A new year, a new mindset
Paul Shamplina, founder of NRLA Recognised Supplier Landlord Action and Chief Commercial Officer at NRLA insurance partner, Total Landlord, reflects on 2023 and offers his advice to landlords as we look ahead to 2024.
As another year comes to a close, a year that has been plagued with doom and gloom for landlords, from rising interest rates to incoming legislation, I want to conclude on a positive note and try to bring some light to the shade ready for the New Year.
Firstly, you will be aware that the Government has announced the ban on Section 21 eviction notices will not come into effect until a number of new conditions are met to address delays in the possession process, and to ensure HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is fully prepared for the changes.
This important announcement, spearheaded and campaigned for by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), is a significant acknowledgement that changes as part of the Renters (Reform) Bill must be fair and balanced. As Theresa Villiers rightly pointed out during the debate following the King’s Speech to parliament earlier in the month, we “need to remember that landlords play a crucial role as housing providers”.
That particular phrase, “housing providers” struck a chord with me. That’s what landlords are, and frankly, I’d say facilitating someone having a roof over their head is a pretty important role.
The problem is that the term ‘landlord’ has almost become a dirty word. Despite the existence of 2.74 million landlords, the vast majority of whom are providing an excellent and desperately needed housing service in this country, certain tenant groups persistently demonise them, hindering collaboration - particularly during a housing stock crisis when landlords are essential. With tenants allocating 30-35% of their wages to rent, it is imperative to foster a more constructive relationship with professional landlords.
Interestingly, at this year’s NRLA annual conference in Birmingham in October, I was astounded at how unbelievably upbeat landlords were in contrast to the usual downtrodden sentiment I’ve become accustomed to. This was the first time in a long while that I’ve seen such positivity, bearing in mind the challenges landlords have faced recently, and it was hugely refreshing. It got me thinking, what is different, and how can we leverage this?
In the panel session I was on, a crucial point emerged emphasising that members of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) are regarded as professionals. Encouraging landlords to stay and embrace professionalism is at the core of the NRLA's mission and those that want to remain are taking this on board.
As someone who has often been referred to as 'the landlord's friend,' I believe that the onus is on us, as landlords, to initiate change from within. It starts with how we perceive ourselves. We must view ourselves not just as landlords but as housing providers. To reshape public perception, our communication with tenants, our valued customers, needs to reflect this paradigm shift.
As I’ve already said, the term 'landlord' is carrying negative connotations, but it is essential to recognise that the majority of landlords genuinely care about their tenants. They want their tenants to reside in safe properties, treating them as homes.
This approach not only provides stability for tenants but also fosters longer-term relationships, a goal which I know most landlords strive for. When tenants stay for extended periods, they are more likely to care for the property, grant access for necessary inspections like gas checks, and ensure timely rent payments—a mutual benefit for both parties.
If you are someone who has actively decided to be a landlord, and your property is being well looked after with your tenant paying rent on time, why would you evict for no reason? The answer is you wouldn’t, and yet there is a narrative circulating that thousands of landlords are evicting without reason, and THIS is damaging to the rental market.
Contrary to popular belief, landlords have not been consistently increasing rents in line with inflation for many years, in fact the majority of landlords I have spoken to, who have long-standing tenants, have not increased their rents for years. However, external factors, such as last year's disastrous budget and the end of many fixed-rate mortgages, have forced landlords to adjust rents. The shift from two to six percent has created financial challenges that necessitate a level of understanding for landlords’ predicament.
So, how do we rebrand ourselves as 'housing providers'? It begins with a conscious effort to change our self-perception and, consequently, the way we communicate. Transitioning into the role of a housing provider necessitates a more comprehensive approach to business, involving regular reviews of the services provided, efficiency, and costs—practices that many landlords tend to overlook. Additionally, it's crucial to ask yourself whether you still want to be hands-on and fully manage your properties or if it's time to reconsider and potentially seek external assistance, such as property management support.
I believe that the main thrust of the Renters (Reform) Bill, once it comes in, is to move focus away from end of tenancy and more towards the duration of the tenancy. So rather than, as in some cases now, a landlord taking on a tenant and having little contact with them until the end of the fixed term, the onus will be on landlords to keep in regular contact.
This mutual understanding of each other’s position, whether that is the tenant’s desire to stay, the landlord’s desire to sell or acknowledgement of necessary repair works, will form a much greater part of ‘landlording’ than it does today.
In conclusion, I think the takeaway from this is that landlords have had a hard time, but they are very much needed, and should be valued. There are plenty of landlords who wish to remain as landlords. By shifting mindset away from the negative connotations of being a landlord and emphasising our commitment to providing safe and comfortable homes, fostering tenant stability, and collaborating with tenants to ensure a positive living experience, we can reshape the narrative around landlords.
In doing so, we not only contribute to a healthier rental market, but also establish a foundation for a more harmonious relationship between landlords and tenants that comes with both reward and responsibility for both parties.