Any more than that and you are simply replicating the same answer.
Firstly, the notes on the research highlight that 2,000 private renters in England were contacted by the research company.
I guess that’s OK because it is a reputable company doing the work and they’ll understand statistical bias (it’s an old trick the Government used for introducing speed cameras all these years ago without understanding the reversion to the mean. Basically, the data didn’t back up what the government was saying).
The notes to editors states that the private tenants were contacted online. Who are these respondents? Are they previous/current users of Shelter’s services?
But then it goes on to say that the data is ‘weighted’ to be representative of all adults in England. The population figures come from the English Housing Survey.
I would like more detail here because the English Housing Survey draws random addresses and invites the person at that address to be interviewed. Hence, you cannot simply multiply your average survey response using this figure to reliably get the total number of individuals affected.
And here comes another but. The latest survey makes clear that the figures were skewed because there were more outright owners and fewer renters in their sample. They also say there were older respondents over the age of 65 and fewer households with children than in the year previously.
And here’s another but. The English Housing Survey discusses households, it doesn’t discuss the population total. That’s the census.
The survey says there 4.4million, or 19%, households in the PRS. This is an estimate.
Now when organisations begin to cherry pick their baseline data, I get worried.
And when I see the target of some research that is aimed at showing how bad landlords are, I get really worried.
Shelter says that 8% of renters are under threat of eviction, and 5% of tenants have been handed an eviction notice. That 8% equates to 940,939 renting adults and 5% is 503,995.
Obviously, the 941,000 tenants in danger of eviction was reported as ‘nearly a million’, natch.
However, does that really mean that in England, out of 4.4 million households that rent, 1.445 million adults are either being evicted or are about to be evicted?
If so, is that not a national emergency? The government needs to step in and do something like putting tents up in the Moors!
And then Paul Shamplina pops up on the evening ITV news handing out eviction notices four weeks before Christmas.
Because all landlords are heartless right?
That’s the media narrative that I’ve been railing against for weeks now.
But here’s another but. The reporter didn’t mention that the person being evicted had racked up arrears of £17,000 – and the process had taken 18 months just to get to that stage.
Don’t worry, that’s the sort of cost every landlord can absorb, apparently.
Paul spells out to Property118 readers that he explained in detail why rents are increasing and that arrears will go up next year.
None of that was used in the report, but most media outlets used the term ‘gut wrenching’ to describe them.
For me, extrapolating the figures – and adding some more when you ’round up’ makes them a nonsense.
And yet the media scoffs this down like it’s their last supper.
The rising mortgage rates will make things worse as landlords will need to put rents up.
In addition, landlords are leaving the sector in droves for a range of reasons – none of which are helped by the likes of Shelter, Crisis or Generation Rent.
Things are bad, and all landlords know that.
But most landlords haven’t been putting rents up, it’s only with rising mortgage costs that many are forced into doing so and they fear whether their tenants can afford to pay.
So, my statistical knowledge might be rusty, but I can’t stand up Shelter’s figures accurately and it’s a shame that media outlets don’t take a closer look at what they are being told even when it is against the hated landlord population.
And why should I be so concerned? Because if we did a statistical analysis of the rogue tenants, the huge arrears and the trashing of properties that landlords face, I can guarantee no one would be interested.
Lies and damned statistics – even when they don’t make sense, people will believe them to the detriment of the landlord population. Balance and fair representation in the media? Don’t make me laugh.
Perhaps when tenants, the government, media and tenant organisations understand why rents are high and properties are few will landlords get a fair hearing. But I’m not holding my breath.
Until next time.
The Landlord Crusader