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OPINION: Are landlords really leaving the private rented sector?

rachel maclean mp housing

It has been reported this week that housing minister Rachel Maclean (main picture) told a meeting in Westminster that fellow Conservative MPs and the '�property sector' (i.e. the NRLA and other trade associations) are wrong to claim that landlords are leaving the sector.

This followed a Guardian article two weeks before that accused NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle of '�peddling' the line that the current Government squeeze on private landlords had led to more leaving the sector than usual.

The reason this debate has hotted up is that the NRLA and others are fighting a rear-guard action to persuade Ministers to go easier on private landlords, while campaign groups like Shelter, Generation Rent and the London Renters Union are seeking to help tenants mitigate the higher cost of living by limiting rent rises.

So where do we go from here? At a recent property industry event former Chancellor George Osborne made the point that governing a country is about managing competing interests in a balanced way.

What makes this difficult in the private rented sector is that the narrative adopted by the '�tenants' champions' is extreme.


In a piece within the Open Democracy website, a London Renters Union spokesperson used language like 'landlords tightening their grip on our housing system'�, 'profiteering'� and 'millions of renters are trapped in a poor-quality, insecure and extortionate private renting sector'�.

Such points of view do not push the debate forward, but rather keep everyone behind their barricades living within their own echo chambers, rather than getting together to have a more grown-up debate about housing supply and funding in the UK.


But the other accelerator in this sometimes explosive debate is a lack of hard facts, something everyone exploits.

There are said to be some 2.3 million landlords in the UK but no one is 100% sure how many are leaving the sector because there is no solid official record. The NRLA and others must rely on anecdotal reports from their members and internet polls, both of which are indicative, not fact.

By the way one thing is for sure though - rental supply is tightening, data from the main property portals shows, and a recent ITV investigation uncovered.

But similarly organisations like Shelter do not know exactly how many properties are sub-standard or poorly managed, or how many rogue landlords really exist.

Again, they can use anecdotal stories from their phone helplines and conduct polls to have stab but they are not the whole picture.

All this will soon all change. If the looming Renters Reform Bill includes the promised national register of PRS properties and their landlords, including details of their landlord or agent's property and tenancy management track record, we'll have a much clearer picture.

Once and for all we'll all be able to see the real fluctuations in PRS supply, the number of landlords and how many properties are badly run.

Nigel Lewis is Editor of LandlordZONE.


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