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MPs jump on “war against landlords” bandwagon

Now, we all know that in any industry, there are the good elements and there are bad. The good ones tends to outnumber the bad, but its the bad that give the rest of the group a bad name. And that has been proven time and time again.

Last week, I picked up from here on a debate of MPs in Westminster on the topic of Unscrupulous Landlords. I must say the debate gave me cause for concern, because of some of the content which was emphasising the bad over the good, using Shelter’s Gallery of Disrepair , and advocating more regulation of landlords.

Shelter, as I understand from certain quarters, is not anti-landlord, just anti-rogue-landlord. The organisation in its own way is trying to rout out rogue landlords, creating the Gallery of Disrepair, where tenants are being encouraged to post up pictures in a Gallery in a bid to Evict Rogue Landlords.

I would have expected to see a balanced view, but there was nothing about Landlords doing the same to show properties left in uninhabitable conditions by rogue tenants. I personally don’t think it does any one good, or that it will enhance the general landlord-tenant relationship, or how landlords are perceived. And that was even before I picked up on the MPs debate. And we all know what happens when MPs get a bee in their bonnet – we end up with regulations that add more red tape to our lives and businesses.

Jon Crudas, the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham had secured this debate, and he made no secret of what he thought of landlords. The Hon Member said:

the Government do not see a need for further protection for tenants or for the regulation of unscrupulous landlords, and that they believe the current arrangements strike the right balance, not least because of the fear of red tape. That is in contrast with the previous Government’s views. At their departure, they had plans for a new national register of landlords, regulation of letting and management agents, and compulsory written tenancy agreements. The current Government’s status quo position is unfortunate, and Shelter today announced a new investigation into rogue landlords, which aims to raise the profile of the private rented sector as a political issue.”

Big question is: How does the Hon MP propose to regulate “unscrupulous landlords”? Surely, regulation will be applied across the board-to all landlords, majority of whom are law abiding. The issue of the Private Rented Sector is already a political issue! Its near enough a hot potato!! We’ve had the Rugg Report, we’ve had the last-minute-ill-conceived HMO planning law by Labour, we’ve had the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, we’ve had the direct LHA payments to tenants etc.etc. How much more exposure or indeed regulation does the sector need?

The Hon Jon Crudas is right in his assertion that “rogue landlords cause enourmous damage to the lives of vulnerable tenants“. But I maintain that the problem is not going to be solved by more regulation-that is Labour speak. I bet if we were to measure the length of the red tape that Government left us with, we would be able to wind it around the circumference of the world several times.

Local authorities usually know who these rogue landlords are, but the officials are either unwilling or unable to take them on. Instead they flex their muscles on the law abiding, whom by their very nature, are concerned about keeping within the law. Easy targets.  There are enough statutory powers vested in Local Authorities to enable them deal with these rogue elements. The LA ought to use these powers more effectively. I can show you one such letter I received recently, threatening me with all sorts, for minor repairs to a licensed HMO in very good condition, stuff that could have been sorted with one single phone call, but which is now costing tax payers money in the waste of the officers time, not to mention my time.  But, as usual, I digress.

The debate is rather extensive, and full details are here. It is good to see the counter and sensible viewpoint expressed by the Hon Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell & Newquay, who said:

“the private rented sector continues to play an important role in addressing that crisis for my constituents. However, Shelter’s research should be a cause of concern to hon. Members from all parties. We all know that the majority of landlords act responsibly and treat their tenants reasonably. Nevertheless, a minority of landlords are inflicting great suffering on vulnerable people.”

He also went on to point out that

“local authorities must take a zero-tolerance approach to rogue landlords and that they must use all levers at their disposal to root them out. Enforcement powers are available to local authorities, but all too often such powers are not used. We do not necessarily need a raft of new legislation, but priority must be given to the enforcement of current legislation against rogue landlords. Councils must be proactive in protecting tenants by ensuring that they know where the problems are locally and prosecuting when necessary, and by considering the use of existing powers to introduce selective licensing.”

Well said, Sir!! That, together with tenant education, will go a long way in getting away from the “landlord bashing” game that this country seems to enjoy engaging in.

Read my lips: education, education, education. Tenant education is long overdue, and cannot be overemphasised. Give them rights, but for goodness sakes, make sure they know that with those rights come responsibilities, such as paying their rent on time, paying over Local Housing Allowance for their rent, keeping the property in good condition, reporting repairs promptly to the landlord and not the council, and that’s for starters.

Considering the role that the Private Rented Sector has so far played, and will continue to play in the provision of housing in this country, its about time the Government and the Local Authorities had some joined-up thinking, and in particular the Local Authorities work in cooperation with Landlords to evict bad behaviour, rather than put up the backs of the majority of landlords who are doing a rather splendid job.

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    2 Responses

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    1. KW says

      The sooner tenants realise that that they are NOT in a position to call the shots the better, The sooner the nambie pambie anti “bastard” landlord set realise that we house some of the most vulnerable and disturbed people in the community the better.

      I am sure there are total shite L’sL out there, but I always treat my tenants as human beings first, then as customers.

      If LL’s like us said NO! to LHA or HB customers the local councils would be fecked. There is precious little council accommodation since the Maggie sell of, and there is even less specilalised accommodation in mental institutions, or substance abuse care. It falls to us private LL that take this on, on the basis that a better than 50% of tenants will turn out to be profitable. Then of course we are taxed to the max for our efforts.

      We a s private LL’s need to combine to show that our efforts are contributing to housing some of the most difficult people in the community. IMO its just too easy to bash us.

      I would suggest a housing minister or local housing officer live in an HMO for 6 months before being qualified to comment.

    2. Sharon Crossland AIRPM says

      An interesting article and an interesting response.
      The simple fact of the matter is that no one knows whether rogue landlords are in the minority and if they are, how big that minority actually is and lets face it, it can be up to 49%.

      Currently we have three ways of measuring whether landlords are doing it ‘properly’ and that is by the membership numbers of landlord associations, those landlords that have gained accreditation and those that are regulated by local authorities.

      If we add these figures up then out of the 1.2m landlords in operation we can then work out why the remainder do not do the first two and why out of 400 local authorities, only 12 have implemented selective licencing of private landlords.

      I fully appreciate why the professionals in the sector often resent what they perceive to be ‘landlord bashing’ but the continual cry of ‘but what about rogue tenants’ does nothing to help.

      Visibility is the key to this particular issue and currently it is all too easy for the fraudulent to fall beneath the radar.

      The answer for the professionals is surely a simple one – either landlord licencing right across the board, somehow getting local authorities to use their powers of enforcement or the compulsory joining of landlord associations and/or /gaining accreditation.

      Then perhaps we will see the PRS operating as it should – as a true housing alternative of choice where the perception of the sector is that of professional, professional, professional!

      Kind Regards
      Miss Sharon Crossland AIRPM
      Leasehold Life



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