The UK government is being urged to champion landlords rather than demonise them, as mounting pressures are meaning less homes for tenants and fewer people able to save for home deposits.
As costs for landlords continue to rise, rents are inevitably being hiked in order to maintain the viability of letting out a property, putting strain on both the supply of rental homes and the finances of people living in the UK’s private rented sector, according to comments from Stuart Haire, CEO of Skipton Building Society.
In an article in the Telegraph this week, Haire pointed out that the “demonised” sector is being squeezed from a tax basis, as well as from rising mortgage rates for those who rely on financing for their property investments. While this is affecting homeowners, too, rental prices are rising much more quickly than house prices.
He added that climbing rents alongside property prices was also leading to a depleting middle class pushed into either social housing – which Haire pointed out is not adequate – or relying on living with their parents for longer.
“You get less people in the middle class, it becomes either a greater plutocracy or it becomes ungovernable,” he said. “I’m talking in extremes. But these are the things I think about. If we’re not a caring society and more people move into the vulnerable thresholds, more desperate acts happen.”
Haire added: “The more people who leave the middle classes and drip into struggling to afford things, the more unstable your politics becomes.”
Why are landlords demonised?
In a recent poll by Mortgages for Business, a huge 59% of respondents said they wanted the media to stop using the term “landlords” due to the negative connotations regularly connected with it. Instead, the preference was to use the term “small housing providers” or “rental accommodation providers”.
Of course, when a so-called rogue landlord is named and shamed, the media is quick to report on it, while at the same time, the UK government’s historic drive towards homeownership has naturally led many people to view the private rented sector in a negative light.
However, with around a fifth of the UK’s households now living in rental homes, landlords are more in demand than ever, particularly as soaring house prices mean that the majority must save up until an average age of 37, according to recent research.
While there is a popular notion that buy-to-let landlords are “this generation’s financial bogeyman”, according to Mortgages for Business, the reality is starkly different. In fact, managing Gavin Richardson points out that landlords are a much-needed cog in the wheel of the country’s accommodation.
“The majority of landlords are paying 40 per cent tax on their rental income – plus stamp duty – which means the government is profiting hugely from Generation Rent,” said Richardson.
“And to what end? Hammering landlords over the last five years has done first-time buyers no favours – research from Nationwide suggests first-time buyers now need to save a huge 113 per cent of their annual salary for a typical home deposit of 20 per cent.”
He added that the government “should be championing landlords and lauding their contribution to the housing sector”, and that attitudes should change around those who choose to use property in order to build a nest egg to support them in retirement.
Skipton’s Haire also added that the government should view the situation with an economic rather than a political eye to help solve the issues faced by the sector.
“Certainly if you view it economically rather than politically, you’ve got an asset class that used to yield ‘x’ per cent, and that has been reduced by extra borrowing costs, by the extra taxes, and you may also have to put capital into your property to make it more energy efficient.
“It’s just basic economics, so I think the government has to consider that.”