Simon Gordon has been with the National Landlords Association since 2002, and is now head of their external relations. He has done a lot of good work, lobbying on behalf of landlords. Here is his story.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
I am Simon Gordon, Head of External Relations at the National Landlords Association. The NLA is the largest representative body for landlords in the UK with about 20,000 members. It aims to influence public policy, assist landlords with the professional running of their lettings business, and raise standards across the private-rented sector.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
I first became directly involved with property professionally about seven years ago when I became a consultant to the then Small Landlords Association, now the NLA. It was at a time when the private-rented sector was about to feel the impact of the proposals that went on to become the Housing Act 2004.
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
The greatest achievement is I think to demonstrate that landlords can come together and form a proper professional body. That may sound a bit vague but it is because there is a body like the NLA that we have been able to persuade politicians and other stakeholders that simply introducing more and more regulations is not the way to improve how the private-rented sector operates.
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
The NLA believes that local authorities are vital in efforts to drive out rogue operators, who bring good, professional landlords into disrepute by their behavior. The NLA is hoping to work closely with local authorities in raising standards. We are aware that over the next few years many local councils will be under severe financial pressure. We could assist with advice and expertise when they seek to frame their strategies on the private-rented sector.
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private-rented sector today?
The problem of reputation still lies heavily across private landlords. That is changing but in some quarters prejudice against the very concept of being a landlord remains strong. We work hard to counteract that perception. The overwhelming majority of landlords are hard-working, decent folk who happen to have invested in property, many as a contribution to their pension. They need to be encouraged, rather than penalised by further regulation.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
The private-rented sector is going increasingly to be the main provider of new homes across the UK, as many people find they cannot afford to buy and have no chance of access to social housing. Lifestyle choices will increasingly mean buying a home later and in the meantime renting.
That gives the sector great power but it also places on it great responsibility. It will be under the spotlight and landlords, while facing more demand for the accommodation only they can provide, will be faced with potential tenants who are more choosy and aware of their rights. It will be great opportunity for the sector and a more diverse range of people will change private-rented accommodation and how it is perceived, hopefully for the better.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private-rented sector?
There are a number of issues we would like to see addressed. The Conservatives pledged themselves to restore to tenants the option for their housing benefit or Local Housing Allowance to be paid direct to the landlord. We would like pledge redeemed as soon as possible as landlords have lost millions of pounds in unpaid rent when the benefit has not been passed on to them.
The last Government rushed through regulations on shared housing which the present government is amending. We welcome that move but hope the Government will keep a watchful eye on how some local authorities interpret the regulations.
The new Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, said at a CLG event that we should come up with ideas on what rules and regulations could be removed from the statute book. We hope this applies to our part of the housing market as, in conjunction with other stakeholders, we will be seeking to comb out a number of unnecessary measures that impede the flexible operation of the sector.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
We do use the social media at the NLA. Like many other organisations we have felt the need to embrace it and while we may not have got it all right we believe this is a powerful tool that cannot be ignored. We live in an age of almost instant communication and if the sector is to keep up with developments there is a role for social media. This is especially true of a sector like ours where there are reputational issues to be addressed and, at times, inaccurate perceptions to be corrected.
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during you time in property?
Working in the property field brings home to you even more that the process of renting is not something that you embark on in a careless way. With the potential financial gains go responsibilities, both legal and commercial. To make certain a lettings business is successful requires effort and hard work. It can be very stimulating and will increasingly perform a valuable service for society but as with much in life to achieve success you have to be prepared to make a commitment.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
One of the most crucial things to understand is the need to have the right information. Anyone investing in property should investigate the market thoroughly in the area they intend to buy in. They should be full aware of the legal requirements that go with becoming a landlord. When taking on a tenant they should use the various tools now available to ensure the tenancy is going to work. Once the tenancy is under way both sides should communicate. A landlord/tenant relationship can so easily go wrong because of a break down in communication.
Thank you Simon for your very perceptive and thoughtful comments. Readers wishing to learn more about the National Landlords Association will find their web site here, and there is a short bio on Simon here.