Why should landlords deal with lies and damned statistics?

Why should landlords deal with lies and damned statistics?

10:16 AM, 9th December 2022, About 3 months ago 14

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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.

The PRS and landlords really are in trouble

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.

2,000 private renters in England were contacted

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.

The figures were skewed

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.

Research showing how bad landlords are

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!

Paul Shamplina pops up on the evening ITV news

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.

When you ’round up’ makes them a nonsense

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

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The Forever Tenant

16:31 PM, 9th December 2022, About 3 months ago

I love statistics in all their forms, I had a couple of points I wanted to make.

2000 surveyed is a pretty good number to give a relatively accurate portrayal of the overall picture. There will be a variation by a few percent either side but as it is basically impossible to poll the entire country, it's about the best you are going to get.

The reason why those shampoo commercials only survey 90 people (or often less) is because they can poll a different 90 people until they get the answer they want. Often the question is subjective anyway "93% said their hair was sleeker", what does sleeker actually mean? and by how much? those surveys use less people because they are trying to fiddle the rresults. If you use over 2,000 then the results should be relatively accurate.

Weighting is a real thing and needs to be used depending on the demographics and location of the people you are interviewing.

Take election polling, they will weight depending on age range, location and likelyhood to vote for that particular group to attempt to get an overall figure. If you were to poll just the 18-25 age group, you would find the results being like 80% towards Labour and Greens so you could not confidently apply that to the rest of the country. I suspect that the same could be done here.

However much as you state, it is difficult to take statistics at face value without knowing what data they are reporting this information on.

What I would love to see when these reports are out is a link to the full survey results with full cross tab information and details of the wording of the questions and methodology. I have tried in the past to get this kind of information and it is nearly impossible. As such it can be difficult to believe any statistics that come out of anywhere about anything.

But don't just dismiss all surveys because you don't like the results. There may be more truth to them than you would like.

I am all for balancing the narrative, but be careful about going on the attack. Landlords are already seen in a highly negative light and if you were to attack those seen as vulnerable, you would just be playing into that stereotype and helping the media narrative.

I don't think that there will be a change in the narrative until some massive selfless act is done by multiple landlords. Something you can point to the media and say "This is what we are doing to help the public". More than just providing a place to live.

Dennis Leverett

17:20 PM, 9th December 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Ray Guselli at 09/12/2022 - 15:52
That is the most crucial point of damp problems. Had mould problem with tenant in en-suite in modern house. Two adults using the shower twice a day. The double glazed window had a top opener and the vent that has to be in them now. It is a small en-suite with power shower, toilet and basin, radiator and manual switched extractor fan. When I visited, the window and vent were closed with two wet towels on radiator and two on the floor and door closed. I explained how crucial ventilation is as regards to mould forming and just got a few mumbles. I fitted a new top of range humidistat extractor and explained about leaving window vent open all of time and to open top opener immediately after a shower and don't leave wet towels in there all day with door closed. Couple a weeks later another complaint that the "almost silent" fan was staying on for to long keeping them awake at night. Visited again and vents closed, wet towels on radiator, door shut. They refused to open top opener as to cold. I explained that if the top opener was opened immediately after shower and en-suite door left open the fan would run for a lot less, probably about 20 minutes, and to put wet towels onto heated towel radiator in the much bigger main bathroom. I then sent e mail with read receipt explaining in great detail about mould and how to avoid it and what they were doing wrong. The ceiling and walls without tiles had several coats of bathroom paint on them which helps. My next inspection showed no mould, window vent open and no wet towels around. Sometimes it finally gets through to people. I reckon a huge percentage of mould problems are lifestyle caused but not admitted.

Martin Thomas

23:18 PM, 9th December 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Rod at 09/12/2022 - 12:38
Does this reply really try to suggest that EVERY social housing unit was inspected at least once in the relevant period? I don't believe that for a moment!

Dis Belief

20:50 PM, 11th December 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Martin Thomas at 09/12/2022 - 23:18That’s how I read it, every social housing home and 2.5 million privately rented homes. So if public money was spent on all those inspections then why weren’t referrals made to every social landlord every time significant hazards were found, and to local authority Environmental Health sections for every hazard found in the private properties. If that was done there’d be little need for property licensing. Especially as they seem to know where all the private rented properties are when they select which 50% to visit. Interesting response indeed.

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