[This week our intrepid reporter Ben Reeve Lewis is putting his finger on the pulse, his ear to the wall and sensing the winds of change … ]
A change is gonna come
An impassioned plea and a bit of a heads up for all you landlords and agents out there.
Surfing around to see who is saying what, hasn’t really moved on in the past few weeks.
Property investors are still getting very excited about rising rents and the opportunity to make a fortune, despite how sustainable it all might be, while people championing tenant’s rights are still doing an ‘Up Pompeii’….”woe, Woe and thrice Woe” job.
Personally I am getting a bit bored of the arguments, which don’t seem to be advancing one iota. Just a load of self congratulatory hand rubbing while everyone slides toward the precipice.
How often do we have to be here before people start taking the long view?
Where is the clear truth in all this? I haven’t a clue. So let’s look at a growing force that many of you may not be aware of.
Grant Shapps speaks – and Ben agrees!
This week, our own Housing Minister Grant Shapps has been having a go at the perceived culture within local authorities of “The computer says no”
For once I kind of agree….in a sense. I work for a local authority and I have to say it is the culture that is the problem, not the individuals. I work with loads of committed people who really want to make a difference but the traditional local authority mind-set doesn’t fit where we are at. Where does this come from then?
Local authorities have traditionally seen themselves as a ‘Sub-civil service’ outfit in many ways. Government plans, particularly as enshrined in the Localism Bill and Big Society thinking are throwing us out into the entrepreneurial world that up until now has been like trying to get Lenin and Donald Trump to share a bong.
Changes coming to local authorities?
But the people I meet every day, both as a colleague and a trainer of numerous housing organisations bely those perceptions. I sense a real chomping at the bit to change things.
Landlords and tenants are reliant on each other for income and security. Who holds that together? Letting agents?????? Gimme a break.
But there are changes afoot. Central government has been relaxing funding streams for local authorities, allowing them for the first time, to mix with private enterprise. And do you know what they are all thinking? Starting their own letting agencies!
Several councils have plans in the pipeline to fill the gap. They have a duty to house the homeless, regulate HMOs, prosecute rogue landlords, pay rents….who better to be an agent than them, with a rounded holistic view and a set of skills and infrastructure to make that happen?
People trust the council, it is a respected body. Local ‘Authority’ after all. If they can provide a service for landlords and tenants alike what is to stop them now that funding restrictions have been relaxed?
Using market force logic, that is entirely anathema to councils at the moment, if they are providing a shit hot service that meets everyone’s needs, it should put at least our local gangsters out of business and drag the mid-level players up to a level of service they will need to compete. The private rented system being changed by local authorities?……………Toto, we aint in Kansas anymore!
The government ditched Rugg. I wasn’t a fan of all of it but I could see sense in much of it, maybe the council’s will step into the breach and fill the gap. It’s logical.
I make my living prosecuting landlords for harassment and illegal eviction. The thugs aside I see no point to what I do. Landlords and tenants are people too, They want to get on. The landlord wants their rent; the tenant wants a home they can rely on. I see my job as making that happen, not whacking a landlord for not repairing a boiler when the tenant owes them 5 grand. That should be the concern of every letting agent, not just how much they can earn and how little they can do to earn it.
Watch this space
This really is a ‘Watch this space’ article. Things are changing. It won’t happen overnight. Councils are still councils and it will take a while before the organisations can talk the same language as the entrepreneur, but the gears are changing and the behemoth is moving. Individuals within those organisations are getting heard.
At this week’s Chartered Institute of Housing Conference, Chief executive of Orbit housing association, Paul Tennant, made a case for housing organisations to get with the programme
“Our value is being challenged and it feels like our destiny is being controlled by others. We are a values led sector and we are valuable and I don’t think enough is made of those two areas.”
Tennant said it was up to housing professionals to get the message out and fight for the sector’s future.
“We’ve got to make a case as to why we are fit for purpose and fit for the future,”
When public housing organisations are talking openly about this you know that Franz Kafka is dying in his sleep
There are agents out there who also see their role changing. I see the odd company focussing on the people rather than the money and seeing their role as facilitators of process rather than just grabbers of profit.
What depresses me is the amount of agents I encounter on a professional basis who rip off both landlords and tenants. If the government won’t regulate them it is up to the good agents to form alliances to promote good practice, because as the time rolls by their biggest competitor is going to be the council, who have the money and trusted reputation. Raise your game people, if you want to stay in it.
We are not anti agent, just rubbish agent
I don’t want to come across in this article as being anti-agent. Just anti rubbish agents, of which there are many. Post an answer and let me and Tessa know what you do that is great. I know you are out there.
Some people are already taking a different stance; for instance check out HomeXperts to see a good ethical and sustainable model who are aware that the lettings business is about relationships between people. The profit grows from there, it isn’t divorced from it. Who do you know who is really making a difference to the lives of landlords and tenants? Let’s gather these people together and champion them.
If you are a tenant, let us know what your agent did that made them great. I would rather hear it from you than your agent to be honest.
The press are coining the phrase ‘Generation rent’, a whole generation of people who will never be able to buy their own home. These people have to change. The market needs to change with it.
Houses and money picture by images of money