Murky Depths

News in London and beyond

Greenwich borough, Housing, Lewisham borough

Landlord and agent scare stories of increased rents again prove unfounded

Many new builds are buy to let

In recent years a number of measures to increase regulation of private landlords and the buy to let system have been introduced.

After every single measure seen large numbers of landlords and letting agents claim costs will be passed onto private renters. Each time the same warnings come and go, yet figures out by the ONS today once again show that changes to fees has not transferred into higher rents. They state:

  • Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 1.4% in the 12 months to March 2020, unchanged since February 2020.
  • Private rental prices grew by 1.4% in England, 1.2% in Wales and by 0.6% in Scotland in the 12 months to March 2020.
  • London private rental prices rose by 1.2% in the 12 months to March 2020.

As ever more people rent privately politicians have belatedly noticed this is a demographic that needs listening too.

Courtesy London Councils

The largely unregulated market has thus seen standards tighten. Changes include ensuring homes are sufficiently insulated from April 2018. Landlords only have to meet a standard of E on the guide which runs from A (the best insulated) to F (the least) so E is hardly onerous, but out came the dire predictions that renters would foot the bill. It didn’t happen. Rents continued to increase below inflation.

Every single time I covered news on changes to buy to let some would pipe up that it will only hurt tenants through as costs passed on. It wouldn’t happen then groundhog days repeats with the next measures.

Affordability

It’s as if rent levels are already at the limit of what people and the market can afford. If landlords could have increased costs they already would have.

Last year we saw another change as fees for tenants were banned. In many cases fees were extortionate and a family could be charged many hundreds of pounds for the most basic tasks. Add a person onto a tenancy? A five minute job some agents were charging hundreds of pounds for.

House prices grew far faster than average wages as landlords benefited from tax breaks

Once again out came landlords and agents en masse to claim this would immediately be passed onto tenants in the form of higher rents. Once again rents show no real increase above prior levels aside from less than inflation rises.

Landlord licensing

Another form of regulation was licensing private rentals and House of Multiple Occupation in areas of high anti-social behaviour. Newham led the way and this move revealed mass tax evasion. Half of landlords were failing to declare income costing £200 million. That was in just one London borough.

Price link to earnings broke free under Blair and Brown Labour govt then continued under Tory/Lib Dem coalition

Government were not so keen on allowing mass regulation by councils so tightened up measures thus allowing only 20 per cent of homes across a borough to be regulated (alongside HMOs). Bexley, Lewisham and Greenwich all missed the boat on comprehensive regulation yet are now looking to adopt this measure on the more limited scale available.

At each stage of that ongoing regulation guess what happened? Landlords said it would be passed straight to tenants. Again, there was little to no evidence to support it.

High rents

Rents in areas such as London are already extremely expensive. We see it starkly at the present time as people in highly skilled and essential jobs are unable to work and forced into isolation across various flat shares as another member shows symptoms. They include teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police and many more.

The claims that landlords could simply whack up rents was and is a nonsense. If they could have they already would.

Landlords claiming they will go under due to having to meet minimal heat and insulation regulation, or pay fees working out at £100 a year begs the question of why they are even in the business of providing such as essential service as providing housing. If they have no buffer how were they ever given a mortgage? Providing they told the bank and HMRC they were landlords that is…

If new measures and ongoing tax changes do weed out the chancers and reduce buy-to-let speculators – and reduce house price growth thus allowing buyers opportunity to buy (many of those teachers and nurses in flat shares would have been able to buy in previous generations), then who will weep except landlords?

Of course buying is not for all. Unfortunately we have so many families reliant upon landlords who are in way over their head which only a mass program of truly low-priced housing can alleviate. But for many landlords getting out the game will free up houses that first time buyers can obtain. Homes don’t disappear when landlords sell up. Landlords are not providing an essential service as so many seem to think. When they sell homes become available for families to settle and put down roots in a community.

And save the “accidental landlord” stuff. What that often means is someone moved and chose not to sell the first home, or inherited a home and decided not to sell.

In the meantime expect many more landlords to complain as even minimal standards are introduced. Often it’s hollow complaints, and in the small amount of cases where genuine perhaps those people should never have been landlords in the first place. It’s not the gravy train they expected, and they can’t bleed tenants to provide it.

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

  1. MARY

    One is I think you are generally right – and I could go on about the wickedness of lettings agents at great length. I was going to say two things — inheriting and selling. If you inherit a property with a tenant in it and you say you should sell?? chances are that a tenanted property will be bought by a lettings agent who will evict the blameless tenants and sell on for a killing. Not sure if I think that’s ok. Everyone loses except for agent, It would be better if it was possible for the local authority to step in and buy the property with a guarantee that the tenancy would be protected.But that doesn’t happen now.
    the other things is that landlords come in all sorts. I have known houses let out so that the rent pays the owners care home fees.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      No owner is forced to sell to a letting agency. If they wanted to be ethical they could wait until tenant leaves. And sell to a council at very high market rate to prop up prices? Councils should build to add to stock. It’s landlords holding on for years that reduces stock for those looking to start out in life. I’m not sure why young people should be paying care home fees. General taxation should be doing that or sell second homes to pay.

  2. Simes

    Wow. Not sure if you usually exercise much editorial impartiality or restraint but this was a new low. I’m neither a landlord nor a tenant but this just reads like a facebook diatribe. I’m guessing you’re not keen on landlords – the world does not need to know that.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      You’re free to go elsewhere. Landlords regurgitate the same nonsense on this site all the time.

      • Simes

        Just for clarity: I’m not (and never have been) a landlord. If you wanted to make a point reinforced by facts, you lost the thread with the diatribe. That comment is meant to be constructive; I don’t have any opinion of landlords but this article makes me feel defensive for them. There’s an art to presenting facts and implying a conclusion and it can be very effective if done subtlely.

        “You’re free to go elsewhere”? Well I guess you win with that snappy, fact-based retort.

      • Simes

        Ah one small fact check – I’m not free to go elsewhere since you’re firing these articles at me by email, from a donotreply wordpress email address. I can’t reply by email to your opinions, so have to reply here.

        A few years back I commented on one article I found through google. There were no terms and conditions, and no consents implied when I provided my email address. The emails I started to receive suddenly, six months later, were therefore unsolicited.

        Now that was ok when the focus was news, but this article crossed a line of news versus unsolicited and very heavily slanted opinion. Also, I’m not unsubscribing from something to which I never subscribed – that is phishing.

        Trust me, I don’t want to address you in public, especially with the inherent general immaturity of users just wanting an argument, or making offensive assumptions. This is just anecdote, but I want you to know, as a happy mortgage-payer who rented for the first twenty-five years of adult life, I don’t think being a landlord implies evil or greed and it’s irresponsible journalism to punt out blanket statements so laden with personal conclusion. You may have been bitten (and even I may have been nipped, renting in the past) and your anecdotes might make a good followup comment, but slanting the article so heavily and then emailing it unsolicited crosses a line.

        • fromthemurkydepths

          That’s really odd. I sometimes receive emails from wordpress to say someone has signed up to follow but I’ve not instigated any sort of automatic email. I’ve just looked in WordPress options and can’t see anything related to this. Anyone else have this?

  3. Jo

    lol landlords always pop up stating they’re not landlords. Funny that. I’m surprised only one has I bet more follow. Who else has a good word to say for most of them? Good on you highlighting their incessant bullshit on any check and scrutiny of their actions and generally crap standards.

    I don’t think one home on my street that is now buy to let is maintained by its landlord. And yes I know by the the signs. Some houses once loved by owners are now generally an unsightly mess which impacts the whole area. Tenants naturally aren’t going to spend sums on gardens if they can be kicked out anytime. I know a couple next door who would invest if it was their home. they have to beg for the most minor work inside and the landlord wont do a thing externally.

    The sooner buy to let dies the better. Sod the lot of them. Greedy sods on the whole who drag whole towns down and prevent life chances of many.

  4. Simes – Maybe you’ve got a problem with this, but here’s some news for you. This is Murky’s site! Not a bulletin board. Why can’t he put his point of view over on it? He has a stance and has backed it up with evidence. Disagree with him? He has provided you with an opportunity to argue with him via the comment function. And by argue I mean you could start by presenting us with some facts, not just insults.

  5. Graham

    Murky keep reporting mate. Your doing a brilliant job. This is one of the very few sites where get the true facts around here. You certianly tell us more than anyone else lncluding the Council, Councillors and MPs.

    It is nice to get the truth on what is going on out there.

    Keep up your excellent great work,

  6. CDT

    Murky you are fantastic journalist that give us the facts as they are Thank you so much for that. Keep up the good work.

    Agreed Jo, Anonymous201481, Chris and Graham some good points raised here,

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