Vulnerable tenants are already ‘losing out’

Thursday, 30th June

Landlord

‘Who exactly will be buying these properties, especially during a cost-of-living crisis’

• ALEX Shinder uses an all too familiar scare tactic (Tenants in the private rented sector could lose out more, June 23), that I have heard many times since I started working for this organisation, which is: don’t regulate the private rented sector (PRS) as it will force lots of landlords to sell up and move out of the market, and this will only make things worse for the tenants.

This type of argument is not just limited to private renting, as it’s one that’s also been used many times to fend off greater regulation of the financial sector and how it might force all those city firms and their staff to leave the country and relocate elsewhere in the world, thereby leaving us all much poorer.

Strangely what you never see from the people who advance this view is any information about the scale of the exodus they think will happen in the PRS; and the impact that lots of private landlords all selling their properties at the same time will have on property prices; and who exactly will be buying them all, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.

Admittedly sought-after properties in places like Camden will be attractive to overseas investors, but who will be purchasing all of those properties in struggling post-industrial areas like the midlands and the north, where property prices are much lower and the returns much less attractive?

We also have to remember that many private landlords are running lucrative businesses, albeit amateurish and poorly-run ones, and the question that needs to be asked here is how will they all be making a living once they’ve offloaded their business assets?

Alex Shinder also makes the point that it will be “the most vulnerable tenants” who will “lose out”, but that’s already happening with ever-rising rents, housing benefit that no longer fully covers it in many areas of the country, and the ongoing failure of benefit rates to keep up with inflation.

What Alex Shinder also fails to point out is that many private landlords are already unwilling to rent out their properties to people who are in receipt of benefits (even those who are also working).

Sadly this results in people being forced into what has been called the “shadow private rented sector” where the worst landlords, property standards and behaviour predominates. It’s also the part of the sector where people are often too scared to complain for fear of being evicted; and local councils know the least about.

The government recently said that as part of its Renters’ Reform Bill it “will legislate to make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits”, but it has so far provided no detail on how this will work in practice.

Finally, while the private rented sector has expanded in size everywhere over recent years, the social housing sector has, in contrast, been contracting.

Maybe Alex Shinder would like to join us and the many other charities, groups, and organisations working across the country, in calling for an expansion of this publicly-owned, accountable, low-cost and secure type of housing, as this really is the best place for all those vulnerable people he seems to care so much about to live in.

ROBERT TAYLOR
Organiser, Camden Federation of Private Tenants

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