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OPINION: Has the Prime Minister's landlord bashing gone too far this time?

boris johnson

It may have gone unnoticed by many landlords that Boris Johnson made one of the most extraordinary attacks on the sector in living memory last week.

And it is fair to say, one of the most unfair. Most landlords have become accustomed to the government's frosty rhetoric over the past decade or so, but this week's comments take the biscuit.

To remind readers, Johnson in his speech last week said: 'When ownership remains beyond the reach of a great many hard-working people, it's neither right nor fair to put ever-vaster sums of taxpayer's money straight into the pockets of landlords.

'The total bill for Housing Support stands at about �30 billion each year, and the Office for Budget responsibility has warned that if we don't take action, it could reach �50 billion by 2050.

'That is cash, taxpayer's cash that is being simply swallowed to pay the mortgages of private sector landlords or by housing associations.'�

Among those who follow the twists and turns of government policy, it's clear that the Prime Minister is slamming landlords for a situation largely if not entirely of his own government's making.

As successive administrations including his own have stalled on building more public-sector rented homes and council waiting lists have lengthened, so it has been private landlords who have stepped up to fill the gap.

Yes, there is clear evidence from the courts that too many of these landlords are terrible accommodation providers and everyone including the NRLA agrees that adequate funding needs to be provided to councils to drive them out of the market.

But to suggest, as Johnson has done, that the '�pockets' of landlords are being lined at the expense of the tax payer are unfair.

No picnic

As LandlordZONE has documented on many occasions, being a landlord with tenants in receipt of Universal Credit or housing benefit is no picnic.

The ideologically-driven decision to give tenants the rental element of their UC direct rather than pay it to their landlord has caused tens of thousands of landlords major headaches.

And the system of enabling a tenant to have that cash paid direct can be cumbersome.

Also, the freeze in Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates means there is an increasingly large gap between benefits and the rent tenants pay.

This kind of commentary by Johnson is, unsurprisingly, populist in tone. There are some 1.75 million landlords in the UK but approximately 20 million PRS tenants, so the No.10 calculation is an easy one. Landlords are sitting ducks politically, despite the NRLA's best efforts.

But this approach is beginning to come home to roost '� landlords are leaving the sector and supply is narrowing. The only losers will be the people Johnson hopes to appeal to politically, the tenants, who will pay higher and higher rent.


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