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By Graham Norwood

Editor, LAT & LLT

Graham Awards


Why haven't politicians listened to our industry?

It’s often fashionable to criticise trade bodies and official groups, but right now I think that’s absolutely inappropriate.

In well over 20 years of writing about the residential industry, I can’t remember a time when trade bodies’ leaders - well, aside from RICS - were better regarded.

For example, Nathan Emerson is widely considered the stable and pro-active leader that Propertymark lacked in recent years; he has built a similarly respected team around him in terms of policy, marketing and membership.


Likewise there is little but praise for how Ben Beadle has reshaped the merged landlord bodies into a more dynamic and fleet-of-foot NRLA. 

And people like Paul Shamplina and Eddie Hooker from the Hamilton Fraser/Property Redress Scheme stable have brought straight-talking expertise to the fore as they have become industry leaders in their own right. 

And yet…look at the Fairer Private Rental Sector White Paper.

Whatever one’s view on the quality and structure of the private rental sector in this country, surely the White Paper can be seen only as a ‘victory’ for those critical of agents and landlords, and a very poor reward indeed for the years of work put in by those very trade body leaders.

In Scotland and Wales, too, Propertymark and the NRLA have been active in lobbying for even-handed rental reform, yet now politicians are set to introduce policies about rent controls and large power swings to tenants. Again, passionate and informed industry lobbying appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

The principle of the residential lobby not winning the support of politicians is not restricted to renting.

Look, for example, at the Regulation of Property Agents working party, and its 30-plus proposals for radical reform put forward almost exactly three years ago.

Who would have thought that trade bodies like Propertymark would be agitating for reform, transparency and greater regulation while the government - supposedly with consumer rights high on its agenda - was the one dragging its feet?

Aside from reinforcing stereotypes about the slowness of government, this is another example - like the rental White Paper - of how trade bodies have not persuaded politicians to put their preferred policies into law.

So what is happening? How can these ‘defeats’ be reversed?

Partly, the trade bodies in particular and the residential industry, in general, may be a victim of circumstance. 

Successive Conservative-led governments have become increasingly unsure of their philosophical direction, so have adopted policies which at one time were unthinkable - such as, for example, scapegoating landlords for the ills of the housing market. 

It looks like the Conservatives will adopt any policy to win votes, no matter how many U-turns and somersaults they may require. That desperation may increase further following the dismal by-election performances of recent days.

And also, according to the rumour mill, the current government has been very receptive to the high-impact and highly professional lobbying by Shelter. 

Intel from sources close to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities suggests that although Generation Rent is regarded as partisan and has low quality research, Shelter, by contrast, is seen as much more authoritative and politically neutral. That appears to have paid dividends with the content of the Fairer Private Rental Sector White Paper.

It’s difficult to see where our trade bodies go from here - aside, of course, from sticking to internal industry issues and merely keeping a watching brief on the raft of legislation about the residential industry coming into the parliaments across the UK.

Those bodies and experts provide a valuable service in steering agents and landlords through complex times and even more complex legislation.

But can they have any influence over shaping the legislation itself, even with a badly wounded and increasingly unpopular government? Sadly, at the moment, it appears not…

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

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    "It looks like the Conservatives will adopt any policy to win votes"
    Well, depending if those votes are from the majority, isn't that the whole concept of democracy?
    It's blatant obvious that we have an issue with housing in the UK at the moment and it needs to get sorted asap. And not that any other government could do better given the current situation the country is in at the moment. I admit the tories are slow and it's really a matter of "the least worse", but IMO most of todays issues go beyond our own government's powers...

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    Ben Beadles is not successful at defending landlords as his goal is to make the NRLA profitable so more regulation gives him the opportunity to create more courses under the guise of making landlords more professional
    Paul Shamplina and Eddie Hooker are not experts they are running landlord support businesses who again profit from more legislation, all these guys forgot about defending landlords a long time ago they are all about the money
    Landlords are being hung out to dry

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    Shelter … politically neutral!

  • Michael Day

    Governments of all persuasions have always preferred competition and self regulation of agents to competency and the idea of licensing.

    I doubt we will see ROPA fully implemented as there is no political will to do so and, let’s be honest, many more pressing issues to deal with.

    The current government is keen to grow home ownership and is making it harder for individual landlords to operate. If landlords exit then the properties don’t disappear they may just change tenure. The future of the PRS will likely shift increasingly towards BTR and major professional landlords and asset managers.

    Housing simply doesn’t fit a five year political cycle which encourages short term, vote grabbing policies - very arguable that it should, in some way, sit outside of government but how can that be achieved in a democracy?


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