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Graham Awards


Over the next five years, let’s talk - but not to ourselves

So, a sigh of relief. 

Most agents will be pleased with the election result - even if they are not Tory supporters personally - because stability is likely to see a surge in homes on sale over the rest of the spring and summer, and because there will be no radical overhaul of the lettings sector.

Yet although the Conservatives are in power, it’s a very slim majority indeed. 


When the immediate post-election euphoria wears off, people will realise that there may be a struggle to last five years in office.

So although unwanted reform of the lettings sector and a mansion tax are off the agenda for now, it would be foolish to think the battle is won forever. 

And if there is a lesson to learn from the past few months, it is surely that the agency industry needs to talk more - but to the general public, and not just itself and MPs.

I say this because there have been endless papers on mansion tax, numerous lobbies of parliament about the side effects of rent controls, many learned treatises on the difficulties caused by planning restrictions, and countless dire warnings about the problems that may be caused by three-year tenancies.

But the problem is that most of these lobbies, documents and seminars have been conducted by the industry and for the industry - what’s been missing is one key thing: any attempt by the industry to convince the public.

At a series of conferences, award ceremonies and annual meetings of industry bodies in recent months, there’s been speech after speech berating politicians’ policies.

And during last autumn’s party political conference season you could hardly move for lobbyists from the residential sector trying to schmooze MPs with receptions and briefings. 

Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are necessary. But they’re not enough. 

With an election around the corner, as soon as those MPs left their party conferences and got to their weekly surgeries back in their constituencies, what happened? 

That’s right. They were assaulted with various comments from voters complaining about lazy landlords, fee-charging letting agents, rich land-banking developers, or the simple fact that house prices are just too bloody high. 

And because that was a pre-election period, and because those complaints came from voters, the MPs sat up and took notice. 

Little wonder, then, that a plethora of policies were introduced in the build up to the election which raised eyebrows, and shackles, in the agency industry.

But those MPs were simply being logical. 

They were hearing of apparent problems and consequently introduced policies which (in their eyes) would ‘solve’ those problems, and win them some votes in the process. That is despite the fact that a ‘suit’ from our industry may well have spent an hour lobbying the same MP against that very same policy at the party conference a few months earlier.

So where do we go from here?

The answer, I believe, is for the groups and associations that have spent so much time and energy telling others within the industry about the problem with some politicians’ policies, to instead dedicate as much effort and commitment to informing the public.

Why not set up public meetings? How about taking out online and TV advertisements? Will agents stand in shopping centres on Saturday mornings and talk to the people?

The benefits of a consumer-facing campaign would be immense.

After all, if a layperson unconnected with the industry goes into an MP’s surgery and argues against rent controls, wouldn’t that be more effective than a dozen receptions and briefing documents from landlords’ and letting agents’ associations? 

The answer is yes, because that layperson can vote for the MP in question. And the MP knows that.

So we can sit back for a few days and relax in the knowledge that unwanted reform is not on the way.

But next time we want to complain about politicians, remember that we should let the public know and get them on side.

It’s time to stop talking just to ourselves.

*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn

  • icon
    • R M
    • 13 May 2015 11:27 AM

    The very first thing that has to be done in my opinion is to investigate some of the cavalier abuses of position that were evident in the run up to the election.

    Stella Creasy? what is all that about? I have tried to rationalise her behaviour and the closest analogy I can come up with is that of an angry aggrieved 2nd year student who is mad at everyone because her digs are a bit too far out of town, the letting agent is ripping her off and she has to pay HOW MUCH! The whole malcontent, 'power to the people' Wolfie Smith bit might work (just) for Russell Brand but it hardly befitting of an MP. How and why such behaviour is tolerated probably only the parliamentary ombudsman can explain

    Shelter? It is a pity the LAT archive is so hard to access now, I have been banging on about their dubious data manipulations for years- quite how S21 retaliatory eviction can go from 1000 cases reported by CLG to 11,000 reported by Shelter on prime time Telly just ahead of the election is beyond me and all a bit suspect. IMO Shelter have managed t cross the lobbying guidelines set out by the Charity commission it would probably make an interesting turn of events to see how secure their position is now Ed Miliband hasn’t won the election and is no longer well placed to protect the party faithful lobby group Shelter has become.
    I am not saying tenants rights should be ignored or dismissed, I can demonstrate a solid 21 year history of trying to make the PRS better for everyone, the views of Generation Rent and Tenants voice should be heard but that become so difficult when the likes of Creasy and Shelter are drowning out debate with their own agendas and crusades.
    What we need is someone with a bit more of a stake in the industry to think none of this really adds up to the way our industry ought to be governed.

  • Daniel Roder

    Certainly, Shelter and Creasy didn't cover themselves in glory, although both appear to have good (if earnest) intentions.

    I also think you're right in saying that the genuine concerns of Generation Rent and tenants in the PRS are either being used as a political football or used as platforms for agendas to be pushed.

    Lewis has experience in the industry as a private landlord himself, but the Conservative Party's record on housing doesn't fill me with confidence. Neither does the fact that Lewis doesn't hold a position in the cabinet. Shows where housing is on the list of the new government's priorities, despite all their talk beforehand.

  • icon
    • R M
    • 14 May 2015 20:21 PM

    With a majority government there can not be any excuses, no-one else to blame. In terms of the industry it doesn't matter that Lewis isn't in the cabinet coffee club, CLG is, as are DWP, those along with HMRC is where pressure needs to be exerted.
    Someone with influence needs to ask why Universal credits can’t now be the catalyst of change for the PRS expansion into the middle ground of benefits assisted tenancies. HMRC have to be pushed on why they have confirmed in writing that a scheme to highlight tax evasion and money laundering through PRS is of no interest.
    Kevin Hollindrake MP can’t run from what it is the industry knows and faces a difficult choice of shouting us down or being an active part of making things better.


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