November 22, 2023 9:38 am

Insert Lead Generation
Nikka Sulton

In testimony during the committee stage of the Renters Senior Remote Organiser and Policy and Research Officer, ACORN union, Ben Leonard, a leader of the pro-tenant activist group Acorn, conveyed to MPs that individual landlords pose a higher risk of exploiting tenants than larger-scale landlords or corporations.

This assertion sheds light on the perspective that the actions and practices of smaller, independent landlords, colloquially referred to as “one man bands,” may have a more detrimental impact on tenants compared to those of larger property management entities or corporations in the rental sector.

During his testimony to MPs, Ben Leonard, the senior remote organizer and policy and research officer at Acorn, brought attention to a notable trend in the property market. He indicated, “From the evidence I’ve observed, it appears that predominantly smaller landlords are opting to sell their properties to larger landlords. This shift in ownership dynamics, from the tenant’s perspective, can be viewed as a positive development, potentially impacting their overall rental experience.”

Leonard elaborated on the tenant’s perspective, stating, “Many tenants find dealing with corporate landlords to be a better experience compared to individual landlords. One-man bands, often lacking in-depth knowledge of regulations, may cut corners and exploit vulnerable individuals. In contrast, dealing with corporate entities generally assures a more professional approach, minimizing the likelihood of regulatory oversights and exploitation of tenants.”

Moreover, he emphasized the potential benefits for tenants, saying, “Dealing with larger, more professional organizations not only ensures a smoother and more compliant rental process but also offers tenants a higher level of accountability. The adherence to regulations contributes to a more secure and trustworthy rental environment, presenting a marked contrast to potential pitfalls associated with one-man band landlords. This shift towards larger landlords could, therefore, signify an improvement in the overall rental landscape for tenants, fostering a sense of security and reliability.”

In his comprehensive testimony, Leonard delved into various strategies to bolster the effectiveness of the Renters Reform Bill. One particularly impactful proposal involves mandating landlords to offer financial assistance to tenants facing eviction, even if all legal procedures have been adhered to.

Detailing the proposal before MPs, Leonard suggested, “The financial support could manifest in different forms, ranging from a straightforward rent repayment to aid in the transition, to a more stringent approach where the collection of rent on the property becomes deemed illegitimate from the moment the eviction notice is issued. By adopting such measures, we can not only discourage exploitative practices by rogue landlords but also significantly enhance the living conditions of tenants undergoing the eviction process.”

This nuanced approach underscores the potential positive outcomes of proactive measures within the Renters Reform Bill, indicating a commitment to both curbing landlord abuses of power and safeguarding the well-being of tenants during challenging circumstances. As discussions around the bill progress, considering such measures could contribute to a more comprehensive and tenant-focused legislative framework.

In his testimony, Leonard shed light on potential enhancements to the Renters Reform Bill, suggesting ways to bolster its impact. One proposal involved obligating landlords to provide financial assistance to tenants leaving a rented property, even when all procedures were meticulously followed. This assistance could take the form of a rent repayment or an outright cessation of rent collection from the moment the eviction notice is issued. Leonard argued that such measures could deter rogue landlords from exploiting their power and significantly improve the circumstances of affected tenants.

Furthermore, Leonard advocated for incentives encouraging tenants to publicly voice complaints about landlords through the proposed property portal. He envisioned the creation of a cadre of enforcers, incentivized to report landlords falling short of standards. The property portal, according to Leonard, would play a pivotal role by providing transparent information, giving renters the power to exert pressure and unveil instances of landlord misinformation to authorities.

Highlighting the disruptive nature of moving, especially for those with dependents, Leonard asserted that external forces necessitating relocation should bear some responsibility in supporting affected individuals. This perspective underscores the need for a comprehensive approach to address the challenges tenants face, emphasizing the importance of both financial assistance and a robust reporting mechanism to foster accountability within the rental sector.

“If a landlord says, ‘We have met these standards’ on the property portal, a tenant can look at it and go, ‘Well, that’s not true, and I can point to all the problems that exist,’ and then there is an incentive for them to pursue it. 

“I speak as someone who has pursued a rent repayment order in the past. I won 80% of my rent back, but it was a long, gruelling and difficult process, with no access to legal aid. The financial incentive was quite strong, but there were times when I felt like giving up. 

“There are many ways to solve that problem, but making the process straightforward for tenants and properly incentivising and supporting them in it, alongside local authority enforcement, are important.”



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