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Is the government changing its tune on landlords?

I recently wrote that the long-gestating Renters Reform Bill, finally introduced in Parliament back in May, could be poorly timed, both in terms of its impact on tenants and landlords, and its political timing ahead of an election year. Since then, however, the Bill’s passage has stalled, with a second reading of the Bill not anticipated until Autumn at the earliest. Assuming the Bill does pass, it’s going to be a long journey, and likely won’t pass into law until at least 2024, if not 2025.

Might this perhaps give the government pause to consider the long-term impact of the Bill on tenants and landlords? Well, regarding the latter, there may be reason to consider whether the government is U-turning on the landlord vs tenant debate. It comes from a recent comment from the Conservative MP for Stratford-on-Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, when he met with the associate director of lettings agency Sheldon Bosley Knight, Nik Kyriacou, earlier this month. Within this meeting, Zahawi commented that while the purpose of the Renters Reform Bill was to “deal with rogue landlords,” he agreed that “at the same time we must listen to legitimate concerns.”

Upon reading this, like many others, I could not help but feel a strong degree of scepticism over this statement. Pledges are frequently made but seldom kept, and Zahawi’s comments followed on similar olive branches to the landlord sector made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, back in July, in which the housing secretary said that independent landlords are “vital” to ensuring a fair and functioning private rented sector.


Of course, such carrots have been offered before and they understandably aren’t having a material impact on landlord sentiment. Indeed, findings published recently by research consultancy BVA-BDRC – in a study commissioned by the National Residential Landlords Association - found that landlords are now twice as likely to sell than buy. The results found that in Q2 2023, over one in 10 (12%) of landlords in England and Wales sold properties, compared with only 5% who bought properties during this same period. The research also found that over a third (37%) of landlords intend to reduce their portfolios over the coming year.

Managing a (housing) crisis and stakeholder expectations

It may well be that behind the scenes, the government is starting to change its tune on landlords, which would be an encouraging step forward if that is the case. But it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Heading into an election year, surely the government realises that the best way to capture voters, and particularly the increasing important young adult votes, is to deliver on actions with a material impact on their circumstances.

Gen Z and Millennials now collectively represent roughly 40% of the UK population, and the government’s actions are ostensibly about capturing their attention. Yet most of the government’s headline plans for the housing market are either directed at regulatory adjustments like the Renters Reform Bill that simply readjust the lettings market in favour of tenants at the expense of landlords, or they are homeowner-led initiatives like leasehold reform which primarily only benefit existing homeowners.

Housing policy has always been important, and indeed central to the health of UK’s functional economy but it has seemingly become increasingly challenging in recent years for meaningful action to be taken. The revolving door of housing ministers over the past decade (and six already in the past 12 months alone) is a sad testament to that, with the only outcome being half-baked plans that get dropped on an annual basis.
Propertymark CEO Nathan Emerson recently commented as such in their latest Housing Insight Report, in which he noted that “we continue to see an alarming disparity in the number of homes available to rent when compared with growing demand from prospective tenants and that this mismatch in supply and demand is “putting pressure on rents with 6% of tenants per member branch falling into arrears doubling compared to February 2023.”

Between rising tenant arrears and landlords reducing their portfolios, the housing crisis for tenants is only going to get worse. More homes are desperately needed to increase supply and reduce average rents which have for some time not only been increasing but also strain against the affordability of many tenants. The latest Rental Index from HomeLet puts average rent increases across the UK at 10.4% on an annual basis through to July 2023, with that growth anticipated to continue.

Given that renting is now cheaper than mortgages for the first time in 13 years, it’s only going to result in, guess what, more people renting and we all know what impact that will have. So why doesn’t the government seem to want to act on that?

Out of the long grass

The government needs to accept that there is an urgent need to address undersupply and incentivise the provision of homes in the private rented sector. Indeed, when commenting on landlord and tenant relationship back in July, Gove said that “it is vital that these relationships work for everyone, and that we strive to strike a balance for all.” Nonetheless, neglecting landlord concerns continues to harm the housing sector as a whole.

Housing policy should not be a bullet point on an electoral campaign. It’s a long-term project that will require cross-party collaboration in order to succeed. The housing sector is critical to the macroeconomy, with recent figures from Savills valuing UK housing at £5.4 trillion, and given its status, perhaps housing should be the domain of a cross-party group that won’t look at the issue in terms of electoral cycles and won’t be subject to an annual rotation of housing ministers.

By addressing landlord concerns and fostering collaboration, the housing sector can thrive and contribute even more significantly to the macroeconomy. Rather than a mere campaign promise, housing policy deserves a long-term commitment that transcends party lines, ensuring its success and stability. This approach will not only elevate the value of UK housing but also pave the way for a future where both landlords and tenants can thrive without being caught in a zero-sum game.

  • Matthew Payne

    You have hit the nail on the head with "a bullet point on an electoral campaign", and it was no coincidence that we ran our of Parliamentary time this summer, government wants this enacted in the weeks before the election fresh in peoples minds. The tories have drunkenly staggered from one election to the next looking for ways to undermine the Labour vote and property has been very low hanging fruit for your left winger voters, tenants in particular of which most of which are centered in the urban metropolis of London, Manchester, Labour strongholds. It started with the accouncement of the SDLT surcharge in 2015 and hasnt stopped since, Section 24, TFA etc. When we will have had 4 general elections in 9 years, their focus has been only what is required to stay in power, not whats right for, in this case, housing strategy. We all know its fundamentally flawed up, down, left, right as do they, but the Westminster gravy train is far more important to stay aboard.

    Thats the price we pay for deomocracy though and wanting a say in who we elect frequently, they never get more than a year or so do implement any conviction into policy making, as no sooner are they elected, they start looking at the next election.

    When the RRF bill goes through we are going to see a tsunami of section 21s in the 12 months landlords have on existing tenancies before they need a court order, perhaps a million or more, as LLs either sell up with vacant possession or find their new alpha AAAA**** tenant. People on low incomes, families, sharers, even couples, people on benefits, with pets will all become marginalised as we let in 700,000 new migrants each year many of whom are less or a risk to most LLs. Going to be carnage.


    This is the crux of the problem. Housing should never be a political football. Its people's homes and peoples lives they are playing with, and without security in your home you don't really have anything you can build upon, such as a stable job to pay the Bill's, and a home to call your own, even if it is only a rented accommodation.
    Housing is so important an issue, that a cross party housing plan should be agreed upon, where politicians can't manipulate the laws and the PRS system, for political points or to win elections.
    With a healthy PRS, there is plenty of homes available to rent or buy, the basic prices are reasonable and affordable. Why can't we have this set up by all political parties, as if it was a housing service rather than a political football? Nobody should be homeless, it's a soul destroying experience. Therefore the govenment should secure proper housing for all, where the minimum is a safety net for the poorest, and yet affordable. The PRS should be supported by laws that are fair for LL's as well as tennants, and council housing is forced to adhere to minimum standards, and fined if they continue to fall below it. LL's should be supported as they are the core of the PRS, and provide in the main, very high standards of accommodation.
    Does anyone have any feasible ideas how this can be made to work, to end this constant politicking of the PRS?

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    Too late.
    The damage has been done.

    Stalling the Bill in order to make it an election mandate or to freeze it to fool landlord voters, is not going to instill confidence in any landlord, not least because either of the Uniparties will still immediately go ahead and bring this legislation in after the election.

    Both political parties we know for sure are adept at lying and gas lighting.

    It doesn't matter if they're having second thoughts either.
    Nobody in Gove's department has the will or the spine to come out and state that they've made a mistake and therefore, as far as most landlords are concerned, they have not had a change of heart.

    Any landlords stalling the decision to sell up, waiting to see what will happen, risk leaving it too late and joining the panic sell ups around the Bill's Royal assent in turn risking having their reposession severely delayed or barred because:
    1. The courts will not be able to cope with the volume of challenges
    2. A new eviction ban is widely expected soon, either because of the second Covid lockdown predicted.
    Or because the Government are going to be panicking over the prospect of sudden mass homelessness in the tenant sector.

    Under a Labour administration, such an eviction ban may never be overturned for the foreseeable future, trapping thousands of Landlords from getting their properties back.

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