A challenge to Shelter

The English Housing Survey and Professor Michael Ball of Reading University, (shortly to publish a report on regulation in the private sector) are the brave people prepared to challenge Shelter, daring to say that Shelter are not providing an accurate picture of the private sector. Shelter and British Gas have published statistics on tenant evictions, which indicate that over the last year, 200,000 private sector tenants have been faced with eviction following reports of problems in their homes, which they have asked landlords to fix. This is clearly part of their current campaign against retaliatory eviction, which they believe landlords engage in wholesale!


If, as Shelter’s data shows, there are 9 million private sector tenants, 200,000 is only a little more than 2% of tenants; more importantly, this shows nearly 98% have had no problems – hardly an indicator of a massive sector-wide trend which should terrify all tenants and prospective tenants. If we then look at the next stage, that of tenants being re-possessed, the figures become even more extreme. According to The Ministry of Justice reporting in February, during 2013 the figure for Court re-possessions was 37,739 homes for private and public sector combined. The Maths would seem to indicate only 0.5% of all rented homes in England were re-possessed. This figure will include tenants evicted for rent arrears and anti-social behaviour, so the number of landlords that could be accused of doing “retaliatory evictions” reduces even further.


Shelter admit to “scaling-up” the figures, so how much reliance can be placed on anything they say? The same processes were used to force the introduction of Tenancy Deposit Protection; information was provided which gave no account of the number of tenants who accepted that part or all of the deposit should not be returned, or where the landlord was justified in keeping the deposit – because of lack of notice, lock changes, rent arrears. Once introduced, the figure for deposits withheld unfairly also reduced to the region of 0.5%. Landlords are forced to work with added bureaucracy and at some cost for a tiny number of landlords who behave badly. Deposit protection means far, far higher numbers of tenants have to wait weeks for the return of their deposits, which they need to pay deposits on new tenancies.


Professor Ball’s report states “Private landlords felt frustrated that they are always treated as potential devils, while social landlords are always seen in official eyes and political rhetoric as angels. Surveys of tenant satisfaction actually show better results for the private sector. Nor is the social housing stock consistently in tip-top condition”.


Here’s a man who knows what he is talking about! I have seen private sector accommodation that it would be impossible for the public sector to match – no wonder there is such high satisfaction from private tenants. Will Shelter change their modus operandi and show the respect that private landlords deserve? I doubt it, but Shelter needs to be challenged. The best way to do that is by landlords maintaining and improving standards in the private sector.


For advice about buy-to-let – Ask Sharon.

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