Barely a day goes by when we don’t read a new report on the unscrupulous practices of landlords; of the sub-standard conditions of the properties that they let; or of the imaginative ways in which they’ve created additional bedrooms in HMOs.
Of course, the media will always focus on worst case scenarios rather than ‘boring normality’ but reports of this kind do little to buoy up an industry which is already operating in increasingly challenging times.
Such reports do little to support the lettings industry, but more so they’re painting an inaccurate picture of what’s mostly going on out there. They’re also detracting from the real challenges that the sector faces, and it’s time this stopped.
I’m sure I’m telling my peers in the industry nothing new when I say that most landlords are decent people who maintain good properties and who, in doing so, contribute in no small way to the UK’s overall housing landscape.
Indeed, a recently published report commissioned by the TDS Charitable Foundation laid bare the fact that in most cases, landlords ARE well intentioned, albeit whilst facing the challenges of an increasingly complex operating landscape which can cause confusion and gaps in knowledge.
It’s our role here as agents to keep landlords (and tenants alike) fully informed and aware of their responsibilities. Ultimately, if we’re doing that effectively, then the notion of a ‘rogue’ landlord should be kept in check…it might even start to diminish.
It won’t, however, be removed entirely. Simply, for all the many landlords and tenants out there with whom we work, there remains a significant number who choose to operate without the support of an agent. Again, in many cases this works just fine; however, it’s often in these circumstances that issues arise.
In many respects, this is reflective of how the rental market here in the UK continues to be viewed with a level of shame or negativity. We’re a long way off from renting being a tenure choice that is exactly that, a ‘choice’ rather than an issue of affordability or necessity. Whilst it remains as such, there’ll continue to be rental activity that falls under the radar.
Increasing levels of ‘build to rent’ may go some way to address this, but this remains predominantly aimed at the upper echelons of the market and smaller, more affordable, quality developments are few and far between.
Licensing schemes are also intended to drive improved standards across the sector, but whilst they’re not universally rolled out, a certain level of confusion remains and the policing of such schemes is patchy, at best.
So, whilst reports of sub-standard conditions will, no doubt, continue to filter through, why not join me instead in celebrating the many very good landlords who operate across the length and breadth of the UK; in shifting the perception of renting so that it is no longer a ‘next best’ option; and of ensuring that we provide a level of education and guidance to both landlords and tenants which will work in contrast to the unscrupulous activity that attracts more than its fair share of column inches?
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group