Last month, I promised I would write to the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, about his jumping on the bandwagon of fighting the ‘Rogue Landlord’.
I am not naive. The respect and regard I have for many private sector landlords does not stop me acknowledging that there are others who bring the sector into disrepute; but I believe these are often so far below the radar, letting rooms illegally to the most vulnerable, the illegal immigrant, the drug or alcohol addicted, that without the help of existing landlords and tenants, rooting them out like the pariahs they are would be impossible.
I wrote my letter to the Mayor of Manchester and have had a response. I must give some credit to Mr. Burnham, that although part of the reply appeared to be standard paragraphs, he did make reference to the point I made, and he did hand-write a message at the bottom.
He did not take on board my point about fuller engagement with the private sector, saying that he had enjoyed the opportunity he had recently had of speaking at a Residential Landlord Association meeting. I think I have made it clear in the past that I think all landlords should belong to one or more landlord associations, all of whom do incredible work for their members, but not belonging to the RLA does not mean a landlord is uneducated and uncaring about the sector or that the opinion of members of other associations can be discounted. Accreditation schemes have also worked widely with landlords and could offer helpful information.
The Mayor does not seem unaware of the value of the private rented sector, which is a step forward, stating that ‘the private rented sector provides a diverse range of housing in Greater Manchester, from the very top of the market, to providing homes for some of the poorest members of our communities…Taking forward prosecutions of the worst landlords who are tainting the reputation of the sector needs persistence, experience and time but it is absolutely essential work if we’re going to protect families and individuals who really need our help’.
You have no argument there Mr. Burnham, from either me or any of the many decent and caring landlords who are such a mainstay of housing provision for those who rely on the private sector for their homes. But the opinion of more landlords must be canvassed and treated as partners in your desire to rid the sector of the undesirable.
Landlords will often hear of poor landlords, but should they report it, they will be turned away – it is hearsay, they can only investigate if a tenant living in the property makes a report – though they are often too frightened to make such a report, when living in the property.
The personal note at the end of Mr. Burnham’s letter said ‘I do take your point on board. (which one?) But there are too many homes in Greater Manchester in the PRS that are beneath the decent standard. This needs to change’. It does, but I am not sure that castigating the private sector will do it.
No-one will be more pleased than I if in 5 years, I am writing a letter congratulating him and his office of doing what they have set out to do – to clear the streets of the homeless and the private rented sector of any landlords that need to be called ‘Rogue’, but I think this may be harder than it sounds.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon
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