Alexandra Morris, the Managing Director of MakeUrMove, comments on the impact rogue landlords have on the whole of the industry.
The topic of rogue landlords has been thrown into the limelight as a result of controversial landlord Fergus Wilson’s recent appearance on Panorama.
The perception of Fergus Wilson is that he’s a rogue landlord, but, unfortunately, he may well be a casualty of various legislation introduced by the Government. Some of the recent changes have included the reduction in mortgage interest tax relief on buy-to-let properties, increases in Stamp Duty and the introduction of the tenant fees ban, which is resulting in higher costs for landlords.
The rogue landlord scale
The term rogue landlords doesn’t just have one fixed meaning, and, arguably, there are various levels of seriousness. There are those who are out and outright fraudulent who deserve the title of rogue landlord.
However, on the other end of the scale are the accidental or casual landlords, who have ended up letting out a property due to unplanned circumstances. The various changes to legislation are causing confusion for many landlords as to their rights and responsibilities. As a result, some landlords may be acting inadequately through a lack of education, and simply don’t realise until a tenant or letting agent highlights it to them.
Landlords facing increased costs
Similarly, there are also landlords who are having to deal with increased costs, such as the loss of mortgage interest tax relief, again, due to the latest rules and regulations in the industry, and the need to cut costs is causing them to be rogue.
Rather than being rogue, the need to cut costs comes down to a lack of preparation and knowledge on the novice landlord’s part. For example, they might have become too reliant on their existing monthly income from their property. The difference is, professional landlords usually have plans in place well in advance to cover any unplanned costs, or a reserve in the bank.
With the recently introduced Fit for Human Habitation Act, landlords need to be even more prepared with their money. For example, if a property needs new carpets and a deep clean, a cost that many landlords might not account for, then landlords will have to pay up before the property can be rented out.
Additionally, when a landlord faces claims of substandard practice, then we often see the blame shifted onto tenants or letting agents. This may be because landlords haven’t got the insurance, which covers all of the costs required for letting out their property. However, landlords need to take the responsibility themselves, as they are the ones responsible for making changes to their property.
TV portrayal of landlords
We absolutely support the exposing of criminal landlords. However, there also needs to be more balance to show the bigger picture and represent landlords more fairly.
Programmes such as the latest Panorama episode, Landlords from Hell, and The Week The Landlord Moved Inprovide the British public with a distorted and disproportionate view of landlords as a whole, with our research indicating that 65% of landlords agree.
In reality, the number of rogue landlords in the market is in the minority, yet the media continues to portray all landlords in a way which leaves good, honest landlords feeling hugely undervalued.
Landlords are even beginning to think that the sensationalist reporting of these programmes, and the portrayal of worst case scenarios has contributed to all landlords being penalised with the Government’s new legislation, which favours tenants and makes renting out properties less viable.
An overhaul of the housing market
The current conditions in the housing market are greatly damaging for landlords and property investors. We know that the majority of landlords are good landlords, but, if the Government doesn’t step in and introduce legislation that supports landlords, as well as tenants, then we may see more landlords being forced into trying to cut costs, resulting in rogue behaviour.