The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) has questioned the accuracy of the research carried out by Shelter, the subject of a media campaign about private landlords which the RLA chairman Alan Ward has called “emotionally charged”.
This was the latest in a series of negative press releases by Shelter which claims that 125,000 tenants had suffered abusive behaviour from their landlords in the last 12 months, but it seems they simply extrapolated the numbers based on a small sample of complaints and government statistics showing the total number of landlords and tenants.
RLA chairman Alan Ward was so incensed by the charity’s stance on the private rented sector (PRS) and their recent campaign in particular that he wrote to Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb to publicly take him to task over the matter.
We have reproduced Mr Ward’s letter to Shelter in full here:
It was with concern that I read Shelter’s recent press release (dated 2nd September) claiming that more than 125,000 tenants in the private rented sector have faced “harassment, threats or assault from their landlord in the last year alone”.
At the outset, I should make clear that the RLA condemns any landlord who engages in such activity and believes that those who are in anyway violent or aggressive have no place in the sector.
Given the serious nature of the issues you raise however, it is deeply disappointing that the figures you have produced do not add up.
As an example, whilst noting in your England-wide press release that over 125,000 tenants have been affected, in your release for the North West you argue that 100,000 tenants are “experiencing an act by their landlord that could have resulted in legal action” whilst in the Midlands the figure is set at 120,000 tenants. Given that in these two regions alone the total number of tenants affected exceeds the 125,000 England-wide figure I would be grateful if you could indicate where these numbers have come from.
Have they come from extrapolating them from the much smaller survey sample undertaken by YouGov?
You note that the numbers produced by Shelter have been come to as a result of research undertaken by YouGov. In order to inform debate would you not agree that the full, raw data should be published for all to see? Why has this not been done so far? A failure do so only heightens a sense that Shelter is being selective in the data it chooses to publish.
I was interested also to note the case studies used within your press releases.
In your England-wide version you tell the story of Chris, renting a property in London. In your press release for the North West as well you tell the story of a tenant called Chris whose case study is word for word the same as the one in the England-wide release, but omitting the fact that he is renting a property in the Capital. This undoubtedly gives the misleading impression for the media, and through them the public, that the case study used in the regional press releases is from the region you are sending them to. This is, I would argue, simply wrong and misleading.
Finally, I would be grateful if you could indicate how you have defined “harassment, threats or assault” for the purposes of your research.
The issues you highlight in your press release are undoubtedly serious and the RLA stands ready to work with all groups to combat aggressive behaviour. However, given how emotionally charged your press work has been on this issue, it is clear that the public deserve answers to the questions that I have raised.
Judging by comments received by LandlordZONE®, the constant media attention given to often one-sided stories about tenant’s woes at the hands of their landlords appears to be taking its toll on the vast majority of responsible landlords who strive to give a good service, to quote one recent landlord comment we received:
I am currently a provider of affordable accommodation, but increasingly demanding tenants (whose dissatisfaction with perfectly decent properties is fuelled by anti-Landlord propaganda) combined with the imposition of ever more costly regulations, Local Authority licensing schemes and so on, are taking their toll on returns… This has led me to consider taking my properties out of the private rental sector and into holiday lets instead.
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) September 14, 2015