Towards a Lib Dem Landlords Association (LDLA?)

I admit it. I’m an ‘evil landlord’. Well not exactly ‘evil’ you understand but that sometimes how I am made to feel by the present government and Federal Conference when it passes some other motion or so which castigates me and many other Liberal Democrats who happen to be landlords in the private and commercial rental sector. Renting property is a business like any other. I provide a service for people who cannot afford to own their own home but need to be able to rent something decent. Don’t even start complaining that UK landlords are making it difficult to buy – the problem lies fairly and squarely with overseas investors who purchase large numbers of properties en bloc as an investment and leave them empty. Canada’s British Columbia has recently imposed high taxes for overseas property investors and imposes an annual property tax on the same investors while they do not occupy their own property. We should follow suit.

Moving on, I would argue that I am actually a pretty good landlord and when I speak to other Lib Dems who run rental property ‘portfolios’ they seem to have a similar attitude and ethos to myself. As evidence of this, I rent to ‘professionals’ (more on that later) and have a basic directive for my rental agent when they are dealing with my tenants  – ‘when there is a problem fix it immediately (or sooner)’. Why? Because a content and happy tenant is a tenant who doesn’t give notice and you only need one month without rental income to completely negate any false economies of avoiding repairs. One of my tenants has been with me for nearly 15 years and I have even redecorated the house with them in situ and replaced one of the bathrooms. My reward is that they have been with me for a long time with no break in income! When the annual rent increase comes along I will often negotiate with them for a 12 month no-break agreement in exchange for keeping the rent the same. I would be happy for any of my tenants to be approached, with their permission, to provide a reference for how I and my agent operate as a ‘landlord’. Many Lib Dem landlords would say the same I am sure.

So, when the party talks about ‘rogue landlords’ I don’t recognise myself in the classification but unfortunately, they tend to bundle all landlords into the ‘rogue’ category which is not only inaccurate and unfair but it also recognises that the people making policy don’t really understand the professional rental sector. My agent already manages deposits and inventories, they already manage deposits and credit checking, they already provide a professional and responsive service to tenants for repairs and requests. So imposing more legislation on this sector will do nothing more than increase costs and how do you think those costs will be recouped? Not from the landlord or the agent. More legislation will simply result in higher rents. When I have attempted to explain this to our parliamentarians, or to federal conference, it has been disappointing to see the explanations fall on deaf ears.

So why do I only rent to ‘professionals’? First of all many house insurers (buildings insurance – not contents) are unwilling to insure properties if a tenant is on housing benefit. If they insure it at all (and most won’t) then the premiums are extortionate. Secondly, it’s very difficult to ask tenants on housing benefit to leave if I need to sell a property or remodel it. With professional tenants I normally have a three or six month notice period and they leave after that if I need them to. If tenants on housing benefit leave after a contractual notice period then the Local Authority (LA) say that they have made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’. The tenant is instructed by the authority that they must go to court and be evicted. This is not only an illegal act on the part of the LA but of course it also makes it more difficult for tenants on housing benefit to get decent rental accommodation. If there is any area where legislation would be useful it would be to force LAs to comply with the law. Finally of course, in case you haven’t been keeping up, the problems with the delays in getting Universal Credit has forced some tenants on Housing Benefit into rental arrears because they are forced to ‘borrow’ against their rent to keep afloat. Just chat to the Housing Associations and they will tell you what a problem this is. Add all these issues together and you can begin to see why tenants on housing benefit are not an attractive proposition however much as a contentious Liberal, and somebody who was brought up on welfare, I might like to rent to them. So instead, they get pushed towards ‘rogue landlords’ who continue to give the entire rental sector a bad name.

If you have read this and it strikes a chord because you are a landlord yourself then do get in touch with me at [email protected]. If enough landlords get in contact then I propose a meeting at Autumn Conference to discuss the formation of a Liberal Democrat Landlords Association (LDLA) with the objective of giving a voice to the responsible landlords in our party and to act as an advisory and focus group for our parliamentarians and policy makers. Hopefully we can persuade them that not all landlords are ‘rogues’.

 

* Tony Harris is the Registered Treasurer of the Party and the Chair of the FFRC but in this case he is writing in a personal capacity.

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112 Comments

  • Awwwww, it must be awful to have the privilege of owning multiple homes. How do you put up with the awful rude words of those who want to build a better life for people in Britain?

    We have a housing crisis in this country. Sure, there are problems with overseas investors, but you are also part of the problem, and you tone deaf “woe is me” piece does you or the party no favours.

    As we say, the land was made for the people. Not for some of the people.

  • I mean it’s very brave of you to publicly post that you’re not only a landlord, but a discriminatory one. Brave in the Yes Minister sense. I’m sure that all the people who are homeless because of the landlords who refuse to rent to people on housing benefits are feeling terribly sorry for you because you are demonised in the popular press and by lib dem conference motions.

  • William Barter 19th Apr '19 - 10:31am

    And yes, you are right, what we really need is a Liberal Democrat Landlords Association.

    I am so glad someone finally came up with this ground-breaking idea to find a way to give a stronger voice to rentiers. Finally a way for us to speak for that under-represented and downtrodden group!

    Well done.

  • I’m sorry, I should not have been so mean. I’ve just checked, and it DOES say on the back of my membership card that nobody should be enslaved by landlord’s insurance premiums, ignorance, or conformity. I withdraw my previous comment.

  • David Evershed 19th Apr '19 - 11:03am

    Anti business Lib Dems should join the Labour Party.

    Liberals are a freedom loving pro business party.

  • Thanks Jennie. The problem is not so much the insurance premiums. I could deal with that. The problem is not being able to get buildings insurance at all. If you have a mortgage on a rental property then this is a non starter because having buildings insurance is a legal requirement of the lender. The issue with insurers, local authorities, and tenants on housing benefit, could be alleviated by relevant legislation which currently doesn’t exist and has been ignored to date. It is only by entering into debates such as this that we will be able to have a reasoned discussion at party level and get legislation introduced which will help renters and landlords alike. Sometimes somebody has to put their head over the parapet because otherwise these issues remain under the carpet. If we can get these issues dealt with then nobody would be happier than I to rent to tenants on housing benefit. Otherwise why would I raise the topic? All best. Tony

  • Tony: as I am currently in a section 21 notice period from my own landlord and likely to be homeless in a couple of months, along with my 16 year old daughter, I thank you for the fuller explanation you have given of your troubles.
    I’m just going to go and bandage my heart, which is bleeding profusely.

  • Andrew. Like any business there comes a time when you need to totally gut and remodel a property. This is the act of a responsible landlord. You cannot do this when a tenant is in situ. You can’t complain on one hand that landlords keep their properties in a terrible state and then complain when they want to do them up. There is also a time when you need to churn a property to refinance it or to move it on so you can purchase elsewhere. To give a tenant six months notice (or sometimes twelve months) is not unfair if the tenant took on a short term tenancy in the first place. What is unfair is if you are unable to do the maintenance or refinancing that you need to because the tenant is unable to move out because the local authority is operating illegally. In my experience with tenants on housing benefit, and yes I have rented to some, they try to be reasonable but the local authority is the one that is not. My comments to Jennie on relevant legislation and reasoned debate also apply. Tony

  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Apr '19 - 11:15am

    William & Jennie – and your positive suggestions to improve the UK private rented sector in the context of Tony Harris’ article are what, exactly?

  • Jennie. For the record I have never issued a section 21 and nor would I. In fact until it came up recently in the news I didn’t even know what it was. I abide by the clauses, terms, and provisions, of my rental agreements and I ask my tenants to do the same. If they can’t then I work with them to help wherever possible. Your situation sounds awful and I encourage you to approach your local Lib Dem PPC to help. I can point you in the right direction if you need me to.

  • William. The idea of having a Landlords association is to allow us to highlight the various issues which impede us from acting responsibly. I have raised the insurance and local authority blocks numerous times with the present government, the coalition government, our parliamentarians, and federal conference. Clearly something needs to change. Larger groups are often a way of highlighting a problem and giving it more focus. That is my sole aim. Tony

  • I’m not an expert, Yokel, but I do have a couple of suggestions:
    Land value tax, progressive on the amount of land owned.
    Much much much higher investment in social housing, and any money made from right to buy ringfenced for more social housing.
    Do SOMETHING to make housing of all kinds more affordable, actually affordable rather than the definition of affordable used by housing developers.

    I am on roughly UK median wage, and I cannot afford to buy and can barely afford to rent a house IN YORKSHIRE that is of a size which would fit my household in it. Roughly 50% of people are on a lower income than me.
    This is not sustainable.

  • Yeovil and Andrew. Thanks for the support but happy to get some reasoned debate going on this issue. The good thing about being a Lib Dem is that members make policy. If we don’t have two sides of a debate then we have no debate and policy making becomes one sided. I am keen that all voices are heard but yes it would be nice to have some suggestions as well in terms of how we deal with the insurance and local authority issue which seem to be the biggest roadblocks to renting to tenants on housing benefit. Tony

  • Jennie. All good points. Thank you. I wonder if we should have a fringe on social housing provision in the UK at conference? The current provision is woeful. Developers continually weasel their way out of including social housing when they receive planning permission. This aspect of planning law needs addressing as a matter of urgency. Tony

  • Andrew. Perhaps you would like to make some suggestions regarding how we deal with the issues I have raised in my initial article? As I have said previously in my response to Jennie. It is not possible to have a mortgage on a rental property that is uninsured. What you are saying is that tenants take on a short-hold tenancy knowing that they will need longer. In fact I am more than happy to offer longer tenancies to my tenants and to fix the rents for long tenancies which I have done numerous times. Long tenancies to responsible renters are actually good because you can forecast rental income. I can’t comment on what other landlords do but perhaps we will have a chance to debate this at federal conference in a fringe. A charter for responsible Lib Dem landlords might be something to consider. Tony

  • nigel hunter 19th Apr '19 - 11:53am

    How about building a house but getting the money from this by renting the land. People can do what they want with the house but the rent is for the land,which is always there . People can come and go and.. do whatever to the house whilst paying rent for the land. Just a thought.

  • Nigel. I think my only problem with LVT, which I have spoken on at Federal Conference a number of times, is that the biggest land hogs by a statute mile are the government, the local authorities, the MOD, and the forestry commission. All of these entities are effectively immune to LVT so it becomes just another tax. Anyway, it’s party policy so I have to accept it but I do think that the government exemptions should be reviewed. Tony

  • Andrew. I’ve never discriminated against anybody. Indeed, as I have pointed out earlier, I have rented to tenants on housing benefit. However, this has always been to my detriment because of the issues I have outlined. Tony

  • I can understand the problems faced by both groups in this thread, but it is sad to see how personal and antagonistic some of us immediately make it when a fellow Lib Dem raises issues that are not so immediately apparent and from a viewpoint that most of us do not have experience of.

    I’m sure it makes some people feel good to have a go at Lib Dem who is pointing out the problems landlords face with rogue councils and a poor legal system, but when it comes to facing up to our own preconception that all landlords are bad, too many of us simply aim to be “holier than thou” and drive them away with cheap jibes and totally fail to engage with them. This used to be a key feature of trendy lefty socialists who followed people like Ken Livingstone and Derek Hatton. but now it is becoming more normal in some circles in the Lib Dems as well

    Expressions like “it must be awful to have the privilege,” “it’s very brave of you,” “How terrible for you” do nothing for Liberal Democracy except undermine it. Unless of course we just want all landlords to conform to our “Evil Slum Landlord” meme and just drive them away from us and into the hands of the Conservative party, while ignoring points about the real villains (big insurance companies with discriminatory insurance policies, local authorities apparently forcing benefits recipients to go to law).

    But hey, here’s someone who wants to talk to us about how we might try to improve things. Let’s just have a go. It so much easier than trying to solve the problem.

  • Great article Tony.

    Seems like you’re incurred the wrath of a couple of people who might well be described as Labour activists in Lib Dem clothing.

    I’ve often felt the bigger problems that these Labour activist types are disgruntled about are due to supply and regulatory issues.

    There is market failure in the housing market because of huge distortions in the market (classical liberal critique). Homes are too expensive because there aren’t enough of them and because of layers of extra cost fed into the building and rental market. There aren’t enough homes because it’s hard to get planning permission to build (Conservative activists in Lib Dem clothing being nimbyish and blocking new developments for populist motivation), meaning great expense and large institutional backing is needed for commercial homebuilding, thus crowding out cottage industries and new entrants (i.e inefficient and uncompetitive market). Furthermore Labour activists in Lib Dem clothing then demand all sorts of complicated, impractical and inefficient systems in place for building permission to take place (25% affordable rent, mixed socioeconomic demographics) pushing up costs for expensive accountants and lawyers and architects to be hired to navigate and/or circumvent these systems.

    Good to read your critique from the demand side and rental regulatory point of view

    Anyway, fellow small time landlord here too, so will drop you an email

  • Also about your preference for professional tenants, then it’s up to you.

    Let’s say prostitution were legal. Would there be all this shrieking and finger wagging if a prostitute said she selected her clients carefully, using various factors to discriminate against potential clients who might affect the revenue and safety of her business? I doubt it, we’d all say it’s common sense.

    If you have a tenancy on a property and would like to sublet a room (with the blessing of the landlord), people living in the real world will select their new housemate carefully and discriminate against potential housemates based on a lot of factors.

    It’s always amazing to read small s Liberals attacking freedom and choice. Especially when it’s on a subject they clearly don’t have a good idea of how it is at the coalface

  • By the way Andrew. One thing I forgot to mention is that some building societies and banks have clauses in their loan agreements which prevent you letting and or letting to tenants on benefits. So it would be them that are discriminating and not the landlord who must legally comply with the terms of the mortgage agreement. This is also something that needs to be dealt with.

    As to removing buy to let that ship has already sailed. Those who purchased years ago already have their properties. New landlords find it very difficult to mortgage on buy to let because of modern financial controls and lending criteria. Also the government is now removing the tax allowances for mortgage payments on buy to let’s (in stages) So you could argue that the doors have been closed which is what you are asking for and I do not disagree with. In fact what had happened is that there are so many differences between the reliefs available to businesses who let properties and individuals who let property that these differences have in themselves become discriminatory. This hasn’t been tested in the high courts yet but I am sure it is only a matter of time before one of the landlord associations do a test case.

    In terms of being privileged. I was brought up in extreme child poverty, on welfare, by a single parent mother who suffered mental illness as a result of being a Japanese prisoner of war. I was taken into care at the age of 11 and was in and out of children’s homes. Therefore, what I have is not the result of privilege but as the result of extreme hard work. I would be happy to chat to anybody to explain to them how they could do what I have done. As a result of my experiences I am acutely aware of the needs of those on low incomes and those on welfare. What we need is more social housing provision in this country and more support for renters on housing benefit. Given that housing benefit in this country now costs us half a billion a week it is clear that something needs to change. Just making more private rentals available will not deal with the solution. We need local authorities and developers to step up to their social responsibilities and to build more affordable homes. Tony

  • Janes. Thanks for your comments but I do know what it’s like at the coal face. I also suggest you read ‘Mr Bevan’s Dream’ by Sue Townsend the author of Adrian Mole. She was forced onto benefits in the sixties and recounts her experiences. What is really sad is that I was on the last Social Security Policy Committee and saw that nothing has changed since then. If anything, with Universal Ctedit and no social housing provision, it has got worse. Tony

  • It’s not shrieking and finger wagging to point out a legal decision, James.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/education-42979242

    Interesting that you choose to characterise it that way, though. It’s only the fact that legal aid has been gutted and most people on housing benefit can’t afford to bring legal action that this goes unenforced.

    I’m prepared to believe Tony that banks, building societies and insurance companies are the ones driving this. That doesn’t make it any less discriminatory.

    Also interesting the number of people who are saying “go and join the labour party then!!!!” like 1, that would solve any immediate problems and 2, they aren’t to the right of lib dems on housing policy anyway.

  • Tony Harris | Fri 19th April 2019 – 9:25 am…………… Don’t even start complaining that UK landlords are making it difficult to buy – the problem lies fairly and squarely with overseas investors who purchase large numbers of properties en bloc as an investment and leave them empty……..

    Such properties make up a tiny percentage of the housing problems; especially as most such properties are at the very top of the housing chain.
    The main problems are buy to let landlords who outbid genuine owners and whose high rents forestall saving for a deposit.
    As ‘honesty’ seems the order of the day; are any of your properties ex-council homes? Council house sell-off and purchase by landlords are a major problem for ‘affordable homes’.
    A major council home building project on the scale of the 1940-60s would make affordable rents available available to most even if it hit the lucrative private rental sector. However, as you only rent to ‘professionals’, your income would be secure.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:06pm

    Jennie. As Lib Dem’s we make policy by debate so please do keep debating. Also please do consider contacting your local ppc about your current problems. They can often be very helpful and the local authorities do listen to them. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:08pm

    Expats. Some time ago The Times did a survey on home ownership by overseas investors and concluded it was a big problem. I’ll see if I can search it out and send the link on. My policy is not to buy ex council houses. Tony

  • Been talking to my local PPC/ council group leader this very morning, Tony.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:13pm

    Jennie. Fingers crossed. Good luck! Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:33pm

    Jennie. Very helpful article you have pointed out which underlined what I have tried to highlight here. The relevant extract from the article I copy here:

    ‘But one landlord, Tom Black, said his landlord insurance prohibited him from taking tenants that are on housing benefits when their tenancy starts.

    Another said: “As a council accredited landlord who trains others to become accredited,‎ I can safely say that the “no DSS” is not down to landlord preference or discrimination… it’s entirely down to (a.) mortgage terms and (b.) severe delays in the claimants HB claim, universal credit policy to pay claimants directly into their bank account.

    “We personally could fill our houses 10 times over if we could rent to DSS as our phones never stop ringing, day and night, whenever we advertise a vacant one.”,

    Tony

  • Charley Hasted 19th Apr '19 - 1:38pm

    If you actually cared about being able to rent to tenants on HB you’d be campaigning to remove those clauses from insurance and mortgage agreements. You’d be pushing for insurance companies or letting agents or landlords to be required to rehome tenants while essential works were being carried out.

    That you’re raising but a token protest ‘I’d like to honestly but I’m not allowed, insurance y’know nothing I could possibly do, frightfully expensive for me, awfully sorry. I mean really it’s kinder for you to live in squalor how could you possibly afford to live somewhere else while I redecorate.’ Makes me think that actually you don’t care so very much.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:50pm

    Charley. With respect this is exactly what I am trying to do. See my response to William. This is an issue I have repeatedly tried to raise and have had no traction. I have got more traction through this thread than I have in nearly five years of trying to raise the issue through government. Let’s see where this takes us. Tony

  • Iris Walker 19th Apr '19 - 1:54pm

    Everyone should have access to an affordable home and until there is enough social housing to go round, LAs and private landlords need to work together as they can help tackle homelessness together. In Scotland private landlords should be registered and need to adhere to strict criteria regarding housing standards and tenancy rights. Its mostly amateur landlords who cause problems to their tenants: the ones who want to profit and don’t see their “property” as being a home for the tenant, only an asset for themselves. Our whole housing structure across the UK is geared towards profit and I don’t know how we can change that as a very high percentage of decision makers have a vested interest.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:54pm

    Andrew. I say again that I do not discriminate and have let to tenants on housing benefits in the past. However, it’s no good letting at say £350 a month and paying £300 a month on building insurance. That doesn’t make financial sense. The broader picture is that it is near nigh impossible to get buildings insurance when you let to tenants on benefits. Try phoning round a few insurers yourself and presenting yourself as a landlord who wants to rent to tenants on benefit and see how you get on. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:55pm

    Iris. Your point is well made and well taken. See my earlier comment on social housing provision. Tony

  • david webberley 19th Apr '19 - 1:55pm

    Frankly I’m aghast.

    Everyone has a right to have a roof over their heads. As liberals we should be ensuring that the rights of the renter are strengthened and not diminished in favour of any landlord – Thanks to conservative “free market” policies, renters face a life of uncertainty of tenure.

    I grew up living in rented accomodation, my family renting the same property since the First World War. This was under a lifetime tenancy, and on the whole, this worked well until the freeholder sold to a property magnet.

    Whilst my mum had recourse to the fair rent scheme, she would see the rent be put up significantly, before the Valuation panel would judge the rent. Sometimes this could be months before an appeal could be heard. The panel usually reduced the increase by 75%. My mum never had any rent rebated or offset against monies due.

    Newer landlords are only interested in the percentage yield that their investment may bring. This means that they are only interested in market rents and 6 or 12 month lets. This may be fine for people moving as a result of job relocation, emigration abroad etc. This is not however good for family life or people who cannot obtain social housing because their savings are too high, but who otherwise cannot get a mortgage.

    We have seen a resurgence of “Rackman” style landlords and with the lack of truly affordable rented accommodation the unscrupulous landlords are raking it in without maintaining their properties correctly.

    My mum finally moved out into her own property this year at the age of 81. She now has central heating for the first time, a bathroom which is not riddled with damp and bedrooms which you can undress in without freezing to death.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 1:57pm

    Ok. It’s the Easter weekend so I will let the thread run for a few days. Happy Easter everybody. Tony

  • James,
    Prositution is legal.

    The cure to this is of cause increase the supply of rented homes, so let’s us campaign for more social housing. Tempting as it is to beat up landlords, it is the failure of government to provide social housing that is the main cause of the rental markets problems. By failing to be a good landlord government has vacated the field to allow abuses to develop.

    David,
    The 19th century is calling, certainly that was the last time the Liberal party you describe existed. Time moves on even if you don’t.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 2:02pm

    David. Thanks for your comments. If you read my responses to the various threads you will see that I am actually trying to strengthen the position of the tenants. If landlords can get insurance and know that they have tenants who will adhere to their rental agreement because the Local authority abides by the law then they will be in a much better position. We need to legislate to deal with the blocks that are contributing to exclusion. By the way, I remember seeing ‘No DSS’ notices in advertisements for flats in the sixties. We haven’t moved on very far. Tony

  • William Fowler 19th Apr '19 - 2:12pm

    After all these years we still have that old British disease of taking down people who do something successfully, never mind that the people running housing associations and pension funds invested in housing probably make a lot more money – if you add up salaries and pension benefits – than the original poster. On the other hand, such is the shortage of housing in the UK (due to overpopulation) that it is hard to argue with the more socialist part of the party that owning more than one house is equivalent to theft.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 2:13pm

    Andrew. As I said earlier. There is a high end professional rental sector which isn’t well recognised. Most of my properties are in areas where you need a car to get to and fro so in a way they are self selecting. The others are executive properties which command rents that are out of reach of housing benefit. As I said before. Hosting benefit costs us a half a billion a week in this country. The solution is not to make more rental properties available as this would just increase the size of that bill. The answer is to force local authorities to enforce planning requirements on developers to build more affordable homes and more social housing. Currently too many developers are weaselling their way out of it. Tony

  • Joseph Bourke 19th Apr '19 - 2:14pm

    The proposal for a Libdem Landlords Association is one that ALTER (https://libdemsalter.org.uk/en/) would welcome. As a party, if we are to develop efficient and affordable solutions to our housing problems, we need to look to places like Germany where there is a large professionalised rental sector. German landlords make money be offerig a professional service and investing in the provision of quality homes.
    The points that Tony makes in his article and comments are for the most part well made. However, as the Chair of Alter, I would take issue with two aspects.
    Firtly, the legislation around Section 21 notices or no fault evictions. Provision should be made for vacating of premises to allow for major refurbishment, but I think there is a clear case for providing greater security of tenure then is currently the case. Most Landlords will not notice the difference. Those that use section 21 indiscriminatly will. Tony also writes ” there are so many differences between the reliefs available to businesses who let properties and individuals who let property that these differences have in themselves become discriminatory.” I would point out that residential property letting businesses run by individuals do not curretly pay business rates as other businesses do or national insurance on their earnings from land and property. I would argue that property letting businesses should be treated as other businesses are.
    Alter believes that the state has a responsibility to ensure that there is adequate housing available for everyone in need of shelter. The government needs to ensure there is sufficient public housing provision to meet the needs of those with insufficient income to rent in the private sector and housing benefit rent payments should be redirected to this area of public investment and away from the private sector.
    There is equally a need for a well-run private rental sector to meet the needs of a mobile workforce.
    The small and medium size business sector is a key constituency for Libdems. We need well thought through solutions that meet the needs of Landlords and tenants alike. Local authorities and central government trying to fob off the provision of social housing to private Landlords is not the answer. Good Friday is a day for fasting, penance and reflection on the Christian message. Apply that worldview to social housing policy and engage with the issues that Tony Harris highights and we might start to get somewhere.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 2:20pm

    Joseph. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I note you say that residential landlords do not pay business rates. That is true but best in mind that they have no access to any of the tax reliefs available to businesses including roll over relief when they sell a property. This means that they essentially pay income tax and capital gains tax at the top rates. They also pay council tax on empty properties. Add these together and this more than makes up for the lack of business rates. Tony

  • Sue Sutherland 19th Apr '19 - 2:22pm

    Back in the 90s many housing professionals, concerned about the inability of councils to build housing to rent and the low numbers that Housing Associations could build, were advocating an increase in private rentals. I can remember a chart that showed the number of private rental homes at the beginning of the twentieth century ( a large number) as against the current date ( a much smaller number). The government encouraged private renting through special mortgages and a number of television programmes advised people how they could become landlords.
    Now we can see the flaws in those decisions.
    There is definitely a role for private sector tenancy, especially for those who are starting on their careers and need to be able to move to where the jobs are and who want to become home owners eventually. However, I really don’t think that the problems of social housing should be left in the hands of private landlords. The distortion in the housing market has many causes but here in Manchester housing is now being bought up by foreign investors and prices are rising because London has experienced a bit of a downturn recently. This is moving home ownership out of the reach of even more people, just as it was in the early twentieth century.
    The main problem is that successive governments have been happy to leave housing need at the bottom of the policy pile when, for most people, having a home is the most important factor in their lives.
    There are rogue landlords but there are also rogue tenants. This may not be their fault in some cases but there are people who are quite happy to leave a property in such a state that it needs time and money spent on it to get it back to a state that new tenants would like.
    Some tenants on HB have severe mental health problems and /or problems with addiction . Local authorities and Housing Associations struggle to deal with such tenants who cause distress to themselves and other tenants. Private landlords don’t have the resources or the training to deal with this. The housing sector is in a total mess because it has been neglected for so long and I’m glad Tony Harris has raised the issue of private rental in such an informed and dispassionate way.

  • Charley Hasted 19th Apr '19 - 2:34pm

    But you aren’t Tony literally the only campaigning points you’be raised that I can see are

    -Stop foreign investors
    -Make LA’s stop declaring people intentionally homeless if they don’t fight eviction all the way to court (which is a campaigning point I’d heartily back because it’s hugely stressful and expensive for the tenant).

    Nothing about forcing lenders and insurance companies to change the way they operate.

    The fact is you made a choice to become a landlord and you could stop anytime you like. The same is not true of tenants for the most part

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 2:44pm

    Charley. Please see my note to Jennie near the start of the comment thread. You’ll see that I am calling for legislation to make insurers and local authorities comply with the law.

    As to a choice. Have you seen the interest rates recently? We all have to live!

    Tony

  • This is the kind of thing that makes me see why some people are keen to dismiss us as yellow Tories, so I’m very glad to see that the majority of commenters seem to be strongly against this.

    As a student who was tied into 12 month contracts when I was only at university for 9 a year (this wasn’t a case of good v bad landlords, literally every one we found did that), I had to fork out an extra ~£1k per year so that landlords like you didn’t have to worry about ‘one month without rental income.’ Maybe £1k doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but it’s an absolute fortune to students.

    I’d also like to see some statistics to support your claim that it’s foreign rather than British landlords that are causing the problem. That sounds more that a little UKIPy, and as a renter, I couldn’t care less where my landlord is from.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 2:49pm

    Charley et al. Of course the purpose of these articles abc threads is to weed out the key issues and raise points which the original author may not have considered. I’m glad to see that the various comments are achieving this aim. If we have enough critical mass I might consider proposing a motion at federal conference which calls for conference to address the issues which have been highlighted here. Thanks everyone. Tony

  • Joseph Bourke 19th Apr '19 - 3:03pm

    Tony,

    this is probably not the place to go into too much detail, but I am sure you are aware that many individual landlords have been considerig incorporating to avoid tax restrictions on interest deductios, One of the problems such landlords face is capital gains on transfer of properties to a company. This is deferred if rollover relief is aailable. Case law has shown that where properties are actively managed, these activities can be treated as business for CGT purposes., giving scope for reilance on the rollover relief aqvalable under Sec 162 TCGA 1992.
    The decision in Ramsey v HMRC (2013) provides in the words of one tax expert “pretty robust authority for treating substantive property letting activities as a business for the purposes of Sec 162 TCGA 1992.” The upper tribunal ruled that the activities must involve a significant amount of time being devoted to property related work.
    Residential investment propery is taxed at higher capital gains tax rates and subject to interest deduction restictions and an SDLT surchrge. But this is the point. This less favourable treatmet may be unnecessary. if the tax treatment of residential property businesses were aligned with other forms of trading business. Assessing business rates would immdiately deal with the problem you highlight of “overseas investors who purchase large numbers of properties en bloc as an investment and leave them empty.”
    As mentioned earlier, happy to discuss in detail when time allows.

  • Recently I suggested in my comments on the “A Fairer Share of All” consultation paper, that we have as our policy increasing the number of social homes built to 99,000 after 4 years in government and 104,000 after five and to reach the Shelter target of 167,000 new social homes a year in the fourteenth year. This should met Shelter’s target of 3.1 million new social homes over 20 years.

    Having looked online I am surprised to discover there are only about 2.7 million social homes are being rented out by housing associations and about 1.6 million are being rented out by councils. There are 4.6 million homes being rented out by private landlords.

    Therefore we can have a long term solution to the housing crisis; but we also need to accept there is a large private rented sector. It seems to me that it would be a good idea to remove any barriers private landlords have to renting to people on housing benefit. Therefore banning insurance companies from excluding these tenants from landlord house insurance policies seems a good policy and one I don’t understand why any party member would oppose.

    I had not realised that local councils define being made ‘intentionally homeless’ to include moving out of rented accommodation when the tenancy agreement ends and the landlord will not renew it. It seems a reasonable thing to ensure that these circumstances are not treated by local authorities as ‘intentionally homeless’. I don’t understand why any party member would oppose such a change to the law.

  • Paul Pettinger 19th Apr '19 - 3:35pm

    The thought that landlords should enjoy even more influence by clubbing together sadly makes this one of the most poorly judged LDV comment pieces ever. What next, Lib Dems for Wonga? No one is saying there shouldn’t be a rental market, but wealth inequality is one of the biggest threats to liberty (and economic growth). Loading more of the tax burden from earned to unearned income, and closing the imbalance of power and opportunity between rentiers and renters, should be one of our biggest priorities, not ensuring landlords better manage their privileged position.

  • James Baillie 19th Apr '19 - 3:59pm

    I’m all in favour of people providing administrative services and insurance for rental housing as a service for which they can be fairly remunerated. However, it strikes me that a) there’s no need for those people to own the homes they administer and b) no landlord I’ve ever had has actually charged me a rent that was formed out of costs plus a reasonable assessment of their time input at a median income rate. I don’t really see how one can economically or morally justify charging people anything above that – rents beyond that point are just people with a particular societal privilege using that to extract money from people, not provision of a competitively priced service.

  • Mark Seaman 19th Apr '19 - 4:24pm

    The primary problem with housing in the UK is of Supply and Demand. I phrase it as too much demand (due to the increase in the UK’s population) chasing too little supply, though too little house building is clearly also a factor. All of the problems stem from that issue, and the focus on tenant’s rights vrs landlord’s rights does not address that underlying point.

  • Sarah Brown 19th Apr '19 - 5:12pm

    Your opening paragraph reads very defensively. Are you trying to convince us, or you?

    In many areas now, the vasty majority of housing stock is rented and owner occupiers are a tiny minority. The tenants are often paying more than they would as mortgage payments.

    We have created a system which transfers money from the less well off to the wealthy, and which involves the wealthy doing very little to earn it.

    This is fundamentally unfair, and we should think about what we can do to change this situation. Maybe find less exploitative ways to invest?

  • nvelope2003 19th Apr '19 - 5:12pm

    The Housing and Town Planning Act 1919 ( Tha Addison Act from the name of the Minister) provided government subsidies for the building of council houses by local authorities although some council houses had been built since the 1890s, particularly in London. Some of the earliest council houses are situated within walking distance of where I am staying at this moment.

  • Build more social housing. It has many benefits, provides shelter, pushes down rents and house prices. Remember being a liberal should be for the everyone not just the fortunate.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 5:15pm

    Paul. I’m sure we would be asking for an extra song in the Glee club. Perhaps something sung to the tune of Bungalow Bill?

  • Sarah Brown 19th Apr '19 - 5:24pm

    Tony, there’s already a relevant song on page 4 of the songbook. The second verse is most relevant.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 5:26pm

    David Raw. Yes. It’s a business not a charity. Typical yields on rental property are around 6% before tax. Commercial Property is similar depending on the type of property. As I have said, I focus on the professional/executive rental market and I can tell you that these tenants are very diligent on making sure that they get their deposits back. Breakages are deducted but the law is very strict and my agent makes sure that deposits are returned in the correct period. Making deductions is a real palaver so it’s only a last resort. When my son rented a property in Swansea I saw the other side of things when it took ages to get the deposit back so I vowed never to be like that. Useful comments on social housing. Thanks. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 5:45pm

    Sarah Brown: I’m not sure that what I am doing is exploitative. My tenants tend to be executive families on corporate relocations, and contractors on 6/12 month postings. These are people who wouldn’t be buying anyway and the houses I am renting wouldn’t be suitable for families on benefits because they are either out in the sticks and nowhere near a local town/village or they are large executive properties which would be out the range of housing benefit. As a result I would argue that they do not conflict with housing supply for those on benefits. This is essentially the point I am making in that the professional rental sector is bundled in with everything else and becomes demonised. Hence my ‘evil’ comment. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 5:53pm

    Paul Pettinger: Yes, it’s really unusual for Lib Dems to club together to do anything isn’t it… https://www.libdems.org.uk/saos and https://www.libdems.org.uk/associated-organisations. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 5:59pm

    Joseph Bourke: Yes. Although CGT can in theory be avoided by ‘rolling’ into a new corporate entity (until HMRC decides retrospectively that it can’t) the problem is that Stamp Duty cannot. Also, the mechanisms which are being touted about smack of tax avoidance to me rather than tax planning and I have always resisted such ‘tax schemes’. I tend to just keep my head down and pay the tax which is due and as reliefs are removed ‘so be it’ (‘that’s life’). Landlords do not operate off a level tax playing field though which is why i suspect this continual whittling away of reliefs will be challenged at some stage (not by me I hasten to add). Tony

  • Most Landlords that I do accounts and tax returns for use property investment as an alternative to pension funds. Unless you have worked in the public sector or had a career with a large Plc (as is the case for most self-employed builders and employees generally) you are unlikely to have a private pension fund that will provide an income in retirement of more than a few pouds a week . Property investment is their alternative to the inflation-proof state pensions of civil servants, teachers, NHS staff, train drivers, local council staff etc. and the executive pensions of business managers. Mortgage payments are quite often greater than net rental income so there is little cash flow benefit until the loan is paid down.

    On security of tenure, German tenancies last, on average, 11 years, compared to around 4 years in England. Tenants themselves are still be able to choose to leave the property after a period of notice.

    In England, according to a survey of landlords conducted by the Government, landlords or their agents make the decision to end almost one in five tenancies (18%). At present, tenants can be evicted without any reason being given, and despite having done nothing wrong. One in three private renters – 1.6m households – have dependent children.

    Under the German system, tenancies are effectively open-ended with a tenant only able to be evicted on tightly defined grounds, for example if they don’t pay the rent or commit criminal behaviour in the property.

    The UK housing problems come in part from what William Fowler describes as “that old British disease of taking down people who do something successfull”. Any political party that cannot develop practical proposals that both encourage and celebrate aspiration at the same time as taking care of the less fortunate should not expect to be given responsibility for government by the electorate. Neither the Conservtives or Labour meet that criteria. We shoudd ensure that Lindems do in the policies that we develop.

  • My father was a left wing Socialist but also had let off upstairs to tenants. He agreed with the 1957 Rent Act.

  • Tony.

    on the SDLT charge multiple dwellings relief applies to the transfer of six or more properties in a single transaction and treats them collectively as non-residential for SDLT purposes. As a result it is limited to a 4% maximum (ie the transaction is treated as though it was commercial property. It may be worth paying the 4% tax for larger landlords with several properties.
    The other method is more complicated in that it involves transfer of property to a partnership as an interim step before incorporating to benefit from stamp duty rules on partnerships. I assume this is what you refer to as “the mechanisms which are being touted about smack of tax avoidance to me rather than tax planning”
    But we are back to the same issue. If residential property letting businesses were treated in the same fashion as other trading businesses we would not need special tax rules for Landlords.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 6:24pm

    Sarah Brown: Sorry I missed your comment: ‘We have created a system which transfers money from the less well off to the wealthy …’ I’m afraid you are a few thousand years too late Sarah. This is not a new system – it’s been around since historical records began. Marx and Engels tried to change it but they didn’t make a lot of headway except in a few places around the world.

    I would also take issue with your second comment ‘and which involves the wealthy doing very little to earn it’. You miss the point regarding amassing wealth which, unless you were born into it (which I think could possibly be applied to your comment), requires a huge amount of effort. Quite apart from the thousands of hours of hard graft that it takes to build up any wealth at all I can tell you that managing investments of any type (including property) is incredibly complex and lots of hard work. I think your comments might be applied to the Duke of Westminster who probably has a team of staff to manage his portfolio but I can assure you that they don’t apply to any others I can think of.

    Given your political experience, and based on what I have written, I would be glad to receive some constructive comments from you on what policies we might develop as LDs to deal with the situation that I have outlined, as amended and extended by the comments on this thread. Thanks. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 6:25pm

    Joe: Yes. Agreed. As I have said, renting property is not seen to be a business unless it is part of a corporate trading entity. Tony

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 6:33pm

    Thanks to many contributors for the various comments on the rental market in Europe. It is true that it is unusual to own property in places like Germany and Switzerland and renting is the norm. It is also true that the security of tenure is better there than it is here. However, it is also the case that if you take on a property for a guaranteed term in those countries then the term is the term. It is only on rolling (year-year/month-month) lets that the various tenant protections kick in. I used to go to Hannover Fair every year and behind the fairgrounds there are huge blocks of residential flats. Every weekend there was one family or another that had been evicted from their flat that same day and were stood by the roadside with all their belongings on the pavement. This is where a short term tenancy had come to an end. The grass is not always greener elsewhere but there are certainly lessons to learn from the European rental market. Tony

  • Charley Hasted 19th Apr '19 - 7:36pm

    “As to a choice. Have you seen the interest rates recently? We all have to live!”

    Get a job. Like the rest of us who can’t afford to live off the property portfolio we don’t have.

    Buy some income bonds, get an ISA and benefit from better interest rates.

    If I can live off 20k a year in London what makes you so special that you need multiple properties, illegally refusing to rent to people on benefits because you don’t want to get the right insurance because it costs more.

    Seriously do you have any idea how unutterably patronising and insulting the comment was?

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 8:12pm

    Charley. In the Liberal Democrats I often see a worrying attitude where members castigate success. It is worth while remembering that the party is only partially funded by the membership. The rest comes from donors from the business sector who run companies, operate property portfolios, manage large investments etc. etc. It is therefore a good thing that we have supporters who are successful business people because without them the party would not be able to sustain its operations. If we make them feel unwelcome then they will simply go elsewhere and the party will be unable to function properly to defend the Liberal ideas that we all stand for.

    You mention ISAs and Income Bonds but the interest rates on these are derisory and do not generate sufficient income in retirement which is where I am. Interest rates are extremely poor which is why retirees must look elsewhere for a financial return and income. To be fair, anybody getting into property now is late to the party and would have difficulty making it work financially. Landlords are piling out of the business at the moment rather than piling into it. I have been in property since the mid 90s which is why it is still viable for me.

    In terms of patronising and insulting comments I suggest you return to review your own earlier messages on this thread. I am happy to continue to receive and to respond to polite messages that are on topic for this thread as per the rules of posting. Tony

  • Tony Greaves 19th Apr '19 - 8:31pm

    This is a very interesting thread. Private landlords of housing are here to stay (though in my view preferably not in the numbers we have in less prosperous areas) so sensible discussion is needed.

    However I take issue with the statement that “Renting property is a business like any other”. It is not. It is not dealing with ordinary goods and services, it is dealing with people’s homes. And the relationship between landlord and tenant is by its nature very one-sided. That is why legislation is necessary – for the sector generally and not just for “rogue” landlords. What that legislation should consist of is of course a matter for debate.

  • I’d like to commend Tony Harris for his willingness to engage with the comments on this thread, a number of which border on being gratuitously offensive. Had the debate about Brexit been conducted in the same spirit British politics might not be in the appalling state that it’s in today, but there needs to be goodwill on both sides and that means not treating people with whom you disagree as the enemy.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 8:49pm

    Tony Greaves: Thanks. You make good points. However, in commercial leases it is the leaseholder who holds the power. It is devilishly difficult to terminate a lease even if the lease term has lapsed. You say that renting property is not a business but in the professional sector it has to be. This is because there is a need for short term/managed rentals for the professional/executive sector. Some of this is being covered by managed apartments but it’s often not appropriate to house an executive’s family in a serviced apartment. Instead you use an executive rental property for their posting/tenure. When we talk about landlords and lettings everybody immediately starts thinking about three bed semis on estates but this is not that. This is a completely different sector which is not well understood and hence why i have raised it.

  • Tony Harris 19th Apr '19 - 8:49pm

    Tony Hill: Thanks!

  • Simon McGrath 19th Apr '19 - 9:15pm

    Some very rum comments here. Perhaps the oddest is an underlying theme from many thst by being a landlord Tony in some way reduces the housing supply. If people stopped owning rental properties they would be bought by owner occupiers , thus msking it more difficult for those who can’t afford to buy.

  • Returning to this article I must commend Tony for his patience in replying to people who have very fixed and moralistic viewpoints on this subject (fixed and moralistic views being synonymous to closedminded).

    Food is a necessity. Are farmers to be castigated for turning food production into a business with profit margins, market opportunities and buying & selling? From some sections of society, farmers are the subject of the same sort of anti-business, anti-success vitriol that has become common against landlords (and any other entrepreneurial group that the socialist mob has decided must be hated).

    Homes, just like everything else, are subject to a market, and are therefore a business (like it or not, this is a fact no matter what the moralisers will preach). In some parts of the country, this market has been interfered with for so long that there is quite extreme market failure. Councils have prevented the production of new homes with restrictive planning rules, stopping tall buildings, higher density properties, or just outright preventing any housing development at all (very sadly often to the cheering of some local Lib Dem activist). Regulations now make it unnecessarily expensive to build and near impossible for small home building companies to succeed . The country needs homes to be built, ideally by and for the private market. But in the most extreme areas of market failure, large volumes of council homes are in order to just get some more housing stock onto the market

  • Thanks everybody. Apart from one or two very minor exceptions this has been a really good debate and some excellent points have been made. I’ll try and pull everything together into a summary paper for autumn conference. All best and thanks again. Tony

  • Tony Greaves 19th Apr '19 - 10:15pm

    I did not say it was not a business. I said it was not a business “like any other”.

  • Oh lord I’m agreeing with Tony Greaves again.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Apr '19 - 11:20pm

    So what would people wish to see in a liberal bill on renting. My opinion is
    *A return to a fair rent policy
    *Removal of short term contracts
    *A return to council/HA grants at pre 2010 levels
    *Reversing the demand for councils/HAs to charge 80% of market rates

  • As someone who works professionally with commercial and residential landlords and tenants in their day job: some thoughts. 1) The UK housing market is dysfunctional and given the huge knock on social impact, buy to let investment (BTL) cannot simply be compared to other commercial industries. 2) Many BTL landlords own one or a few properties, and either already or propose to live off the rent in their retirement to supplement their pension. 3) BTL as a commercial investment strategy has become more restrictive due to a shift in government policy in recent years – up until a decade ago it used to be extremely friendly to BTL landlords (low interest rates, s21 mechanism, and AST regime). It quickly became a somewhat safe and profitable way of putting your money to work if you were a non-financial expert if you had £50k to a few million pounds in cash – yields of 4-10% compared to low returns from government bonds and the volatility of stocks and shares. 4) Prior to the AST regime tenants had much more protection and so the private sector did not get involved in housing. BTL has evolved as a commercial strategy out of the Thatcher era introduction of ASTs. But it was always a business activity. People became BTL landlords to maximise their savings/retirement funds. The social utility was generally incidental. 5) It may be that BTL landlords start exiting the market, and institutional landlords (pension funds etc) take a while to take their place. This would cause short to medium term disruption but the hope is that there would eventually be structural change towards the German model where institutional landlords dominate the housing market. Institutional landlords generally like long tenancies, generally like tenants who maintain the properties, and – crucially – will rarely ask a good tenant to leave because they want to cash in and sell the property subject to vacant possession.

  • In short: we have a bad system (BTL investment). Those benefiting from it are now complaining at changes looking to disadvantaging them. They want to retain key features that underpin the bad system (section 21, improving section 8) and want others to change to help them (LA homelessness policy, insurers’ policies). Meanwhile, renters see the hope of change – LVT, for instance, or a move to the German model where most landlords are big institutions who like long stable tenancies – and are frustrated at the BTL landlords who seek a return to the good old days of BTL in the 90s and 00s.

  • I worked in the property market and with housing associations. We had a lot of bedsits, a lot two bedroom properties a lot of people on housing benefits precisely because when rent cheques were going directly to the landlords/us the income was very stable. The problem is that when things like the bedroom tax, the cut in rates support payments for people on benefits. and the introduction things like universal credit were introduced it made things less stable, therefor more prone to short term contracts and made asset driven sale more attractive. Poor people and people with lots of problems can’t afford the living costs and skip on payments. The Blair years and the coalition years hit stability. drove housing costs up and actually did more damage than Thatcher ever did. The problem isn’t so much a lack of social housing as it is deliberate government attacks on the poor and the need to keep the housing market artificially buoyant. Asset inflation means that it is more profitable and much easier to have lots of properties in a portfolio than to actually have them occupied. The market place is essentially amoral because people wanting a quick profits are essentially amoral. This is why you regulate things and in various ways promote social connections/responsibilities. In other words you have rules and obligations or a sense of duty.

  • Tony Harris 20th Apr '19 - 7:50am

    Andrew: I have selected to operate in a particular rental market. i.e. the professional rental sector. That means I rent executive homes to professionals. In my portfolio I do not have HMOs, flats, or other properties that might be suitable for tenants on benefits. This is a business decision it is not discriminatory. Other landlords rent to councils and housing associations and people on benefits because they have housing stock in their portfolio that is targeted at that market sector. I haven’t so I don’t. By continuing to use the type of language you are, you are bundling me into the same category as those landlords and have therefore completely missed the thrust of my argument. Comparing a landlord to an arms dealer. Hum. Happy Easter. Tony

  • Tony Harris 20th Apr '19 - 7:52am

    Glenn: thanks. Some good points. Aligns nicely with the point I was making to Andrew. Tony

  • @ Tony Harris ‘We have created a system which transfers money from the less well off to the wealthy …’ I’m afraid you are a few thousand years too late Sarah. This is not a new system – it’s been around since historical records began……

    As was slavery, child labour, prostitution, etc. Citing precedents is IMO the last refuge of the scoundrel.

    Laws protecting ownership rights are fine. What is wrong is the way that ownership rights have been expanded at the expense of those who do not own. The fact that 1% of the population ‘owns’ half of the UK’s land and worldwide the ratio to wealth is the same…

  • @Andrew Hickey

    There would be a lot to comment on your comments thus far but I’ll stick to just your latest;

    “”””No-one here has castigated success. “”””

    Yes they have, including you. You even go on to castigate success in your following sentence.

    Sarah Brown has castigated making money through property as “the wealthy doing very little to earn it” and “exploitative ways to invest”.
    Sorry to break it to her but most landlords actually are not heirs to wealth and every sort of business in capitalist systems is about exploiting opportunities and gaps in the market to provide materials, goods and services that people want.

    Charlie Hansted said “Get a job. Like the rest of us who can’t afford to live off the property portfolio we don’t have.”. Again a plain castigation of Tony’s success. Followed by “If I can live off 20k a year in London what makes you so special that you need multiple properties”, which is plain castigation mixed with the toxic mentality of either envy or compulsion (i.e ‘you should live your life the way and to the limits that I have set and decided). Appalling really coming from someone who claims to be liberal and sought the selection as a London Assembly list candidate.

    And about your latest comment Andrew. Is starting a craft-beer business immoral, or is it only tobacco farmers and cigarette manufacturers who get that label? An is an arms manufacturer who sells weapons to Finland to equip its soldiers guarding the Finnish-Russian border immoral. How abouts arms manufacturers supplying UN, African Union and other peacekeeping forces? Of the manufacturers to arm our very small number of armed police? All immoral. How about the infant formula feed manufacturers who selling their products to women who simply don’t want to breastfeed, or who are HIV positive and without access to ARVs and don’t want to risk passing on HIV to their baby? All immoral too?

    You see the world is not quite as black and white as the hard left and socialists like to paint it. Indeed some people who are most enslaved by conformity are those eagerly joining the hate mob against any sort of business the hate mob has decided needs to be hated.

    Also, in keeping with the hard left and socialists who commonly use this word but don’t understand what it means, would you like to give a definition of “rent-seeking”?

  • Suzanne Fletcher 20th Apr '19 - 10:31am

    I’ve not read all the comments in here, but got the gist of it.
    To go back to the very beginning, Tony Harris is talking about having an association of Lib Dem Landlords.
    For goodness sake, why not.
    Surely a group of people with a common interest to talk to each other, listen to each other and the wider Lib Dem family, to tease out what they see the issues are, to stimulate constructive debate, to influence the policy making process.
    If that isn’t Liberal ?
    or do we condemn people who have a common interest as being illiberal because we do not like what one of them has to say ?
    then we can all engage in a more constructive debate, hopefully leading to policies that end up with there being greater availability of housing in the private sector that is of a standard and quality people from all walks of life need.
    If we don’t know what the barriers and pitfalls are for the landlords, we are not going to do much for an end solution that is Liberal and just.
    I say this as having been through the whole gamut of housing problems personally including being made homeless 3 times, before I thankfully ended up safe and secure. not everyone does, as i know from working in sheltered housing, many years as a councillor, former chair of a scrutiny committee on housing (only allowed to do it for one year, but still!), am vice chair of a partnership board which landlords are invited to come along to; I specialise in asylum housing; campaigning on that and housing issues for new refugees. I am hated and reviled by a local landlord who is the antithesis of a Liberal and like Voldermart I will not name.
    So I know a thing or too, passionately want some solutions, and see Liberal Landlords coming together as one of the many steps needed.

  • As someone who used to be a landlord in a small way (one bedroom flat in Manchester and a house in Scotland) I’m not sure that I was doing anything wrong. My wife and I weren’t given anything, we worked hard for our money and instead of leaving it in the bank we invested in property. We would interview prospective tenants, ask for references, one months rent deposit and only rent to those who were acceptable to us and had some form of regular income. I fail to see what is wrong with that. Being a Landlord did make me some money, but it can be hard work. Deep cleaning, decorating, gardening between tenants etc eats into any leisure time. It can also be a little bit risky financially, empty houses still have to be maintained, pay council tax and other bills when there is no rent coming in. I was lucky I never had a tenant who didn’t pay their rent or caused major damage, but many landlords do and that must be a nightmare. There are bad landlords and bad tenants and they grab the headlines, but most people on both sides are decent enough. Ideally there would be more council houses and I think we are getting to the stage where all the major political parties are beginning to accept that. However, that’s still years down the road and until then try and remember that there are thousands of perfectly decent landlords out there.

  • Paul Pettinger 20th Apr '19 - 11:54am

    Tony H, you are misunderstanding complaints against you and in so doing showing a major lack of understanding of the Party. We have a very long history of wanting to tax landlords more, which you don’t seem aware of or to have understanding as to why. This really is awkward given that you are our Treasurer. Please don’t double down but improve your understanding of British Liberal history and economics. Georgist thought is an important part of our interlectual back catalogue:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

  • Joseph Bourke 20th Apr '19 - 12:48pm

    James Pugh makes an important point in aslking “in keeping with the hard left and socialists who commonly use this word but don’t understand what it means, would you like to give a definition of “rent-seeking”?” So too does Paul Pettinger when he says “Georgist thought is an important part of our interlectual back catalogue”.

    The issues were very well put by Winston Churchill in a speech in 1909 http://www.landvaluetax.org/current-affairs-comment/winston-churchill-said-it-all-better-then-we-can.html. The last paragraph is salient:
    “I hope you will understand that, when I speak of the land monopolist, I am dealing more with the process than with the individual land owner who, in most cases, is a worthy person utterly unconscious of the character of the methods by which he is enriched. I have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land is morally worse than anyone else who gathers his profit where he finds it in this hard world under the law and according to common usage. It is not the individual I attack; it is the system. It is not the man who is bad; it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy if it were not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice.

    We do not want to punish the landlord.

    We want to alter the law”

    Most Landlords make relatively modest yields on their investment. If their timing is fortuitious they can make large gains but many are also caught out by the vagaries of the market. The problems lie with the inflated market for Land and the financialisation of the housing and mortgage sector.

    If you want to see changes in policy and changes in the law, I urge you to join ALTER https://libdemsalter.org.uk/en/page/join-alter and be part of the campaign for Land Value Taxation.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Apr '19 - 1:15pm

    The debate is excellent. This article provokes. Many become provocative in response.

    Tony Harris should face that as the article on first appearance warrants this. It takes a contributor like Andrew Hickey, whose style is often far more pungent than his substance, though it is too, to get things really going strong here.

    I rarely take sides in such debates, too fast or too definitely, without reflection because to do that, is to not be particularly liberal or democratic.

    I have much to offer this as have gone through quite a personal trajectory .

    For years as a young professional, in a particularly and unnecessarily precarious area of work, creative industry, I rented, with my partner, then wife, bedsits in London. Really ghastly.

    We relocated to Nottingham. We got a mortgage on a small house. Terrific.

    Over the years, a combination of a car accident in which a car came onto the pavement and has left my wife and I effected, her with permanent issues from injuries, loss of work, self employment, poor local market, we lost our house and have struggled financially.

    I have seen this through experience .

    Tony Harris, I do not think you should create a landlords group, but should now join with Andrew, Jennie, me, any here, to form, a Liberal Democrat Housing Association, to discuss this , each of us, from our individual perspectives and often heartrendering experiences.

    As long as members like Sarah Brown and Jennie Rigg, can debate in a sensible way from difficult situations, this is a liberal and democratic party with a future.

    I would like to involve my genuine knowledge in this too, as I am very angry about this issue.

    Liberalism should provide means for each of us to own a home. It should not favour social housing or denigrate private. But it is not in the business, no pun intended, of support or liking of the powerful lording it over the powerless.

  • London renter 20th Apr '19 - 2:17pm

    “Don’t even start complaining that UK landlords are making it difficult to buy – the problem lies fairly and squarely with overseas investors who purchase large numbers of properties en bloc as an investment and leave them empty.”

    Aside from being xenophobic, this misses the point that every home owned by a buy to let landlord is one less available for people to buy to live in as a home and the deeply harmful consequences of that.

    I come from a working class background, through good fortune and a grammar school education found myself at a good university and now working in the City on over 100k. My partner is a specialist nurse earning an above average salary and grew up in council housing. Yet despite earning ludicrous money on paper, coming from backgrounds where there is no parental help available we still do not own a home. At least we’ll count as “professionals” so the Lib Dem Landlord Association may consider us worthy of a tenancy.

    We save every penny possible, don’t go on foreign holidays and have a deposit the size of what most of our parent’s generation could have bought an entire house with. We could just about afford a small flat in an okish area for all of that effort. We want to have children but can’t in our current circumstances and a house is still a couple of years off (and even then, we will have a massive mortgage). The stock of small family houses has been decimated by landlords buying them and splitting them into flats. Trading up from a small flat isn’t an option as the stamp duty bill would be unaffordable for us. Even in this situation, we are far more fortunate than many.

    The patronising whining of out of touch landlords who had it so easy in terms of property is nothing short of offensive. You aren’t providing a service, you’re shamelessly feathering your own nest and pulling the ladder up for those whose parents can’t hand them a big pot of cash to go buy a house. We will probably have to leave London as many others do – just don’t wonder in a few years why there’s a shortage of teachers and nurses in the south and complain about how it impacts you. You’ll have helped drive them all out.

  • @London Renter

    There are 3 bedroom flats in Peckham for £300,000. You should be able to easily get a mortgage for that with your enormous deposit and combined income (I guess around 135,000k gross). Indeed you could afford considerably greater. Are you only looking for homes costing at least £650,000?

  • London Renter,

    I appreciate the frustration you feel with the London housing market but I think you are directing your anger to the wrong area – you should be looking closer to home to identify the source of the problems.
    London is not unique – the same problems can be found in Paris, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Sydney and other big cities around the world. In Manhattan to be eligible to rent an apartment, you need to be able to prove an income 40 times the monthly rent before you can even be considered as a tenant.
    Everywhere there is a concentration of wealth and population that will be reflected in high land prices. This was described by David Ricardo in his formulation of the “Law of Rents” two centuries ago.
    It was never easy to buy a house even for your Parent’s generation and many people had to hand the keys back or were repossessed when unaffordable interest payments and negative equity forced them out of their homes in the early nineties.
    The Landlord is often not the main beneficiary of the high rents that are being paid. Much of the rent paid by tenants to landlords is paid out in mortgage interest payments to banks and building societies. It is the financial institutions in the City where you work and who pay your salary that are often the biggest beneficiaries of inflated land prices, boosted by cheaper wholesale borrowing at low base rates and quantitative easing. Indeed it was excessive lending in sub-prime markets and repackaging of securitized mortgages on land that was the catalyst for the financial crisis.
    As Churchill said over a century ago – “it is the system. It is not the man who is bad (whether he be a landlord or a mortgage lender); it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy if it were not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice.”
    More than a third of your salary will go in taxes and with employer national insurance and indirect taxes something equivalent to half your earnings will be absorbed by taxes. Meanwhile, vast sums of money are invested in central London property that stays empty as it increases in value, in large part due to the infrastructure and services that are provided for by the very taxes you pay.
    These are the issues and Land Value Taxation is the solution.

  • David Franks 20th Apr '19 - 6:20pm

    But for the unfortunate intervention of Mrs Thatcher private landlordism would have gone the way of all businesses which will not provide what their customers need at a price they can afford.

  • For private renting to work and it must, there must be give and take on both sides. Landlords need access and tenants privacy. Trust is essential on both sides. Perhaps letters of say more than six properties should provide some short term lettings to improve mobility and affordable lettings for those on benefit.

  • Tony Harris 21st Apr '19 - 9:52pm

    @Paul Pettinger: I am very well aware and in fact have spoken at conference against blanket motions which affect all landlords. I have always been ignored. My point continues to be that conference tends to treat ‘all’ landlords as if they were rogue and they are not. A number of motions which have been passed at conference are in fact duplicating processes, procedures, and protections which are already used by agents in the professional rental sector and have been for many years. See my earlier comment regarding my problem with LVT. I accept it because it is party policy however I think the treatment of government agencies with respect to an effective exemption of LVT needs a rethink. Tony

  • Tony Harris 21st Apr '19 - 9:53pm

    Thanks everybody for a really good debate. I have captured the thread and will try and put something formal together for a future conference. I will not be replying to further posts. All best. Tony

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