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JONATHAN ROLANDE: If your social media feed is anything like mine, it's now full of cries for help from tenants

Amid the frenetic news agenda of recent weeks, a story broke that may have easily passed you by.

It revealed how tenant groups had targeted Grainger, a large corporate landlord most of the public had never heard of. They accused Grainger of profiteering— they own 10,000 homes and have seen their rent roll increase 11% in the six months to April. 

Protesters were noisy, carried banners and lit flares, and they received some good publicity for it. 


There have been rallies in London and most major Scottish cities in favour of rent control. And I suspect we’ll see many more in the weeks ahead.

The cost of living crisis, including housing costs, has disproportionately hit hardest, those who can afford it least. The much-anticipated free fall of house prices hasn’t happened to redress the balance, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown. 

There is an increasing sense that we are going backwards, to an almost Victorian era where landlords oppress their tenants for profit. But is it true? Is the anger and the protest justified?
Well, in the spirit of fence-sitting, I say yes, it is. A bit. 

Tenants looking to rent now have a pretty rough deal. ONS data shows rents are up 8.9% this year. There’s a shortage of property, so landlords and their agents naturally pick the best possible tenant from a crowded field—the grotesque, so-called Tenant Beauty Pageant. 

Anyone without a highly-paid job or faultless credit score will lose out. This can happen over and over again. If your social media feed is anything like mine, it's now full of cries for help from tenants who have just been given notice, can’t find a home for any price or have just been handed an unaffordable rent increase. 

Part of the cause is the growth of corporate landlordism, which are efficiently run, but leave tenants as little more than a row on a spreadsheet. Humanity has been removed from the business relationship. 

I’m sure that everyone reading this can think of examples of a ‘mom and pop’ operation being sympathetic to their tenant’s issues, sometimes to their own detriment. 

Tax hikes and regulations have driven many such landlords away, leaving  space for the corporates who understandably see the business from a purely profit and loss perspective.

But what about landlords who have had a rough time too? Many have been hit hard by tax changes and fiscal drag. Maintenance and insurance costs have shot up, much faster even than rents. Mortgage interest has doubled or more. Agents are charging more, thanks in part to the tenant fee ban, and regulations and licensing requirements only get more expensive.

Those in it for long-term capital growth have seen the value fall, albeit fairly insignificantly, but compared to increases in commodities, the FTSE and cryptocurrencies, property has fallen short.

Added to that, just being a landlord is quickly becoming something to keep quiet for fear of being judged on the wrong side of the argument. 
Housing is becoming a toxic argument.

But as the saying goes, this debate desperately needs more light and less heat.
Landlords and tenants are business partners and without each other, they both have nothing. 

Tenants should remember that they have more protections than any generation before them and that even those fortunate to be able to buy a home are facing a lack of supply and ultra-high prices.

On the flip side landlords would do well to remember that their business directly affects people’s lives like few others. They must not forget that their ‘commodity’ is somebody’s precious home.

As election-fever grows, I hope we don’t see a bigger fracture opening up between the sides. It will achieve nothing. 

The pressure should be focussed on those that can really help: the councils and the Government who can legislate and build our way out of this man-made crisis. 
Between now and the election we need to see policies that will help address the concerns so many people have.

And then we need a Government prepared to put them in place. We need more homes built. Who will deliver that?



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