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It's time to stop blaming private landlords for the rental crisis


Government ministers, housing campaigners, landlords, letting agents and many of the other actors in the drama that is the private rented sector have been arguing hard about who is to blame for the high rents and lack of supply within the market.

The problem, particularly in London and other big cities, is real – my nephew, who is making the transition from living with his parents to living by himself, is aware of this.

His choices are either paying over £1,200 a month for an OK studio flat or living in a careworn HMO for £900 a month.

And although I appreciate the pain that this causes for him and millions of other twenty-somethings starting out in life, blaming private landlords for this is unfair.

The big housing campaign groups regularly plugs this line, using inflammatory language like ‘chucked out onto the streets’ when talking about evictions, and ‘greedy landlords’ when referring to steep rent rises.

Private landlords are an easy target for them particularly when the small minority of ‘rogue’ landlords within the sector mean examples of Rachman-style behaviour aren’t too difficult to dig out and use to tar the entire landlord community with.

The NRLA, and even occasionally Shelter do allude to the real problem – many years of mismanagement by recent Governments.

Moderate Tories

Even moderate Tories believe the rented sector is a crucible for left-wing attitudes and that the nation’s focus should be on getting everyone onto the property ladder – because home owners are more likely to vote conservatively.

Therefore, housing policy has followed this line. Social house building has been de-prioritised over the past decade and the result has been that private landlords have been indirectly press-ganged into housing millions of people who used to live in ‘council houses’; local authorities have been forced to spend billions every year on temporary accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs and, perhaps saddest of all, homeless is on the rise.

Rather than address the solutions to this issue, private landlords are said to be the problem. It’s convenient for politicians, who dodge responsibility for their policies and great for campaign groups who have something to focus on.


This is all neatly summed up by the debate about Section 21 evictions. These may be abused by a minority of terrible landlords who do need weeding out of the sector, but they are also a key tool for landlords whose tenants have stopped paying the rent or who are trashing homes and being abusive to neighbours.

This tool was introduced by the Thatcher government to persuade landlords to invest in homes to rent, but taking it away will have serious consequences for many landlords facing rogue tenants, however well Section 8 evictions are beefed up.

The campaign to ban Section 21 is merely part of a Government-backed direction of travel that blames private landlords wholly for the problems in the private rented sector.  But it is just part of a much bigger picture.

Nigel Lewis is Head of Content at LandlordZONE.


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