Record growth as NRLA marks first anniversary
It is now 12 months since the NRLA came into being following last year’s merger of the NLA and RLA. Chief executive Ben Beadle looks back on an unforgettable first year played out against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
To merge two established organisations is no easy feat at the best of times. To do so during a global pandemic brings more, unforeseen challenges, but over the last 12 months we have reacted dynamically to an ever-changing landscape.
I am pleased to say we have met these challenges head on, while growing membership by 10% to 90,000 members in our first year in operation.
This is despite a year of home working , with some teams of colleague who have yet to meet each other face-to-face.
Call volumes went through the roof when the pandemic first hit, with a total of 70,000 calls recorded between March and November last year.
At the peak we received 3,009 calls in a single week – an average of more than 600 a day – and in response expanded our team of advisers to improve capacity.
We created a dedicated section of the website to coronavirus support and advice, complimented by a series of webinars updating landlords on the latest news and advice.
Covid-19 restrictions also forced us to move our regional events programme online – however this did not deter you, with a total of 33,744 delegates attending webinars and virtual meetings.
Training also moved online – with 92% of our face-to-face courses now available online for members and an ongoing timetable of interactive virtual classroom courses.
During this time 3,116 of you have completed eLearning training courses with us and 762 have attended our virtual classroom courses, introduced last autumn
In addition to daily telephone calls with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), during the height of the pandemic, the NRLA created guidance outlining steps landlords could take to help sustain tenancies. These ‘Golden Rules’ were then shared as best practice by the Government.
Sharing landlord experiences was also key to changing public perceptions of landlords during the crisis and, in addition to my own appearances in the national media, we gave members a voice, with many speaking to journalists about the impact of Covid-19 - in particular the six-month closure of the courts – had had on them.
These experiences were used as part of our ongoing campaign to secure a package of financial support for the sector. As part of this campaign we both commissioned and carried out our own research on the impact of the virus on landlords and tenants – giving us firm evidence to cite in briefing papers and high-level conversations in Westminster and Cardiff Bay.
In addition I addressed the Housing, Communities & Local Government Select Committee, and our campaigns work was heavily referenced in debates in both the Commons and the Lords.
We have already brought about real change. The work of the NRLA ensured a buy-to-let mortgage deferral scheme was introduced and saw the Local Housing Allowance increased and the courts agreed to prioritise the most extreme cases when they opened their doors as a result of our lobbing.
While this wasn’t the first year we had planned, it has allowed us to showcase our strengths; how to lead in a time of crisis and react to changing circumstances as a truly customer-first organisation.
The figures speak for themselves, with 2,032 people reviewing our services on Trustpilot, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5*.
While there is still a way to go before the sector is operating as it was pre-pandemic, it is still operating. Things are progressing at a slower pace, but better slower than not at all.
Now, as we move into our second year our aspirations remain the same, to improve services, grow membership, develop new partnerships and ultimately change attitudes to the PRS.
There may still be tough times ahead but working together, I am confident we can weather the storm.