16 May 2022

Guest post by Marc von Grundherr, Director Benham & Reeves

The property industry has this week remonstrated at the video that housing charity Shelter has published and in which they portray letting agents as dodgy spivs with no conscience. 

It’s all highly amusing – but not really. 

It’s a cheap ploy or rather it would be cheap if the video itself hadn’t cost thousands of pounds to put together no doubt – the irony of an organisation splashing cash on video gimmicks when that money should be spent on actual housing help, is palpable. As is the CEO’s £132,625 salary of course.

No, it’s a PR stunt that is designed to be just that – a PR attempt to raise the profile of Shelter itself rather than portraying any true representation on tenants’ experience in Britain.

Surveys of tenants perpetually demonstrate that they are happy.

A poll of hundreds of Lochfield Park Housing Association tenants that I recently found showed that 96% of respondents were satisfied with their home and with the service provided by that housing association. 

Kingsridge Cleddans Housing Association – 97% satisfied.

Yoker Housing Association – 94% satisfied

Winchester City Council Housing – 87%

Harrogate Council – 88%

Tellingly, the most recent UK Government housing survey of over 23,000 households returned a private renters’ accommodation satisfaction rate of 83%.

So I ask you, why are Shelter aggressively promoting this idea that ‘all agents’ and therefore ‘all landlords’ are Fergus Wilson-like when the evidence is entirely the opposite? Why pretend that most tenants are in dire straits with their homes when that’s simply not true? 

Shelter’s lobbying efforts are equally aggressive and they constantly seek to convince MPs that landlords hail from the spawn of the Devil and should be chastised, criticised and ostracised. This, sadly, has had some effect and Shelter’s CEO Polly Neate has now taken sole credit in their latest press release for persuading HM GOV to relinquish Section 21 on the false premise that it unfairly disadvantages tenants as on the wrong end of so-called ‘no fault evictions’. 

So effective has Shelter’s assault on the private rental sector been that even the significantly conservative minded Lord Greenhalgh, a Minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, was heard to have greeted a delegation from the National Residential Landlords Association with a disparaging reference to ‘all landlords are millionaires’.

Parliament’s forthcoming legislative schedule is set to turn the screws on landlords a little tighter again and no thanks to the falsities and exaggeration perpetuated by Shelter. And so a word of caution to Ms Neate and Lord Greenhalgh and indeed to Michael Gove if he soon chooses to jump on the landlord bashing bandwagon too …. 

Be careful how far you turn those screws because if you tighten them much further and landlords begin to grow tired of your antics and exit the sector, the resulting shortage of rental homes available to tenants will leave you well and truly screwed.

* Marc von Grundherr is director of London’s Benham & Reeves letting and estate agents *

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